31 December 2008

Follwing Christ 2008 and the Title of this Blog

This afternoon, I returned to Columbus from a blessed, though tiring, conference in Chicago entitled Following Christ. I have many tales to tell, lessons learned, and lessons yet to learn. I will need time to properly reflect upon, understand, and apply any part of what God had on display there.

However, I can share one very encouraging fact that I learned. According to one of the speakers in a parallel session on the Natural Sciences & Mathematics, the initial verses of Psalm 111 are inscribed above the entrance to the original Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. In English, those verses are the source of the title of this blog.

26 December 2008

Upcoming Travel Plans

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas to all...

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel"

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Luke 2:1-20

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

...and to all a good night.

24 December 2008

Doctor (of Philosophy)

I am still not sure exactly when I became Dr. Corwin, but it was sometime between my Oral Defense on Oct. 20 and the commencement ceremony where I received my Ph.D. on Dec. 14. My mother, her sister, Kelly, and several other friends came to watch me and roughly 2,000 other students receive our diplomas. I was very touched and glad to have all of them present to celebrate this accomplishment. You can (barely) see me on slide 18 of this slide show.

The ceremony was quite long since all of the students in the University who graduated in Winter Quarter could receive their diplomas at this single ceremony. Only the Ph.D. graduates, including me, had their names called individually.

Three highlights from the ceremony stand out in my memory. One was several international students stopping when their names were read, presumably to make sure they were pronounced correctly. Another was, of course, receiving my doctoral hood, hearing my name called and receiving my diploma from President Gee. The third is a section of the commencement address that was given by Richard A. Hollingsworth, vice president for Student Life at Ohio State.

VP Hollingsworth reminded us that while we had earned our degrees, we had been given many opportunities and resources necessary to reach this point. He told us that those gifts brought much responsibility with them. He summarized the point by paraphrasing Jesus, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required" (Luke 12:48).

Guess the Object

I know the photograph is slightly out of focus, and I apologize. Still, I am seeking guesses as to what this object is. Those who guess correctly will win bragging rights and my appreciation. I will post the real answer on Jan. 10.

19 December 2008

Postdoctoral Job Search Results

Applications Submitted: 27
Interviews: 6
Job Offers: 3
Offers Accepted: 1

The offer I accepted is for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Physics Department at Indiana University - Bloomington. I will be working in the neutrino group on MINOS and NOνA, officially starting on January 19th. That means I will be officially unemployed for 18 days, but after how hard I have worked for the past 5 years, that does not sound bad! Actually, I will continue working toward publishing the analysis on which my dissertation was based.

That's right, I am about to become a Hoosier and continue my academic tour of the Big Ten! I grew up in Wisconsin, received my undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, and just earned my Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

So, if anyone is willing to help me move to Bloomington, please let me know.

10 December 2008

You are invited to my commencement ceremony.

Who: Luke A. Corwin (and many others)
What: Autumn Quarter Commencement at OSU
When: Dec. 14, 2pm
Where: Schottenstein Center ( http://www.schottensteincenter.com/ )
Why: To mark a significant achievement and milestone.
More Information: http://commencement.osu.edu/

I hope to see you there.

My Dissertation is now Online

For those who are interested, you can read it on OhioLINK.

04 December 2008

Pittsburgh and Bloomington

Last Thursday (Thanksgiving) I was in a suburb of Pittsburgh known as North Braddock, PA to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kelly and her family. We had a very relaxing time; it was a good to rest and relax with each other after. Of course, we also had an excellent feast, including a turkey that benefited from a few broth injections prior to roasting.

Today, I turned in the final pieces of paperwork to graduate with my Ph.D and submitted my dissertation online. All that remains is to walk in the commencement ceremony on Dec. 14 at 2pm. You are all invited!

The postdoctoral job search continues. Tonight, I am in Bloomington, IN to give a seminar and meet with department members at Indiana University. I rented a car and drove it here. I plan to drive back to Columbus in time for the CGSA Christmas Party; my white elephant gift is wrapped and ready.

24 November 2008

Thanksgiving Travel Plans

  • Nov. 24: Fly from CMH to ORD.
  • Nov. 25-26: Seminar and Interview for postdoctoral position at Fermilab.
  • Nov. 26 (night): Fly from ORD to PIT.
  • Nov. 27-29: Spend Thanksgiving with Kelly's family.
  • Nov. 29 (night): Drive back to Columbus with Kelly.

12 November 2008


On Thursday and Friday (Nov. 13 and 14) I will be at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to give a Particle Physics Seminar. I will be flying to New Orleans and driving from there. I will still be in e-mail and phone contact if anyone wants to contact me.

11 November 2008

Veterans Day

I do not know many veterans, but one that I do know was a soldier in World War II. He is my grandfather, and his name is Austin. I thought about him often as a read and heard about people remembering this holiday today.

Ohio State was closed, but I could find any services listed on the Ohio State website or in the Dispatch. I suppose I will have to look harder next year. Those who have fought for this country deserve much more than that.

Spam is much more amusing now that I have a real Ph.D.

09 November 2008

Life Since The Defense

I realize that my skills as a blogger, particularly my frequency of updates, leave much to be desired. So, I have decided to combine several updates into this one entry.

  • Kelly and I had a very enjoyable trip to Wisconsin (where I was raised) and Minnesota (where I went to college).
  • Since I returned, I have been working on revising my dissertation and scheduling interviews for postdoctoral positions. Thus far I have had one and am scheduling more!
  • For Halloween, I dressed as a Samurai. Kelly and I went to a pumpkin-carving party with CGSA. It was good fun, great food, and mostly hilarious costumes.
  • My adviser held a party in my honor at his house. Most of my colleagues from the past 5 years came to toast my success. It was fun and very touching.
  • On Election Night, we went to an election party hosted by our pastor at Continuum. We had a wide variety of snacks and political views. So, the reaction to Obama's win was somewhat muted. Actually, the loudest laughs and cheers of the night came from mistakes on the ticker showing the local election results, like one candidate appearing at least 8 times in one race, all with different vote totals.
  • Kelly and several unnamed conspirators from Continuum and CGSA held a surprise party to congratulate me on my successful defense. It was an ice-cream party, so large quantities of frozen dairy products and toppings were consumed by all.
  • Another surprise awaited at Continuum this morning. The pastor showed a photograph of the ATLAS detector before asking me to come to the front so he could pray for me. He also gave me a gift card.
It is wonderful to see the conclusion of this work finally arrive. I thank God for all of the opportunities and friends he has given me.

I am still keeping busy. I have two postdoc interviews scheduled for this week, revisions to do on my dissertation, revisions on my analysis in preparation for publication, and my graduation ceremony is Dec. 14.

07 November 2008

Fire Alarm Building Evacuation Event

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2008 14:09:59 -0400

The fire alarm and building evacuation event is now cleared and normal building operations have resumed.

The source of the alarm was over-cooked food in a microwave oven in the kitchenette on the third floor south, office side.

The department appreciates the rapid response of police, fire departments, and FOD in responding to the alarm.

The department appreciates the patience and cooperation of all occupants in responding promptly to the evacuation instruction.

The department requests that users of microwave ovens reflect on, and benefit from, the lessons learned from this event.

21 October 2008

Dr. Corwin!

I successfully defended my dissertation yesterday, and as far as I know that makes me Dr. Corwin officially! You may all call me that now, at least until the novelty wears off.

15 October 2008

Local Election Information Sources

Many of you may have already made you choice in the McCain v. Obama (v. Nader v. McKinney v. Barr v. Baldwin v. Duncan v. Moore). However, have you made your choice in McKinley v. Moyer v. Wolpert, Russo v. O'Connor, Sikora v. Stratton, Leonard v. McCloud, or Gorniak v. Lewis? Who are these people? They are all candidates for state and local office that will appear on the ballot on Nov. 4. To find out what offices they are seeking or defending, look at the Franklin County Candidate List or your sample ballot.

Update (Oct. 17): The Ohio News Network has video of the Congressional and Ohio Attorney General debates.

The League of Women Votes has a very useful Voter Information Bulletin. The Franklin County Consortium for Good Government is hosting a series of Meet the Candidate Forums. Another good source of general non-partisan information is Project Vote Smart. More local information can be found in Dispatch Politics, which includes the endorsements by the Dispatch editorial board. Since I am a scientist, I am influenced by the candidate's answers to the Scientists & Engineers for America Congressional Questions. A useful tool for understanding who may be influencing candidates with their campaign contributions is Follow The Money.

For candidates who are or were part of the Ohio State legislature, you can access their votes for the current session by going to the current (2007-2008) session website, finding the relevant bill, and clicking "votes" in the left-hand column. For past votes (2003-2006 House, 2005-2006 Senate), find the bill in the search engine. When you find the bill, click "Status Report of Legislation" in the left-hand column. This will give you the dates of votes on this bill. Then look at the Legislative Journal for that date to see how the legislators voted.

Voter guides with explicit viewpoints and agendas are available.

For judicial candidates, gathering useful information is particularly difficult. They are represented in some of the vote guides above. Some judicial candidates have held other elective offices, and their records in those could be helpful in choosing how to cast your ballot. For those candidates who are judges or justices already, their records on the bench may be helpful. The Dispatch conducted investigations of 30 cases in which prison inmates had requested DNA testing; it reports the ongoing results on its Test of Convictions site. These investigations already freed one innocent man from prison. You could consider the conduct of the judges in these cases in your voting choices. If you want to get into the details of specific cases, you can find case information for the Franklin County Common Pleas Court and Ohio Supreme & Appeals Court decisions online.

13 October 2008

Secure in My Masculinity.

Your Surfing Habits are 60% Male, 40% Female

If we had to guess, we would guess that you are a man.

You use the internet to make your life more efficient - and to make you smarter.

For you, the internet is like a vast encyclopedia.

You search and surf extensively. You look up everything online.

10 October 2008

Special Events about Science, Evolution, Christianity, and Islam

Ohio State will experience a confluence of lectures and other events regarding the sometimes tumultuous interaction between science and religion. I have listed five events below.

The first four are courtesy of Prof. Fisher in the College of Biological Sciences. I am particularly excited to hear from Judge Jones who rendered the Kitzmiller decision. More details and important information can be found at the Ohio State University Libraries web site. The fifth event is not directly related to the other four; it is the Physics department's weekly colloquium and should appeal to similar interests.

October 20, 7:00 PM, Independence Hall: You are invited to two very special lectures, one given by Judge John Jones who presided over Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover area School Board and wrote the definitive opinion on teaching intelligent design in public schools.

October 21, 7:00 PM, Jennings Hall Auditorium: The second lecture will be given by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Ed Humes, who wrote Monkey Girl, the very readable chronicle of the Kitzmiller trial.

October 22, 2008, 3:00 PM 104 Aronoff Laboratory: "Evolution and Religion: Conflict, Contrast, or Conversation?" by Connie Bertka. Dr. Bertka is a geophysicist and former Director of the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is currently teaching a course on Contemporary Issues in Science and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary.

October 22, 7:00 COSI and the Fawcett Center: ...we're having our annual religion and science panel discussion, live at COSI or by videolink to Fawcett Center. This year's panelists are: Joan Roughgarden, Stanford, Connie Bertka, Carnegie Mellon and Carol Anelli, Washington State. The panel is being moderated by David Brancaccio, host of PBS's NOW.

October 28, 4:00 p.m., Physics Research Building (PRB), Room 1080: Physics Colloquium presented by Pervez Hoodbhoy of Quaid-e-Azam University. With well over a billion Muslims, extensive material resources, and a history of brilliant scientific achievements, why has the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge? Although science is under pressure globally, and from every religion, a strong and growing anti-science component in the Muslim world threatens to keep Muslims away from modern thought and exacerbate conflicts locally and globally. How can science be made to return to the Islamic world, and what is it that the West needs to do for reducing its multi-faceted conflict with the Muslim world?

04 October 2008

October Travel & Defense Plans

This month will be busy with traveling and other events.

29 September 2008

What do you get when you give $8 billion to 8,000 physicists?

A time machine built into a DeLorean? No. A nuclear bomb? Well, once upon a time, but not today. Much griping about how this experiment costs less than one month of the war in Iraq? Well, yes...but that's not really the point.

Alright, I'll just give you the answer: The Large Hadron Collider. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of coverage the LHC has been receiving in the popular media, even though much of it is due to disproven fears of stable black holes (HT) or the recent magnet failure.

Most impressively, the beam tests conducted on Sept. 10 were the lead story on the BBC News homepage.

More locally, the Dispatch has covered Ohio State's work at the LHC in several articles, including a feature in the weekly science section (Sept. 23, B4). The subject of this entry is part of the headline from that feature. It gives a fairly accurate, if somewhat colloquial, summary of the collider's goals:

"Scientists want to blast down to the most fundamental forms of matter and find the set of rules that everything in the universe -- down to subatomic particles -- lives by."
One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I can cite that sentence as my job description.

An article from Sept. 11 (p. A3) discusses more specifically what scientists hope to find in the aftermath of the collisions of protons or lead nuclei at the LHC.

From the fireballs, there might spring forth black holes and the elusive thing that gives matter its mass. Or not! There might be particles called “strangelets” and evidence of “dark matter” and signs of “supersymmetry,” and maybe a little antimatter.

Oh, and they might find some extra dimensions. But this is the delicious part. They don’t exactly know.
That is the most delicious part, and that is the thrill of exploration. We do not know what we will find, but we know that we will be the first humans to find it.

22 September 2008

17 September 2008

Electrical Power Restored

Electricity returned to my apartment at approximately 6:15 pm yesterday (Sep. 16). I have already done two loads of laundry. Now, can we put the electrical lines underground, as they are at Ohio State, to prevent this sort of problem in the future? At least we seriously reduced our CO2 emissions for a few days.

16 September 2008

Electrical Power Failure

The remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through Ohio on Sunday (Sep. 14) and knocked out electrical power to a large part of the state, including my apartment. The storm killed several people and prompted the Governor to declare a state of emergency, according to a front page Dispatch article (Sept. 16, A1).

Yesterday, I saw an electrical line flashing and buzzing above a utility pole near my apartment. It was surrounded by police caution tape. As of writing this entry, the electricity is still off in my apartment. According to AEP,

Columbus District, including Delaware, Columbus and surrounding communities: The company estimates that 90 percent of its customers in these areas will be restored by midnight Sunday. More detailed information on restoration efforts in the Columbus area will be available tomorrow.
Since the article was posted online on Sunday, it is not clear whether they mean electricity should have been restored on the night of the storm or will be restored by Sept. 21. The rumors around the Physics Research Building, which like the rest of Ohio State has electricity, are that restoration is expected by Wednesday night.

I thank my parents for giving me a wind-up flashlight for Christmas; it is extremely useful in situations like this. I was impressed by the Flying Pizza, which remained open on High Street yesterday despite the lack of electricity. The were able to keep baking pizza with their gas oven. I have brought various rechargeable devices and batteries into the office and am determining how to cook, wash clothes, and obtain a hot shower until electrical service is restored.

11 September 2008

LOLCats Meets Schrödinger

more cat pictures

02 September 2008

I am not Sharon McCaslin!

Since at least July 19, I have been receiving calls from debt collectors thinking I am someone named Sharon McCaslin. I think she gave her debtors a false number that happened to be mine. This is getting annoying.

So, Sharon, if you happened to search for your name and found this entry, please either pay your debts our use another fake number.

01 September 2008

Probability of VP Unexpectedly Becoming President

In the wake of Senator McCain selecting Gov. Palin to be his running mate, many words have been devoted to the possibility of Sen. Biden or Gov. Palin unexpectedly becoming President. However, I have seen no discussion of the probability of this actually happening.

Our nation's history provides us with a sample of 42 Presidents and 46 Vice-Presidents (including Bush and Cheney) from which we can estimate this probability. The number of Presidents and Vice-Presidents is unequal because Presidents have had between zero and three Vice-Presidents. Eight VPs have become President upon the previous President's death (most recently Johnson), and one VP has become president upon the President's resignation (Ford).

So, the probability of our next VP unexpectedly becoming President is

Punexp (VP → P) = 9/46 = 19.6%.

I am not sure how to do error propagation on a calculation like this.

We should pay attention to the Vice-Presidential candidates because we have a roughly one in five probability of choosing the next two Presidents of the United States in November.

31 August 2008

CGSA Camping Trip 2008

From August 22-24, we in CGSA went on our annual camping trip. The weather was much better than last year; the dry conditions this summer apparently depressed the mosquito population, which was a welcome relief.

We camped at Dillon State Park, which is the home of Dillon Reservoir, where we swam, as you can see below.

The park itself was surprisingly manicured, almost like a golf course.

Different members of the group took turns preparing meals. Kelly and I prepared breakfast on Saturday morning. We fried bacon and toasted bagels over a campfire. If anyone reading wants to try this, be careful because bacon grease is surprisingly flammable! Probably the best items were the hamburgers grilled over the fire for dinner on Saturday night.

We went on a hike that became much longer than we intended. We did not have a trail map, so we got quite lost. Everyone else seemed to handle it with good humor. Once we successfully found our way out of the woods and back to park headquarters, we celebrated.

Once Bob told us that this was a Buckeye Tree, I think this pose became inevitable. I am still not sure why Jona is kicking.

More pictures may be forthcoming.

30 August 2008

Weinland Park Community Festival

On August 16, my neighborhood (Weinland Park) held its annual community festival. The weather was sunny and not too hot. The festival was held in the actual park after which the neighborhood is named.

We had good food and a re-dedication ceremony for the park after major improvements that have made it a much friendlier place for children to play. The tennis courts you can see in the Google map have been replaced by a modern playground. Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee made a surprise appearance after speeches from several local officials and activists.

It was very encouraging to see children running and playing in this new park. Community organizations, government programs, churches, community gardens , and even the Obama campaign had booths at the festival. I was grateful to see so many people taking ownership of this neighborhood as it continues to improve.

"When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan"

"The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern."

29 August 2008

Definition of Gender

After I received my influenza vaccination shot in November, I received an electronic survey from Student Health Services. One element of the survey seemed unusual to me. The first question in the Demographics section gave me three options for reporting my sex.

At least they are thorough!

12 August 2008

What would you do with liquid nitrogen, a styrofoam cup and cotton-tipped swabs in some aluminum foil?

FYI Everyone,

Below is a message from a Chemistry Dept. faculty about an odd person wandering near their labs. Since our building is in somewhat close proximity I thought I would pass it on, since the campus police have asked to be called if he is seen.


-------- Original Message --------


A young caucasion, age about 30 or so, has been wandering about Evans lab this afternoon. He stopped in our lab asking for liquid nitrogen, to be put in a styrofoam cup, but not for scientific purposes. He is about 6 feet tall or maybe shorter, thin, curly light brown hair, wearing brown shorts, wearing a harmonica around his neck, carrying the styrofoam cup, and cotton-tipped swabs in some aluminum foil. I confronted him, and he seemed offended that I was asking him who he was. He told me a name (I forget what), and said that he worked jointly with the Haddad and Platz groups. I just inquired of a student/post-doc in Prof. Platz' lab, who told me that someone of this description also asked for LN2 last Friday. Others have just told me that he has wandered the building in years (sic) past. The Campus Police have just stopped by my office and taken this report. They asked me to tell you in this email, if you see someone with this description, to phone the campus police right away. Phone either 2-2121 or 911, the calls will go to the same dispatcher.

31 July 2008

Photo Upload

As you may have noticed, my blog posting has been rather sparse lately. Much has been happening in my life, and I have been taking photographs at a high rate. To update my readers quickly, I have stored those photos in my Photobucket account. There you can see the following:

These stone are not the ruins of an ancient walkway. They are the "sidewalk" a few blocks south of my home.

I think the expression on the little boy's face says it all.
A nice portrait from the Park of Roses.

Bipartisanship on Science

In the blogsphere, representatives of the liberal and conservative poles of American political argument can be found at Daily Kos and Little Green Footballs, respectively. While I do not endorse or agree with everything on either of these blogs, especially their use of foul language, I was pleasantly surpised to find that they agree on at least one thing. They are both opposed to the Intelligent Design (ID) movment. This can be seen in the entries tagged with ID or Evolution at LGF and those tagged with ID at Daily Kos.

27 July 2008

Girl Name Ideas For My Friends who Shall Adopt or Give Birth Soon.

Andromeda Constellation

"Lion of God," Satellite of Uranus, Cartoon Mermaid, Shakespeare's The Tempest

Cygnus Constellation ("Swan")
Deborah Judges 3-5
Kira Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Dark Crystal
Lise Meitner
Lydia Acts 16:14
LyraConstellation, Musical Instrument
MiraStar in Cetus, "Wonderful"
Miranda Satellite of Uranus, Shakespeare's The Tempest
Miri Star Trek (Original Series Ep. 12)
Priscilla Acts 18:2
Raven Corvus corax
Sheera II Chronicles 7:24
TabithaActs 9:36, Bewitched
ZiraPlanet of the Apes

LOL Cats Meets A Great Question

lolcats funny cat pictures

14 July 2008

Presidential Candidates & Science

As a scientist and a bit of a political junkie, I am interested in the opinions and actions of politicians regarding science. I present here a few sources that I have found useful in researching the opinions and records of the candidates on science.

04 July 2008

Boy Name Ideas For My Friends who Shall Adopt or Give Birth Soon.

Boy Name
Aldebaran Arabic for "the follower", star in Taurus
Altair Star in Aquila, Altair IV is the setting of Forbidden Planet
Aquila Acts 18:2, Constellation ("Eagle")
Arthur King, Compton
Blaise/Blaze Pascal
Fox Mulder
Francis Saints, Bacon, Collins
Gabriel Daniel 8:16, Luke 1:26
Galen Ancient Greek Physician, my maternal grandfather
Intrepid Adjective, Ships
Isaac Genesis 12:2-4, Newton
Leo Constellation ("Lion")
Orion Constellation ("The Hunter")
Rigel Star in Orion.
Sebastian Saint, Cartoon Crab
Seth Genesis 4:25
Wolfgang/Wolf Mozart, Blitzer, Canis lupus

Happy Independence Day!

Celebrate wisely with large quantities of pyrotechnics.

01 July 2008

"favorite female companion"

Conference Deadlines...

...are keeping my from maintaining my blog as often as I would like.

12 June 2008

Will the LHC Destroy the World?

An opinion piece in The New York Times is one of many places the fear in the title of this entry has appeared. "And now it turns out that there’s a giant particle accelerator in Switzerland that critics say could create a black hole that would swallow up the Earth."

Multiple attempts have been made to allay these fears. Prof. Frank Taylor of MIT posted an interesting article online. He reminds us that the existence of black holes at the masses accessible to the LHC is entirely speculative at this point. We do not know if the LHC could produce black holes, and there is only one way to find out.

My colleague Dr. Sekula has a blog entry showing, with precise calculations and cited sources, that such black holes would have extremely short lifetimes. In order for them to be dangerous they would have to be much more stable than thermodynamics allows them to be. The laws of thermodynamics have been well tested for centuries. He suggests that the plaintiffs in this case be invited onto the LHC safety committees so they can see for themselves that the LHC will not destroy Earth.

Similar fears were raised about an accelerator on Long Island called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). We forget that such accelerators are not the only sources of high-energy collisions in the Universe. Our planet and other bodies in our Solar System are constantly bombarded by high-energy particles (mostly protons, the same particles in the LHC) from space. Physicists from MIT, Yale, and Princeton showed that these collisions would have produced the disaster scenarios feared at RHIC long ago, if they were possible (Jaffe). Prof. Taylor performs the same calculations for the LHC. If such destructive black holes could be produced, they would have destroyed this planet already.

However, my favorite response comes from the character Raj in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. As far as I can tell, Raj is a theoretical astrophysicist; when informed of these concerns about the LHC, he responds, "What a bunch of crybabies! No guts, no glory, man!"

R. Jaffe et al., Rev. Mod. Phys. 72, 1125–1140 (2000).

11 June 2008

30 May 2008

50 Sci-Fi "Classics"

For Christmas 2007, someone who shall remain nameless gave me a box set of 12 DVDs that contain 50 movies labeled Sci-Fi "Classics." The quotation marks in the title are very necessary due to the stunningly low quality of these films. I have attempted to watch several of them. With one possible exception, I concluded that they were all worthy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K).

For those who do not know, MST3K was a television series that feature a human and several robots trapped on a satellite and forced to watch bad movies. The human (Joel or Mike depending on the season) and two of the robots mock the movies as the view sees their silhouettes in front of the theater screen. Since the cancellation of MST3K, the creators and actors have launched several similar projects: The Film Crew, Cinematic Titanic, and RiffTrax.

I have done enough research to prove that my claim about these films is not hyperbole. Sixteen of them have been featured on MST3K or one of its progeny, as you can see in the table below.

Title Commentary
The Wasp Woman Cinematic Titanic (rumor)
First Space Ship on Venus MST3K #211
Gamera the Invincible MST3K #302
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians MST3K #321
Teenagers From Outer space MST3K #404
Hercules Unchained MST3K #408
Hercules Against the Moonmen MST3K #410
Hercules and the Captive Women MST3K #412
Crash of the Moons MST3K #417
Eegah MST3K #506
The Atomic Brain MST3K #518
The Amazing Transparent Man MST3K #623
The Phantom Planet MST3K #902
Horrors of Spider Island MST3K #1011
Killers From Space The Film Crew
The Wild Women Of Wongo The Film Crew

The remaining films are listed below. If the MST3K alumni need any suggestions for new films to redeem with their humor, here are 34.

Assignment: Outer Space
Attack of the Monsters
Battle Of the Worlds
Blood Tide
Bride Of The Gorilla
Colossus and the Amazon Queen
Cosmos: War of the Planets
Destroy All Planets
Devil of The Desert vs. Son Of Hercules
Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon
Kong Island
Laser Mission
Lost Jungle
Menace From Outer Space
Mesa of Lost Women
Moon of the Wolf
Phantom From Space
Planet Outlaws
Prehistoric Women
Queen of the Amazons
She Gods of Shark Reef
Son Of Hercules: The Land Of Darkness
The Astral Factor
The Brain Machine
The Galaxy Invader
The Incredible Petrified World
The Snow Creature
They Came From Beyond Space
Unknown World
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Warning From Space
White Pongo
Zontar, The Thing From Venus

Death in Iraq and Flaws in the Human Brain

A friend of mine sent me an article recently that questions the reliability of some estimates of the number of civilians killed in the War in Iraq. Entitled "Body Counting," it appears in the April 2008 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. I have three quick responses.

  • As the author states, even if the death toll in Iraq is 150,000 rather than 600,000, it is still a high price. We must honestly asses our answers to some very difficult questions. Have the results been worth this mortal cost? Could better planning could have saved some of these people? Should the US have invaded at all?

  • I am often disappointed by the fallibility and insufficiency of the human brain. Our brains are prejudiced by irrelevant for false information. They let our emotions overpower our reason when facts contradict what we believe or want to believe, and we become emotionally entrenched in positions that should not be very emotionally stimulating. They are "terrible at dealing with uncertainty," which is critical to understanding the results of any scientific study. Given all of these flaws in our mental capacities, I am sometimes surprised we have managed to build this civilization.

  • Since no other adequate resource is available, all of the flaws of the human brain must have been discovered by people using their brains. We posses sufficient meta-cognition to understand the imperfections of our own brains and attempt to overcome them. This gives me hope. If we are aware of these imperfections, can discern when we are betrayed by them, and learn from these experiences, perhaps we can make better decisions. Perhaps we can do a better job with the next war.

18 May 2008

Environmental Weekend II: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

On the Saturday after Earth Day (Apr. 26), I volunteered for Free Geek Columbus at the "shop" as I usually do and spent an hour at their advertising booth at the Earth Day Festival at Goodale Park. While at the shop, I obtained a cable that allowed me to place the emphasis on the second "R" in the title of this entry.

One of my undergraduate textbooks from the University of Minnesota came with a 5.25" floppy disc, which was ludicrously outdated when I bough it in 2002. I have not seriously used these discs since grade school. However, I have often wondered what was on that disc, and when I found a TEAC FD-55GFR drive in a computer at Free Geek, I took it home.

However, I quickly discovered that the ribbon cable needed to connect the drive to the mother board had a different connector than the one already in my desktop. When I was in Free Geek on the 26th, I found the proper cable, which was probably the one I had removed from the drive when I originally extracted it from an old computer. I installed the cable and drive, as you can see in the photograph above. After a bit of frustration, I carefully read the instructions and realized I had to tell the computer's BIOS chip about this new drive. Once that was done, I was able to insert and read the old floppy with no problem.

The contents of the disc are a Read Me file that begins by instructing the user to make a backup copy of the disc and a series of programs, written in Pascal source code, that were intended as examples for the book.

With that mystery solved, I had time to contemplate the evolution of portable digital storage media since I was in grade school. The PDF version of the users guide for this drive, which I credit TEAC for still having online, uses 643 KB of memory, which is more than the 345 KB capacity of the disc! The black drive immediately above the 5.25" floppy drive is a DVD drive, and DVDs can hold more than 10,000 times as much data as this floppy.

In the second photograph, you can see a small black chip to the left of the floppy disc. It is a SanDisk 512 MB microSD card that I use in my mobile phone. It holds approximately 1520 times as much information as the floppy. Already, 8 GB microSD cards are already available, and their capacity just keeps growing.

13 May 2008

Busy Saturday (May 10)

Morning: I was a judge for the Outstanding Physics Project Award at the Ohio State Science Day.

We judged two age categories. I was a judge for grades 10 - 12, but most of the other judges examined the more numerous projects from grades 7 - 9.

At the 10-12 (high school) level, the winners were:

  1. Keith A, Hawkins, "Correlations between supermassive black holes and intergalactic light shed on galaxy collisions in compact clusters," Glen Oak HS, Canton
  2. Nathan J. Bryant, ".22 LR: Cost vs. precision," Xenia Christian HS, Xenia
  3. Mary L. Stuhldreher, "Does your timber have timbre? Finding the best wood for marimba bars," Wadsworth HS, Wadsworth
I was very impressed with all of these projects; they gave us renewed hope for the future of science in Ohio and America. Most notably, Mr. Hawkins is doing active astrophysical research with scientists at Ohio University. He seems to have a good start on his Ph.D. thesis, and he is still in high school!

Several of the projects were from Christian schools throughout Ohio, which I find encouraging. They were required to have a "Biblical Application" as part of their project. The most common applications I saw involved Biblical exhortations to be patient. As a fifth-year Ph.D. student, I can attest to patience being an important part of science. Mr. Bryant instead chose Matthew 7:16-19, which is about knowing false prophets by their "fruits." In this case, he was referring to ammunition manufacturers and the cost of their .22 Long Rifle shells. I had never considered this passage in that particular context before.

At the 7-9 (middle school) level:

  1. Benjamin M. Pifher, "Why winglets," Mechanicsburg HS, Mechanicsburg
  2. Lisa N. Guo, "How the magnetic field strength affects the speed of a motor," Solon HS, Solon
    (tie) Aarti Kumar, "Variables that affect natural battery output," Mason HS, Mason
  3. Elizabeth A. Bancroft, "Effects of temperature on tennis ball bounce," Lial School, Whitehouse

Early Afternoon: I drove to Target using a car from Zipcar. It was the first time I have every driven a hybrid. The experience was different from driving a car with only an internal combustion engine. Specifically, it was usually quieter, and the regenerative braking made the pedal feel spongier than plain disk breaks. At Target, I finally spent most of the gift card my sister gave me for Christmas.

Late Afternoon: I rode to the house of my friend and colleague Joe, who recently defended is Ph.D. To celebrate, he bought a large charcoal grill and invited us over for its inaugural Bar-B-Que. We had seven courses: appetizer, bratwurst, mettwurst, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken, and chocolate cake. It was all good, and we were all very full.

Evening: The final event of the day was a birthday party for a friend. I arrived a little late with a stomach laden with BBQ. I gave him a birthday card that I had purchased at Target. We played a few games on their Nintedo Wii, which was a first for me. The motion sensing technology was quite good, but it required some adaptation. It also burned a few calories from the BBQ and birthday cupcakes.

09 May 2008

Selling Out

This is my latest response to Gore v. Science, at Echoes in Eternity. I have placed this on my blog because I have taken so long to respond that it is buried under many new posts by now. I know my response times are often not fast enough to compete in the blogosphere, but I hope I make up for my slowness with quality.

Close. I would say that the pro-AGW scientists AT THE FRONT LINES of this battle are guilty of what you said above (some incompetence, definitely fraud, or at least capitulation). MOST of the scientific community that still knows what it means to be a TRUE scientist (skepticism, etc.) at least are willing to admit that the evidence is not clear either way. It's merely a few loud obnoxious sell-outs, combined with power-hungry politicians, who are saying that debate is over.
While I concede that many scientists have their loud and obnoxious moments, that does not make them wrong any more that you would say Rush Limbaugh's do. Your accusations of fraud and selling out are much more serious, and I suspect they are more serious than you realize.

Outright fraud is among the worst (if not the worst) act a scientist can commit. Consider the case of Hwang Woo-Suk. He was a well-respected scientist and a national hero until his fraud was exposed. Now, he scientific reputation has been reduced to that of a bad example, and he is facing possible prison time. Science cannot function without honest and free exchange of information. A scientist can work for the Nazis, kill his own son, or be otherwise extremely unpleasant, and his or her reputation will still be better than that of a true fraud.

The seriousness of the crime and its consequences mean that scientific fraud is rare and that your accusation is equivalent to accusing your pastor of selling his soul to the Devil. To say that a large group of scientists has engaged in global fraud for decades is a grave accusation that requires equally powerful evidence.
What the data (and the subsequent disagreement among scientists) show is that we really don't know what caused the warming trend up until 2001 (since which we have not continued to warm, which has BLOWN the models out of the proverbial water). But since those models have been PROVEN to be so unreliable, we have to hazard a guess that the other hypotheses might indeed be more accurate (sun rays, natural cycling, etc.).
One of the articles you cite for the claims in this paragraph is from the New Statesman. Another article provides a blunt and effective correction.
As to the purpose of claiming that AGW is real, in the scientific community the reasoning is mostly different (yet related) than the political motives. As Dr. Gray and others have pointed out, it's a lot easier to get federal grants if you tell the politicians what they want to hear. Politically, yes, what you summarized above is pretty accurate; politicians like Gore want to consolidate power. Meanwhile, other politicians like McCain want to show that they are concerned over AGW, so they capitulate on the issue.
Contrary to your accusations, some scientists are so determined to collect accurate and comprehensive data on Earth's past and present climate that the have risked their lives in pursuit of that data. I find it unlikely that Prof. Lonnie Thompson would risk falling to his death off of a glacier to perpetuate a fraud when he could sit in his office collecting $10,000 per paper for proclaiming what you claim is the truth.

If scientists are selling out, to whom are the selling at and what price? All of the contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report were volunteers! They did not make any extra money for their contributions. In general, this accusation does not make sense because scientists usually do not enter research for the money. I realize that I could make much more money with an MBA than I will with a Ph.D. in physics. This seems a rather low price for selling out, especially given how much various think tanks and the petroleum industry are willing to pay for a prominent scientist who refutes global warming. You should be well aware of the disposable income available to petroleum companies because I doubt you have ever worked on an oil stadium named after the IPCC.

08 May 2008

Last Chance to see Luke in concert at Ohio State!

You are invited to a concert featuring:

  • The University Band (with Luke on Tuba and Kelly on Clarinet)
  • The Collegiate Winds
May 20, 2008, 8:00 PM Weigel Auditorium

The U Band half of the concert will include

  • "Esprit de Corps"
  • "Variations on a Korean Folk Song (Arirang)" by John Barnes Chance
  • "Toledo"
  • "As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean)" by Larry Daehn

Ticket Prices:

  • $6 general public, senior citizens, OSU faculty, staff, students;
  • Free for OSU School of Music faculty, staff, students with ID.
I hope to see you there.

07 May 2008

01 May 2008

Environmental Weekend III: Hansen, DeWitt, Gore

  • James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies will give two lectures today (May 1)
  • I helped organize a Creation Care Symposium featuring Cal DeWitt that is sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the OSU College of the Arts and Sciences on Saturday (May 3)
  • Al Gore will be speaking at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday (May 4)

I apologize for the "Environmental Weekend" entries being out of order.

Environmental Weekend I: Walkability Study

On Saturday, April 19, 2008, I participated in a walking tour of my neighborhood, Weinland Park. The purpose of this tour was to document how the physical environment of the neighborhood encouraged or discouraged people from walking or bicycling. I was very grateful for the opportunity to combine my desire to care for creation with my desire to be a caring and contributing citizen of Weinland Park.

We documented cracked or crumbling sidewalks, poorly placed utility poles, jaywalkers, metal subs where signs one were, and two community gardens. As I understand, the final product of this and similar walks will be a report to the Columbus city government on how the "walkability" of Weinland Park can be improved.

One of the participants on this tour was a little boy who became quickly attached to me. This provided much amusement for fellow walkers when my inexperience carrying small children quickly became obvious. After a few position changes and sore arms, I decided to carry him on my shoulders, where he remained for most of the walk, as you can see below.

24 April 2008


I saw the film Expelled on Sunday (Apr. 20) afternoon. When I walked into the theater, only one other person was in the audience. She left partway through the film. Another man arrived more than halfway through, but I was the only person in the theater for the whole movie.

The film is thoroughly critiqued elsewhere, so I will only make two observations.

First, the film does not address the most important scientific question regarding Intelligent Design: If ID is a scientific hypothesis, what testable predictions does it make?

Second, as part of a cliche attempt to connect biological evolution to the Holocaust, Ben Stein quotes a passage from Darwin's Descent of Man (1871).

With savages, the weak in body and mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (Part I, Ch.5).
As I have written before, this views that Darwin expressed in this passage do not affect the true history of life on Earth or the rigorous testing and verification that evolutionary biology has undergone in the past 150 years. This entire section of the film is irrelevant to any discussion of the veracity of evolution.

However, I think we should be fair to Darwin and continue reading the passage.
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reasons, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.
Darwin watched his daughter Annie die in childhood, possibly of tuberculosis. That should influence our reading of Darwin's medical examples in this passage.

As we can read, Darwin did not support the practice of eugenics. Even if we take the first section of this passage out of context to support eugenics, we encounter a problem. Who determines which members of society are "weak" or "worst?" Any number of measures could be suggested, but how the do we decide which one to use? Answering these questions takes us beyond the realm of science and, as history teaches us, into a "great present evil."

21 April 2008

The next time you feel like GOD can't use you...

I make a personal policy of not passing on chain e-mail, but I occasionally post a good one on my blog. I like this list primarily because it is true. I only have two comments. First, regarding Samson, long hair does not make me think God can't use me. Second, the last line makes the theological claim that in the Old Testament, God interacting with people is equivalent to Jesus interacting with them.

The next time

You feel like GOD can't use you, just remember,

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Rahab was a harlot
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer, and
Lazarus was dead
And don't you forget,
Jesus Helped All Of Them!

10 April 2008

23 March 2008

He is risen!

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.