02 December 2009

Anyone want my apartment?

Since Kelly and I will be relocating in January, my apartment will be available for rent then. If you are interested, see the ad on Craigslist.

26 November 2009


God, I am thankful for:
  • Your love, salvation, and redemptive transformation of my life through your son Jesus and your Holy Spirit.
  • Kelly, the wonderful woman who I shall marry in a little more that 16 days!
  • Kelly passing her candidacy exam.
  • Her family's hospitality in hosting me this Thanksgiving.
  • My loving and supportive family.
  • So many good friends around the world.
  • The campus group and church congregation in Bloomington.
  • Friends to host us apartment shopping in Illinois.
  • Good health and access to good medicine.
  • A safe, abundant, and reliable food supply.
  • A job I enjoy that enables me to explore your Creation.
  • The skills, talents, opportunities, and people who made it possible to have this job.
  • The technology to compose and communicate messages like this.
  • The freedom to practice my faith and express my opinions, even the negative ones.
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you."

12 November 2009

Can a Biologist Trust an Evangelical Christian?

You are invited to a panel discussion on building trust between scientists and Christians. It is related to the IU themester of "Evolution, Diversity and Change" and is on the official themester calendar.

The panelists will each give brief opening statements (10 min.) followed by about an hour of Q&A.

More details are below.

What: Panel Discussion "Can a Biologist Trust an Evangelical Christian?"
When: Nov. 12 at 7:00 PM
Where: Indiana Memorial Union, Dogwood Room
Why: We believe there should be no conflict between science and faith, because God is the author of both. We believe that Christians can and should explore the natural world and have the courage to accept that evolution is the best scientific explanation of evidence spanning billions of years into the past and within our own DNA. To this end, we hope to engage in the spirit of IU’s Themester by hosting an academic discussion, open to all who are interested, with panelists who are Christians and scholars, and who wish to build trust between the academy and Christianity.


Dr. Jeff Hardin
Professor and Chair, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Dr. Tim O'Connor
Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Indiana University

Dr. Richard Holdeman
Pastor, Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church

Lecturer, Department of Biology, Indiana University


Kerilyn Harkaway
Doctoral Student, English and Religious Studies, Indiana University

InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministry at IU
Indiana University Student Association

Letter to the Editor on Evolution and Christianity

[Published in the Indiana Daily Student, Wed. Oct 21, 2009. I know I should have posted this sooner, but I have been very busy with wedding planning and the event described at the end of the letter.]

Science and Religion Can Work Together

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in his lecture at IU on Oct.12, presented a strong and unflinching defense of biological evolution. He also relentlessly attacked religious faith of any kind, particularly Christianity and Islam, calling the biblical book of Genesis the “scribblings of goat herders.” During Dawkins’ talk, Christians outside the auditorium handed out cards insisting that evolution is incompatible with the Bible.

Both views seemed to agree that we must choose between acceptance of legitimate scientific evidence and sincere faith. For those of us who are professional scholars and practicing Christians, this false choice is personally frustrating and cultivates potently corrosive distrust within our society. It robs far too many young Christians of the ability to realize their potential for exploring our universe and too many scholars of the redemptive power God offers for their lives and their universities.

We believe there should be no conflict between science and faith, because God is the author of both. We believe that Christians can and should explore the natural world and have the courage to accept that evolution is the best scientific explanation of evidence spanning billions of years into the past and within our own DNA.

To this end, we hope to engage in the spirit of IU’s Themester by hosting an academic discussion, open to all who are interested, with panelists who are Christians and scholars, and who wish to build trust between the academy and Christianity.Please join us at 7pm Nov. 12 in the Indiana Memorial Union Dogwood Room for a panel discussion in response to the question "Can a biologist trust an evangelical Christian?" For more information visit http://iugfm.blogspot.com/. We hope an honest and communal search for truth can evolve out of the false choice between science and faith.

Luke Corwin, postdoctoral fellow, Physics
Scott Lamanna, doctoral candidate, Spanish
Kerilyn Harkaway, doctoral student, English and religious studies
For the IV Graduate & Faculty Ministry at IU

09 November 2009

Is Intelligent Design Viable?

Update from Brian: For those interested in the audio, it can be found here.

On Nov. 5, Campus Crusade Sponsored a debate entitled "Intelligent Design: Is it Viable?" between philosopher William Lane Craig and biologist Francisco J. Ayala at the Indiana University Auditorium. While I cannot recap the entire debate here, I would like to state a few important points.

Dr. Craig gave the best spoken presentation of Intelligent Design (ID) that I have ever seen. He kept the debate at a very respectable and dignified level. His points and questions made me think more about this issue than I have in some time. He argued simply that ID is viable, not necessarily true. His definition and presentation of ID were also surprisingly narrow and modest for three reasons.

First, he accepted some level of common ancestry for diverse organisms. While he did not accept that all organisms were descended from a common ancestor, he easily accepted that all organisms in a given order or family could share common ancestry. I found this surprising because he made no attempt to challenge the descent of humans from earlier ape-like ancestors.

Second, many alleged flaws and cruelties in nature were cited as arguments against design, such as parasites, male baboons killing the babies of a rival, or the high spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) rate (at least 15%) in humans. Dr. Craig responded that a designer can still be inferred from very sub-optimal designs, such as the East German Trabant, a notoriously low-quality car. Even devices that are cruel and immoral can still be the obvious products of design; he used the example of a medieval torture rack. Overall, he argued that ID makes no claim that the designer is all-good or all-powerful. He quoted another ID advocate who said, "Zeus will do!"

Third, Dr. Craig conceded that ID might not be science; he argued that this was not relevant because an idea need not be scientific to be true. I think the question is more relevant than Dr. Craig does for practical reasons. For instance, if ID is not science, advocates should not sue school districts for not including it in science classes.

In defining ID theory, Dr. Craig used two criteria that William Dembski has posited to justify an inference of design. First, the event or object in question must be wildly improbable. Second, it must conform to a pre-specified pattern. Dr. Craig claimed that these criteria are used to detect design in fields like cryptography, forensic science, arson investigations, and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He claimed that to declare ID non-viable, one must either attack the criteria or show that biological systems do not satisfy them.

I take issue with the second criterion. Police can use it to determine if arson caused a fire because they know how humans start fires. SETI implicitly assumes that the aliens will be enough like us (or want enough to be found by us) that we will be able to differentiate their signals from natural sources. This is a limitation of SETI that I had not recognized before this debate.

In Dr. Craig's formulation of ID, the designer can be anything from Jesus to Zeus to the designer of torture devices. With such a vague definition of a designer, I do not understand how one could pre-specify any pattern with enough precision to ever use Dembski's second criterion. When confronted with a seeming violation of the second criterion, even a determined ID advocate who specifies the Christian God could simply refer to our limited knowledge of God's intentions, reasons, and motivations (e.g. Isaiah 55:8) to avoid the criterion and thus render it useless.

While I was impressed by Dr. Ayala's overall performance, he did leave one important question, which Dr. Craig asked multiple times, unanswered. What is the evidence that natural selection, which works on small scales, is powerful enough to explain all of life? He cited the specific example of a whale and a bacterium being descended from the same ancestor. I would appreciate if any of the readers of this post could point me to such evidence.

07 November 2009


Above, you can see a slide show of the plants and some of the harvest from the garden Kelly and I planted in front of my apartment in Bloomington. While our garden was not in favorable conditions since it was shaded by trees and on the north side of the apartment building, we were able to keep many green plans alive in pots and in the ground. We also harvest several tablespoons of fresh and dried basil and a few cucumbers.

Though my mother has gardened for as long as I can remember, this was my first attempt, and I consider it a success. I look forward to Kelly and I gardening together whenever we are able.

06 November 2009

My First Seminar! (UW-Madison)

I have been invited to give my first seminar, other than job interviews, Nov. 30. This is a nice milestone in my career, and I am quite excited about it. The seminar will be at UW-Madison, and it will be about the work I did for my Ph.D. dissertation.

Title: Fully Leptonic Charged B Decays at Babar.

Abstract: The Babar detector was a multi-purpose particle physics detector at the PEP-II accelerator in SLAC National Laboratory. It is named after its primary objects of study, the B mesons, and a cartoon elephant. The accelerator was tuned to produce the Upsilon(4S) resonance, which almost always decays into a pair of B mesons. In this talk, I will describe the challenges and methods of searching for events in which a charged B decays into a charged lepton and a neutrino. The primary focus will be the search for charged B mesons decaying into a tau lepton and a neutrino in the recoil of a semi-leptonically decaying B. I will review complementary searches at Babar and the Belle experiment in Japan, and I will present the implications of these results for physics beyond the Standard Model.

15 October 2009

Travel Plans for 2009

Trip to MN, OH, and PA
  • Oct. 15-20, Minneapolis, MN: For the first four days, I will be attending a NOvA Collaboration meeting; Kelly will join me Sunday (18th) evening, and we will visit friends until Tuesday (20th) afternoon.
  • Oct. 21-23, Columbus, OH: We will be in Columbus for several meetings and appointments about planning our wedding and our lives together.
  • Oct. 24, Erie, PA: We will be attending the wedding of one of Kelly's friends.
  • Oct. 25, Columbus, OH: After the wedding, we will drive back to Columbus, and I will return to Bloomington in the afternoon or evening.
Update: I have color coded the future dates to indicate how (or if) I can be reached.
Green = full e-mail and phone contact
Orange = sporadic e-mail and full phone contact
Red = no contact

Kelly's Candidacy Exam, Thanksgiving, and Seminar
  • Nov. 20-25, Columbus, OH: Kelly's Candidacy Exam is on the 24th.
  • Nov. 25-28, Pittsburgh, PA: Thanksgiving with Kelly's Family
  • Nov. 30-Dec.1, Madison, WI: HEP Seminar at UW-Madsion

Home Search, Wedding, Steelers, and Holidays
  • Dec. 7-9: Warrenville, IL: Searching for a home near Fermilab
  • Dec. 9-12: Columbus, OH: Wedding! Marrying my love Dec. 12!
  • Dec. 12-18: Honeymoon
  • Dec. 18-21: Pittsburgh, PA: We have been given tickets to the Steelers vs. Packers game!
  • Dec. 21-22: Bloomington, IN
  • Dec. 22-26(?): Independence, WI: Visiting Family for Christmas
  • Dec. 26(?)-Jan 1: Minneapolis, MN: Visiting Friends for New Year's

02 October 2009

Michael Ruse Lecture this Afternoon


29 September 2009

Student Loans

After several years of saving, I paid off my student loans recently.  Yesterday, I received a notice in the mail from the University of Minnesota officially informing me that my loans from them were "paid in full."  I also paid off my loads from the Department of Education, so I hope to receive a similar notice from them soon.

25 September 2009

Introducing the Groomsmen: John Yackovich, Brother of the Bride

John and Kelly have known each other for all of his life and most of hers. In other words, he is Kelly's brother.

John and Luke met for the first time when Kelly's family hosted Luke for Thanksgiving in 2008. He accuses Kelly of "stealing his major" because they both have undergraduate degrees (and are pursuing Ph.Ds) in Computer Science. He lives with his girlfriend, who is also named Kelly, which creates an understandable amount of confusion and humor. John is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

24 September 2009

National Postdoc Appreciation Day

Apparently, it is today.  I feel quite appreciated.

21 September 2009

Introducing the Groomsmen: Jonathan

Of all the groomsmen, Jonathan has known Luke the longest.  They met in the Autumn of 2001; Luke had returned from studying abroad in Australia in July.  Both were students and members of Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) at the University of Minnesota, which was a singularly important group in Luke's spiritual growth.  When they met, Jonathan did not yet have the beard or mustache.

Jonathan and Luke became friends in CSF.  They have much in common, including their faith and a desire to wrestle with difficult and important questions.  On issues ranging from childbearing to global warming to the interpretation of Genesis to cosmology, they often have strongly divergent views; however, and they also share a mutual respect and durable friendship even when their answers sharply differ.  They have both grown and learned much through their friendship.

Jonathan recently received his MBA from the Carlson School of Management; he works at Syngenta as a NAFTA Business Development Analyst.  He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Christina, who is a professional photographer and took the photograph above.  They have welcomed into their home a black Labrador Retriever named Dietriech and their daughter Luciana Shalom, who was born on Sep. 3, 2009.

10 September 2009

Introducing the Groomsmen: Paul Rimmer

Through a warp in the space-time continuum, the TARDIS has brought Doctor Who to be a groomsman in Luke and Kelly's wedding!  Actually, this is Paul dressed as The Doctor at the CGSA end-of-year party from the Spring of 2008.  

Paul and Luke met when Luke returned from California at the beginning of 2007.  He and Luke met in CGSA, and Paul has served as its co-president.  

Both were graduate students in the Physics Department, and this created many opportunities for profound discussions about the relationship between faith and physics.  Paul also has a deep interest in church traditions and history, which has been the source of more great conversations and opportunities to learn.  Paul is a man of profound thoughts and deep dedication to truth. 

Paul is currently a graduate student seeking is Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics and Astrochemistry at Ohio State.  He lives in Columbus with his wife Arwen and their two cats Mab and Merlin.

19 August 2009

Blogging Milestone: 101000 Entries!

For those of you confused by the number, I have a hint.  "There are 10 kinds of people in the world..."

16 August 2009

Introducing the Groomsmen: Markus Dickinson

Markus is a proud alumnus of the University of Illinois. He and Luke met in CGSA shortly after Luke began his graduate studies at Ohio State. Markus was President of CGSA. Markus and his wife Stephanie were generous hosts of bible studies and other events at their home; they were also great supplies of utensils, cookware, and other useful items for the CGSA camping trips. They were also wonderful friends will to provide a laugh, a ride or a listening ear as needed. Lessons about linguistics, statistics, and The Who in casual conversation were an added bonus.

Markus graduated with his Ph.D. in Linguistics and is now a professor at Indiana University. So, when Luke accepted a job there as a postdoc in the Physics department, it was an opportunity to be reunited with these wonderful friends. As Luke progressed in his romance and engagement with Kelly, he came to realize another benefit of their friendship: they are a real and great example of how to be a married Christian couple.

Introducing the Groomsmen: Gary Nielson, Best Man

Gary and Luke have known each other since Luke started graduate school at Ohio State in the Summer of 2003. Gary was a staff member with the InterVarsity graduate student chapter at OSU, which is known as CGSA. Gary remembers well Luke cutting firewood and tending the fire on the CGSA camping trip that summer.

Gary is one of several leaders and friends in that group with whom Luke has been able to wrestle with profound questions, have fascinating discussions, and see how his faith impacts his life, research, and the world around him. Luke was a leader in CGSA and worked with Gary extensively. Gary was also a great encourager and wise counselor when Luke was thinking about romance in general and one young woman in particular, who is also a member of CGSA.

Gary is currently still a volunteer with CGSA and Executive Director of Second Fiddle Ministries; his wife Peggy is Treasurer. They keep in contact with their seven children around the world and with many of the graduate students whose faith has been immeasurably strengthened and matured in CGSA.

06 August 2009

InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministry at IU - Bloomington

The group of people in the photograph above are part of the InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministry here in Bloomington. They are one of the two Christian fellowships (the other being my church) that I have joined since starting at Indiana University.

This picture was taken after our planning meeting for the Fall Semester by Erika, the eldest child of Paula (back row, 2nd from left) and Blake (back row, rightmost). She used the camera on my phone.

04 August 2009


After much prayer, discussion, consultation, and thought, Kelly and I have decided to relocate to the western suburbs of Chicago in the first week or two of 2010.  This will allow me to be based at Fermilab rather than in Bloomington.  I will still have the same job working as a postdoctoral fellow for Indiana University.  For those of you who remember, this will be much like my relocation to SLAC in California while I was a graduate student at Ohio State.

The reasons for this relocation stem from the experiments on which I work, primarily NOvA.  The first full prototype of the NOvA near detector is scheduled to be assembled and commissioned sometime next summer or autumn at Fermilab.  This will be a period of intense activity and will require the presence of as many collaborators as possible at the lab, including me.  We concluded that it would be better for our marriage and my career for me to be based at the lab rather than to frequently travel back and forth between there and Bloomington, sometimes for long periods.  

We will miss Bloomington, especially the new friends we have made and the old friends with whom we have been reunited.  However, we are confident that our Heavenly Father will provide us with friends and fellowship in our new home.  

Any help moving or recommendations for house would, of course, be much appreciated.

Wonderful Weekend

My fiancée came to visit me in Bloomington this weekend with her new roommate and two mutual friends from Columbus.  A great time was had by all.

The highlights:
  • Time with Kelly
  • Watching Kelly and Stephanie, one of our friends in Bloomington, play softball for Exodus Church.  They lost to St. Paul's 14-10, but it was an exciting game.
  • Having dinner at Lennie's, including some of the best cheesecake I've ever tasted, with local blackberries.
  • Discussing our wedding, honeymoon, relocation, and other parts of our future as Dr. & Mrs. (then Dr. & Dr.) Corwin!
  • Touring the Oliver Winery
  • Having a BBQ at Markus & Stephanie's, which was a great meal from a team effort.
  • Church at Exodus, with a sermon on Matthew 5:33-37
  • An excellent lunch at Cafe Turkuaz
  • Spending a restful afternoon and evening with my future wife
  • Working in my office, then having lunch with her before saying goodbye on Monday
  • Finding several romantic and loving surprises in my apartment when I returned on Monday evening.

29 July 2009

Climate Change and Trust II

Let me approach this issue from another angle.  For those of you who are skeptical of climate change science or are suspicious of its political implications, I have a thought experiment.   

Let us imagine, just for a few minutes, that the following statements are true.
  • Average global temperature is increasing.
  • Human activity, such as the industrial production of greenhouse gasses, is the main cause of this warming.
  • Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will have negative consequences for large numbers of people during the coming decades if present trends continue.
  • Conditions on this planet decades from now are affected by actions humans take now.
If this were all true, what would the proper response be by our nation and world?

12 July 2009

Neutrino Overload

I am currently in St. Charles, IL, at the Pheasant Run Resort, where I am staying for the International Neutrino Summer School. We have had a very busy schedule filled with mostly interesting lectures. The resort is beautiful, and I am relaxing by one of the pools right now. I only wish my favorite companion could be here to share it with me.

The curriculum has been so packed with fascinating and complicated physics that I am not sure I can absorb any more, but the school is only half over. The organizers have given us the weekend off; yesterday I traveled into Chicago to see the Museum of Science and Industry. Today, I am taking a much slower pace with church and lunch with a friend my only activities so far.

02 July 2009

Need Help Unloading a Moving Van In Bloomington

I am writing to ask for your help unloading furniture and other items from a moving van at my apartment on Saturday, July 18. My fiancée Kelly will be moving most of her possessions into the apartment then, and we could use your help hauling and re-arranging.

Her lease expires in August, and she will be moving in with friends of ours until we are married in December. Most of what she has in her apartment will not fit in the new place, so she is moving it to Bloomington.

So, can any of you help us?

Feel free to pass this along to any mutual friends who might be interested.

23 June 2009


I have written previously that I am working on two experiments: MINOS and NOvA, and I would like to provide a little more detail about what has been happening with NOvA. First, I should explain that the name is an acronym: NuMI Off-axis νAppearance, then I should explain the acronym within the acronym. NuMI stands for Neutrinos at the Main Injector. Neutrinos are the particles NOvA was designed to study, and the Main Injector is a part of the Fermilab accelerator complex that produces the neutrino beam studied by NOvA.

Some controversy exists about whether the proper name of the experiment is NOvA or NOνA ("v" vs. the neutrino symbol). The neutrino symbol would more accurately represent the name of the experiment, but it is difficult or impossible to find using a search engine. For that reason, and because one of my supervisors prefers it, I shall use the "v." 

Whatever acronym is used, the project has experienced a resurgence of funding after being nearly cancelled in late 2007. It, like MINOS, consists of two detectors. One will be built at Fermilab; the other will be in a building in northern Minnesota.   The neutrinos travel from Fermilab to northern Minnesota in a few milliseconds.  The two detectors will measure changes in the beam between those two points, which will give us the most precise understanding of these ghostly particles to date.  For a more detailed description of the purpose and physics behind this experiment, I recommend an article written for the College of William & Mary, "Tracking the elusive ghost particle," featuring my colleague Patricia Vahle.

The latest sign of progress toward making this experiment a reality was the groundbreaking for this new building on May 1. It was attended by several officials, including Congressman Bill Foster, who has a Ph.D. in Physics (like two other members of Congress) and an interesting sense of humor.

As part of the local publicity for this event, the neutrino group at Indiana was called together one morning to pose for a photograph.  It shows us with our arms on a small section of extruded PVC very similar to the extrusions that will be produced for the detectors.  

(Photograph courtesy of Indiana University)

22 June 2009

Pictures from Cambridge

Though much delayed, here are the photographs promised from my trip to Cambridge, England.

12 June 2009

MINOS Collaboration Meeting in Ely, MN

To see more details, go to the album; photo descriptions are there.

06 June 2009

04 June 2009

Traveling in June

During the first half of June, I am traveling to three different states for various different personal and academic events.


As I write this, I am attending the annual Fermilab Users' Meeting.  I am looking forward to learning about the people and activities here beyond the experiments on which I work.

Partially overlapping with the Users' Meeting is the 2009 Outreach Workshop, which will feature a Tesla coil show, posters, presentations, and panel discussions.  Given some of the difficulty I have had in effectively communicating certain aspects of science to my friends, I hope I can learn practical lessons from people with experience reaching out from the lab to the public, government, and educators.

On Friday through Sunday, I will be taking shifts monitoring MINOS again.  I will be on the morning shift (6 AM to noon).  I hope that these shifts will be less eventful than my previous set of shifts, during which a transformer failed (go to 11 PM once you click the link) cutting power to MINOS and multiple other parts of the lab.  It was quickly replaced.


On Sunday evening, I am scheduled to fly from ORD to DLH.  From Duluth, I will drive with a grad student in our group to Ely, MN for the MINOS Week in the Woods Meeting.  I have never been to this meeting before, and I have not been to northern Minnesota for several years.  I look forward to it, but I was sure to pack the strongest insect repellent I could find.


I will leave Week in the Woods on Friday (June 12) to fly from Duluth to La Crosse, WI (LSE), where my sister lives.  There, I will meet Kelly, and the next morning, we will travel to Independence for my 10-year high school class reunion.  I expect it to be a fairly strange experience, given how much I have changed and grown since 1999.  Also, I have not seen most of the people who will be there since then, so I am curious to see how they have changed.  I will, as always, be proud to have my finacée with me.

My mother and sister will be hosting an engagement party for us on Sunday.  It should be a fun time to celebrate this occasion with friends and family, especially those who might not be able to travel to the wedding.  Since some guests have been asking about gifts, Kelly and I have started gift registries.

Kelly and I will fly back out of La Crosse to O'Hare on Monday afternoon.  There, we will part ways as she returns to Columbus and I fly to Indianapolis on my way home.

22 May 2009

On with the Countdown!

You have probably noticed the countdown clock on the right side of my blog.  It is counting down to the planned time of our wedding, and I am very excited for it to reach zero.  

12 May 2009

Favorite Companion

You all may be wondering why Kelly and I call each other "favorite companion."  The term of endearment came from when we were dating.  Specifically, we were discussing how to introduce each other, and we did not like the words boyfriend and girlfriend but could not think of any accurate substitutes.  

To solve this dilemma, I looked girlfriend up in my dictionary (Webster's Third Unabridged) and found it defined as "the favorite female companion of a boy or man."  The definition of boyfriend also contains the construction "favorite companion."  We both liked it so much that we started using it for each other and still use it alongside of finacé and fiancée.

01 May 2009

Computer Problems Resolved

My computer is back from the service center clean and fully functional again. I needed to make one more phone call before I could restore the system from a backed-up state, and now it is working just as it was before I removed the Linux partition.

Thanks to God, James, UPS, and the technicians at Lenovo/IBM.

Wedding Website


26 April 2009

13 April 2009

Collaborating in Cambridge

On Mar. 25, I returned from the MINOS Collaboration Meeting at Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, England. It was quite an experience. The meeting consisted of talks held in plenary and parallel sessions in the style of a scientific conference, except that these talks are not intended to be public information. This was my first MINOS collaboration meeting; I attended with several other members of my research group from Indiana University.

Since I am still new to the Collaboration, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn the names and work of my fellow collaborators. There are approximately 250 of us, though most (including me) split their time among more that one experiment. Approximately 70 attended this meeting. As a result of hearing the talks and meeting people who I have known previously only via e-mail, I think I am finally starting to adapt to the collaboration and find my place in it.

Most of our time was taken up with the business of the meeting; however, we also had time for some social events. The main collaboration dinner was a four course meal served by the staff of Emmanuel. It was probably the most formal dinner I have ever eaten. Each course included its own wine in addition to the pre-dinner drinks. Since I did not want to embarrass myself, I did not finish most of the wine but sampled all of it. While I enjoyed the meal, I must admit some discomfort knowing that other people's tax money was paying for it.

The "young MINOS" leaders organized two social events at local pubs that I joined. We had good food and good company at The Anchor and The Castle. One of my collaborators even demonstrated his growing skills at magic card tricks. When we started having a conversation about the Boolean operator xor, we decided it was time to head to bed.

I did make time for exploration and sightseeing in Cambridge. My first goal was the doors of the old Cavendish laboratory, which contain the text of the beginning of Psalm 111 in Latin. I mentioned before that the English translation of this passage is the basis of the title of my blog. I found it quite easily and along the way discovered the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, which was quite nice. It included an original printing of Newton's Principia and a piece of Charles Babbage's calculating engine, a mechanical precursor to modern computers.

While at Whipple, I found a brochure for several other small museums in the area. I only had time to visit the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. It houses an amazingly dense collection of fossils and other artifacts. The exhibits are laid out as a time line from the Cambrian Era through the present, although the most recent 1.8 million years were blocked off due to the preparation of a new exhibit on Darwin. Highlights included fossils that were more than half a billion years old, a fossil of the largest spider that ever lived, a piece of the Apollo 15 heat shield, a complete Pleiosaur fossil, and several beautiful fossilized shells. I recommend it to any visitor to Cambridge.

I also enjoyed exploring the grounds of Emmanuel College, which was founded in 1584. It is home to several beautiful buildings and many ducks and other birds. The chapel was built in 1640 and is still open. Since we were at the College between terms at Cambridge, no services were held. However, I used it as the location for some of my morning Bible reading. Across from where I sat was the stained glass image of John Harvard.

I composed most of this entry on the plane ride from Heathrow to O'Hare. Pictures will be posted soon after my computer problems are resolved.

Computer Problems

Recently, I tried to make some modifications to my trusty IBM notebook PC (a.k.a. laptop). The fact that it bears the IBM logo (not Lenovo) gives you an idea of how long I have had it. The modifications did not go as planned, and after several calls to the IBM help line, I was told that I had to revert the system to factory settings. Fortunately, my friend had advised me to backup my system before I tried the modifications. I did so on an external USB hard drive.

I was able to restore the system, but now the USB ports appear to be inoperative. Another call to the help line resulted in a box being prepared for me. It will be sent to me so that I can pack my computer in it and return it for service. I have an extended warranty, so it will only cost me time. Since all of my pictures and other personal items are in the hard drive I cannot access, I will probably not do much blogging until my computer is repaired and returned.

02 April 2009

How I Proposed

Quarks and leptons were formed a small fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Quarks condensed to forms baryons, including protons and neutrons. These baryons were fused into light atomic nuclei in the heat of the very early Universe. Light nuclei were fused into heavier nuclei, such as carbon, in the cores of stars over the ensuing several billion years.

These nuclei were returned to the interstellar medium by the deaths of their progenitor stars. The most explosive stellar deaths produced even heavier elements, such as gold. In the cold of space, these nuclei captured elections to become full atoms. Some of the atoms were captured by gravity as part of a newly formed planet that would soon be the home of many forms of life.

After being geologically and biologically processed for billions of years, a small collection of the carbon atoms formed crystal lattices that one species on the planet found particularly valuable. Three of them were cut, polished and placed on a circle made of gold that had been taken from another part of the planet's crust. At this point, I entered this cosmic tale.

I had decided to propose to Kelly and spent a few days shopping. When I selected the store where I would buy her engagement ring, I already knew what kind I wanted. I specified a three stone white gold or platinum ring with a central diamond flanked by blue sapphires, which were to match another ring she wares. I also knew the quality and other specifications I wanted for the diamond. The store had several three stone rings with three diamonds. After some study and discussion, I chose one and had them replace the two outer diamonds with sapphires.

I tied the ring to a card using a silver colored ribbon and placed it in an envelope. I would propose when I made my first visit from Indiana to Columbus on Feb. 20. In high school, more that ten years ago, I purchased the card because I thought was very romantic. I had no one to receive it at the time, but I hoped that I someday would.

When planning this trip, I asked Kelly if she wanted to take a walk down to the Olentangy River, which flows through the Ohio State campus. She really likes rivers, so it seemed like an appropriate spot for the proposal. She had explicitly told me that she wanted to be surprised, so I did my best to give her no clues about my true reasons for this walk. However, when proposing to someone as intelligent and insightful as her, the element of surprise is difficult to achieve. Since I asked about this walk specifically several weeks before the visit, she strongly suspected that this was when I would propose.

On the walk, we saw a sun dog in the western sky, which looks like a fragment of a rainbow in the clouds near the sun. We also saw a hawk eating a duck near Mirror Lake, so I am glad that we do not believe in omens. I was a little quiet on the walk but did not betray the intense anxiety and excitement I felt in anticipation the question of the question I was about to ask.

When we arrived at the bank of the river, I tried to guide us to a spot where I could kneel in on gravel or rock instead of mud, but I was unsuccessful. I told her that I had a card for her, took it out of my coat pocket, and handed it to her. This confused her because she had been expecting an engagement ring and did not think anyone would put one in a card. So, I did manage a surprise proposal in the end!

When she opened the card and saw the ring, I assumed the traditional position kneeling on one knee and said, "Will you marry me?" With a quiet excitement, she said "Yes." She hugged me while I was still kneeling, which almost knocked us both over. We then moved to sit on a nearby picnic table, place the ring on her finger and begin planning our wedding.

01 April 2009

31 March 2009

Climate Change and Trust

As I have pondered, studied, discussed, and debated the various scientific, political, economic, and theological aspects of climate change, I have realized that the most important issue driving these debates is not science, politics, economics, or theology. As far as I can tell, the most important issue is trust. I have arrived at this conclusion via a number of discussions and comments, most recently a panel discussion at Following Christ 2008 in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Track.

In all of these sources, those who are skeptical of climate change (or a wide variety of scientific claims) simply do not trust scientists and vice versa. Thus, no amount of evidence or argument will be persuasive because the source is considered untrustworthy. This distrust can take on a political or religious cast, and the two are usually intertwined.

From the political perspective, the title of the film Global Warming or Global Governance speaks for itself. A similar argument is made in The Great Global Warming Swindle, which accuses scientists of committing fraud by falsely claiming evidence of anthropogenic global warming. The purpose of this fraud, so the argument goes, is to advance the agenda of anti-capitalists to increase government control of the economy and the world's citizens.

From a more religious (specifically Christian) perspective, the most important Biblical passages for understanding skepticism are those that contrast divine with human wisdom, such as I Corinthians 1:25-27 and I John 4:5. Distrust then allows any evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) can be dismissed as a fraud (as described above), regarded as fatally flawed human "wisdom" that God is putting to shame, or both.

Of course, distrust and hostility flow in both directions. One need only read the works of Richard Dawkins or similarly-minded scientists to see that. From this perspective, conservative Christians (and religious believers generally) are irrational people who reject established or strongly demonstrated facts in favor of a comforting fantasy.

All of this has led to two entrenched camps that distrust and strongly dislike each other. I am a devoted Christians who has been convinced by the evidence for AGW, and this environment sometimes makes me feel like my brain is being sheared in two. It is tempting to join one camp or the other and launch angry tirades at those who disagree with me, especially when carefully thought out and respectfully presented arguments seem to have no effect.

However, false is the idea that Christians and scientists are mutually exclusive groups of people. Thus, joining the fray would perpetuate this false dichotomy between Christianity and science. I believe that one of the reasons God has placed me in this field is to rebuild trust between Christians and scientists and show that people can commonly be both. That is a fine and worthwhile goal; methods to achieve it have been mostly elusive.

The best bridge building I have encountered was in the form of a round table discussion between evangelical pastors and scientists from the vicinity of Columbus, OH; it was one instance of a projected called the Friendship Collaborative. Most of the scientists worked at Ohio State. One of the evangelical pastors who organized the event was Ken Wilson, pastor of the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, MI; he wrote about it on his blog. One of the organizers from Ohio State's InterVarsity Graduate chapter also wrote a nice article. I pray that more events like this will continue to bring scientists and Christians together and, like Pastor Wilson, that the Holy Spirit will be present in them.

Humility is an important part of such gatherings and of building trust generally, which is a lesson I have sometimes learned the hard way. Humility includes the willingness to ask for and accept new ideas. So, do any of you have any ideas for how to build trust between skeptical Christians and climate scientists?

Jehovah's Witnesses

On Sunday, Mar. 15, I experienced my first unsolicited proselytizing at my apartment in Bloomington. Two men wearing suits and ties knocked on my door after I returned from church. After a brief discussion, I found that they were Jehovah's Witnesses. We had a rather interesting theological conversation. I do not know much about the Jehovah's Witnesses, so I am only recalling here what we discussed.

While we all claimed to be Christians, we had two main points of theological disagreement. First, they claimed that the battle in which Satan is cast out of Heaven (Revelation 12) took place in 1914. I responded that I saw no evidence to support this claim. They gave me a booklet which explains, among many other things, how this conclusion was reached. I have not had time to read it yet.

The other major disagreement was over the nature of Jesus. They claimed that Jesus is an angel, specifically that Jesus and the archangel Michael are the same person. They supported this claim in part with their translation of John 1, which says "the word was a god" instead of "the word was God," as in other translations. 

In their translation, I turned toHebrews 1, which is an argument, based mainly on the Old Testament prophesies, specifically against the claim that Jesus is an angel. When I pressed this point, the Witness doing most of the talking said, "I will have to think about that some more." Shortly after that, they left amicably. They asked if I would like them to return in the future for another conversation, but I politely declined.

30 March 2009

Statistics, Economics, and the NCAA

One of the professors with whom I work found an article on a New York Times blog entitled "When Losing Leads to Winning." He presented it to one of his undergraduate classes and asked them to evaluate the procedure and whether the evidence supported the conclusions. In particular, he focused on the graph below. I decided to present it to those of my readers who might be statistically inclined.

14 March 2009


I just finished filing my taxes. I will receive refunds from the US and Ohio. I owe a balance on my city taxes of $1. Is paying that balance really worth the cost to the city of processing it?

10 March 2009

Video Tour of My New Apartment

Update: Photobucket truncates videos at 5min, so my original video was incomplete. I have posted the remainder as Part 2 below.

Part 1

Part 2

28 February 2009

Jindal vs. the Volcano Monitors

In the Republican response to President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, Gov. Jindal of Louisana criticized the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring."
I will not comment on the other projects he listed, but the attack on volcano monitoring caught the attention of myself and many others, including Mayor Royce Pollard of Vancouver, WA, which is near Mt. St. Helens. I suspect Gov. Jindal would have a difficult time explaining his words to Mayor Pollard, the citizens of Vancouver, or the residents of Pompeii.

27 February 2009

FW: video of "Islam and Science" colloquium

Dear Colleagues,

In case that you missed Pervez Hoodbhoy's colloquium on "Islam and Science - The Quest for Rapprochement" last week, a video-taped version is available at


[Note: After you open the link search for "Islam"]

The talk starts about 4 minutes after the start of the recording, so you may want to skip over the first few minutes of "open mic" time.

24 February 2009


On Friday, Feb. 20, I proposed to my girlfriend Kelly on the East Bank of the Olentangy river on the Ohio State Campus. She said "yes," and thus became my fiancée. More details of the proposal, the resulting delighted squeals of our friends, and more pictures are coming soon.

04 February 2009

An object in motion will stay in motion...

Monday (Feb. 2) was not a good day for me. Only one thing went wrong, but that was slipping on the ice and falling backwards. I landed on my head and apparently gave myself a mild concussion. A nice woman named Judy found me and helped me back to my apartment. At least, I think she did; I remember most of the hour after the fall as if it were a dream.

I was scheduled to drive to Fermilab this morning to take a training class, but when the man (Tyler) from Enterprise arrived to pick me up, I did not even remember that I had ordered a rental car. I asked him to take me to the medical center on campus instead of the rental car
lot. He loaded my luggage and drove the me there.

I was able to see the doctor fairly quickly, and she examined me.  While I did not do an serious damage to my brain, she said that I should not be doing any long distance driving today. I walked to my office from the medical center and made several phone calls to rescheduling everything I had planned to do for the next two days.  That was quite easy; its amazing how much sympathy an injury like this will provoke.

My neck and back are still quite sore.  I am currently at Fermilab, and I am recovering as the doctor said I would.  At this point, I am suffering more pain from embarrassment than anything else.  I am grateful for the kindness of those who helped me, and I will be more careful in the future.

29 January 2009

Goodbye Aunt Marie

My Aunt Marie died of cancer on Sunday, Jan. 25. I will not be attending her funeral, but I still want to honor her memory, and I have decided to do so here. She was my maternal grandmother's sister, so "Aunt" is probably not the correct title; however, that is how I have always known her. She was also our next-door neighbor for more than 20 years.

She had been diagnosed with cancer only a few days before she passed. It was a shock when Mom called to tell me that she was gone, but she did not suffer. She lived a long and full life, and she enjoyed it to the end. She was boisterous and generous, especially to her family, and faithfully attended Saturday afternoon mass.

She grew up in a farming family, and lived in a small part of Western Wisconsin for her entire life. Her roots are deep here, and so are the memories of her in and around town. I suspect the crowed at her funeral will be large and full of happy memories. In her retirement, she traveled to many parts of this nation, including the Grand Canyon. I suspect she has seen more of the US than I have!

She lost her husband Carol several years ago. I look forward to seeing them both in eternity.

It is ironic that she would be memorialized in a blog. She was old enough to remember the first time her mother switched on electric lights in their house, and she saw me fly halfway around the world to Australia and back. I suppose the appearance of her picture and name in a medium so foreign to her shows how far one person's smile, love, and generosity can truly extend.

My mother mentioned that even the director of the funeral home remarked on how much Aunt Marie would be missed. A wise man, possibly Mark Twain, once said, "Life your life in such a way that when you die, even the undertaker will be sad." She did.

28 January 2009

Start at Indiana University

With the help of a few very good friends and many fellow members of Continuum, I successfully moved from Columbus, OH to Bloomington, IN on Jan. 18, 2009.

I have been unpacking boxes and buying furniture since then. I also started my new job as a Postdoctoral Fellow on Jan. 20. This job will apparently involve much traveling since I am already been to Fermilab for a NOνA collaboration meeting. I will be going there twice more this month for training and taking shifts monitoring the MINOS experiment.

I will also be attending the next MINOS collaboration meeting, which will be at the University of Cambridge, England.

10 January 2009

Real Answer to Guess the Object.

Seventeen days ago, I asked my readers to identify this object. First, here is the full context of the photograph.
The mystery object was on a cookie sheet surrounded by frozen french fries. Indeed, it came in a bag full of french fries.
I called the toll free number on the back of the bag and spoke to a nice woman who works for Kroger. I explained the situation and my conclusion that the foreign object in the bag of garlic fries appeared to be an errant chicken wing. She gave me a $3.00 credit on my Kroger card, which I used the next time I went grocery shopping. She also asked several questions about the numbers on the bag so she could identify the plant that had produced it.

After baking the fries, I tried to eat the mystery object. I discovered that it was not a chicken; it seemed to be made of the same substance as the other fries. I therefore concluded that it was a badly misshapen (but still tasty) french fry.

06 January 2009

Happy New...Apartment!

My apartment search as ended early. I signed the lease (and many other pieces of paperwork) this evening. In case some of you are wondering why I did not call you to tell you the news, I shall let you know that I somehow neglected to pack my mobile phone charge and am almost out of battery life.

The apartment is in an excellent location in Bloomington, with plenty of space and includes a washer and dryer in the unit. It is a few feet from a bike path that leads to campus. It was an almost perfect fit; it even has a full sized stove! I will be moving on Jan. 18. If you would like to help, please let me know.