27 December 2015

Find me at https://christianphysicist.polari.us/

I have moved by blog to https://christianphysicist.polari.us/

I will not be posting any more here.

I hope to have my current blog content transferred to the new address soon.

22 December 2015

Gratitude (Dec. 16-22)

  1. Proctoring my final exam without incident
  2. Starting to pack for our upcoming trip
  3. Helping my wife paint more of our kitchen cabinets
  4. A great deal on the electronic version of The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis
  5. Out of the Silent Planet, which I finished on Dec. 17
  6. Buying my ticket for Star Wars Episode VII
  7. A group of colleagues and friends who are going together to Star Wars Episode VII
  8. My wife's conversation with a distant but good friend
  9. Good discussion about the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke 
  10. Learning about a student's research in atmospheric science
  11. Learning about a colleague's education in Romania
  12. Finishing work early 
  13. Participating in the Commencement Ceremony (Dec. 18)
  14. Seeing Star Wars Episode VII
  15. Birthday brunch
  16. Discussion of hope in the Christmas story at The Well
  17. Our friend who gave us a ride to the airport (Dec. 21)
  18. Safe and punctual flight from Rapid City to Mesa
  19. Spacious and comfortable hotel room in Mesa
  20. Wine and cheese dinner in our room (Dec. 22)

21 December 2015

Ransom, Sagan, and Seeing Earth from Malacandra

In the first book of C. S. Lewis' space trilogy, Dr. Elwin Ransom views Earth through a telescope on the surface of Malacandra, also known as the planet Mars.

"It was all there in that little disk--London, Athens, Jerusalem, Shakespeare.  There everyone had lived and everything had happened..."  (Out of the Silent Planet, Ch. 15)
Carl Sagan, a man of much different spiritual beliefs than Ransom or Lewis, had a very similar meditation on a photograph of his world from far away.
"That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar', every 'supreme leader', every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." (Pale Blue Dot)
Today, a telescope called HiRISE orbits Mars aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Normally used for high resolution imaging of the Martian surface, it was turned toward its home world on Oct. 3, 2007.  The resulting image is the closest one we have to what Dr. Ransom would have seen:

17 December 2015

Gratitude (Dec. 9 - 15)

  1. First Underground Science Research Forum meeting
  2. Physics Lunch Club at Ruby Tuesday (Dec. 9)
  3. Sharing some of my experiences at the AAPT Workshop at our weekly staff meeting (Dec. 9)
  4. The many amazing trees at the Parade of Trees
  5. SPS winning a prize at the Parade of Trees
  6. The many amazing and fun gingerbread "houses" also featured at the Parade of Trees
  7. One of the gingerbread houses was created partly using laser engraving
  8. Cookies and cider at the Parade of Trees
  9. Proctoring the final for another class went without incident
  10. Good discussion at the Men of the Wobbly Table (Dec. 11)
  11. Dinner with friends at Pizza Ranch
  12. Making our own special brunch at home on our anniversary 
  13. Talking with my parents about the Christmas gift we gave to them
  14. Walking to the Potluck at The Well
  15. Discussion of hope and advent candles at The Well
  16. Playing with the pets' of our hosts for the Potluck
  17. Good food at holiday social held by my wife's department
  18. Helping to clean up after the holiday social
  19. Getting an estimate for the cost of a potential future project in my lab
  20. The flexibility to work from home during bad weather
  21. Talking with a good friend via Skype (Dec. 15)
  22. Cleaning up and organizing the living room in preparation for putting it back in order

10 December 2015

Gratitude (Dec. 2 - Dec. 8)

  1. Physics Lunch Club at Ruby Tuesday
  2. Getting my bike to a shop that is better than where I have been taking it
  3. Putting snow tires on my bike in time to ride in the snow
  4. Sufficient bus service to get to work while my bike is in the shop
  5. Selling our artificial Christmas tree
  6. Final band rehearsal before the concert
  7. Good meeting with Independent Study student
  8. Starting drafting my final exam 
  9. Time on Friday night to relax and watch some TV
  10. My new Fitbit
  11. Lamb korma
  12. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation streaming online.
  13. Productive phone meeting in my lab
  14. Future plans for my lab
  15. Helpful and generous colleagues
  16. Progress on our living room curtains
  17. My final class of the semester went well
  18. Much laughter and fund at the Physics Gift Riot
  19. The piece of magnetic field viewing film I received at the Gift Riot
  20. Giving away two books at the Gift Riot
  21. My wife stealing an adult coloring book at the Gift Riot

04 December 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 25 - Dec. 1)

  1. Good weather on the drive from Sioux Falls to Mondovi, WI
  2. Staying for Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle
  3. Thanksgiving dinner with my sister and her fiancee's family
  4. My sister is engaged!
  5. Reconnecting with old friends 
  6. Thanksgiving with my family
  7. Playing Apples to Apples with my wife, sister, mother, and father
  8. Good weather on the drive from Wisconsin back to Sioux Falls
  9. A safe trip from Sioux Falls back to home despite unpleasant weather
  10. Time to rest and relax during Thanksgiving weekend
  11. Good conversations by phone with friends and colleagues
  12. Time to prepare for class during the drives between home and Wisconsin
  13. Gifts from my family
  14. Giving gifts to my sister
  15. Giving gifts to my parents
  16. Giving gifts to my aunt and uncle
  17. Pie from the Fryn Pan in Sioux Falls
  18. Family pictures
  19. Visiting with my grand aunt, who shares my birthday
  20. Modifying my class slightly based on what I learned at the AAPT Workshop

27 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 18 - Nov. 24)

  1. Punctual and affordable shuttle ride to the airport
  2. Good flight from RAP (Rapid City) to MSP (Minneapolis)
  3. Good food and place to work during my layover in MSP
  4. Good flight from MSP to DCA (Reagan Washington Airport)
  5. DC Metro ride from DCA in Virginia through Washington, DC to Greenbelt station in Maryland.
  6. Complimentary shuttle from Greenbelt to the hotel
  7. Good night's sleep in hotel
  8. Breakfast buffet
  9. Time in morning to relax and get work done before the workshop starts
  10. Texting with my wife throughout the trip
  11. Being able to (barely) walk to Baskin-Robbins from the hotel
  12. Many great conversations with the leaders of the AAPT Workshop
  13. Many great conversations with my fellow physics teachers
  14. Advice to start with only one thing rather than the entire firehose of ideas from the workshop
  15. Free books, flash drive, and websites from which to draw future ideas
  16. Active engagement ideas and materials for my upper level courses
  17. A little time to walk along the National Mall on the way back to the airport
  18. The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial
  19. Hearing from the founder of the Physics Education Program at Ohio State, from which I benefitted as a graduate student
  20. Discovering that Physics Education Research has a history dating back more than 40 years.
  21. Nice conversation with a fellow passenger returning from a HR conference.
  22. Good dinner in the Minneapolis airport on the way home.
  23. Encouraging, entertaining, and useful presentation on software for enabling group work.
  24. Lunch with colleagues before the presentation
  25. Encouraging, entertaining, and useful presentation on common group dysfunctions and how to deal with them

19 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 11 - Nov. 17)

  1. Physics lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings
  2. The veterans in my life and my ancestry, including my grandfathers (Austin and Galen), step-grandfather (Louis), and many friends.
  3. Leftover squash cake from Sunday potluck
  4. Being able to adjust my wife's bike seat to a better and (I hope) more stable height. 
  5. Visiting the WiSE open house 
  6. Writing birthday cards to our friends
  7. Dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday
  8. Fun at Watiki Water Park (Nov. 14)
  9. Getting part of our basement in better condition for guests
  10. Dinner at Famous Dave's
  11. My wife leading the discussion at our church on Sunday (Nov. 15)
  12. The wonderful people she told us about in her discussion
  13. A chance to help a friend through a rough time
  14. Finishing and posting the short version of a book review for my friend's novel Truest
  15. Good weather for walking over the weekend
  16. Meeting and petting a neighbor's cat, named Purry Como
  17. The STEM: Women Are All Over It shirt is back on sale!
  18. Pointing a student to a potentially helpful source of information on cosmic rays.
  19. Packing for my trip to the AAPT Teaching Workshop went smoothly
  20. My wife's help in getting ready for the trip

15 November 2015

Review of Truest: Spoiler-Free Version

This novel is powerful, moving, deep, and marvelously infused with the author's faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a personal friend of the author; we have known each other since college.  Thus, any positive comments I have may be partly due to my personal bias as her friend.  I will do my best to avoid this bias, but doing that perfectly is impossible because if she were not my friend, I would never have known this book existed.

The author achieves many great things in this novel. She created flawed yet compelling characters, moved me to admire Elliot, and took this reader through the growth and maturation of her characters.  Running through these achievements are many motifs, including abandonment, rescue, faith, God as father, and uncertainty.

Regarding my admiration for Elliot, some explanation is required. Like Silas, I enjoy words, am an astronomy buff, and have long hair.  I was bullied in high school, and several of those bullies were football players.  In Elliot, Sommers created a character so realistic and yet contrary to stereotypes that I admire the football player more than the long-haired astronomy buff!  That is an amazing achievement.

I think her greatest achievement is getting me to join in her characters' emotions and growth, but I cannot detail that without spoilers.

You may be wondering if I liked or enjoyed this book. My answer is that those not the right words; they do not have enough gravity, power, or depth to accommodate the emotional and spiritual wallop contained in Truest.  I was moved, amazed, surprised, and deeply touched by this novel.  It was far deeper and more powerful than I expected. She has crafted a parable (or series of parables) that honors her faith and respects her readers.

I have also posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

11 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 4 - Nov. 10)

  1. Excellent discussion and planning with Society of Physics Students
  2. My wife landed safely (and close to punctually) in Pittsburgh
  3. Received my influenza vaccination.
  4. Physics colloquium from one of our graduate students
  5. Time at the library this evening (Nov. 5)
  6. The Pleiades rising in the east.
  7. Retrieved my wife's bike from the bike shop)
  8. Tried a new restaurant (Nov. 7)
  9. My wife was able to spend most of Friday (Nov. 6) with dear friends
  10. Finished machine shop training
  11. I was able to help my wife find a hotel for part of her trip.
  12. Beautiful conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon early in the morning as I was riding to a men's group (Nov. 6)
  13. Good discussion at men's group 
  14. Being able to make tea in my office.
  15. My wife's bicycle is turned up and back home.
  16. Good conversation with a colleague about religions beliefs and their effect on society
  17. New pillars in place for our garage porch
  18. My wife's beautiful flight from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis
  19. Bringing my wife home from her trip
  20. All of the wonderful friends my wife caught up with during her trip
  21. Starting a calibration test of our radon monitor.
  22. Dark chocolate ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery 
  23. Discussion of race and policing in Rapid City based on a study from the University of South Dakota.
  24. Leftovers from Sheetz
  25. Video of a levitating frog.

04 November 2015

Gratitude List Returns (Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2015)

  1. First lesson on using a milling machine
  2. Eating produce from our garden
  3. Lining a ramekin with parchment paper before microwaving an egg is an effective way to reduce cleaning time.
  4. The overwhelming messages of encouragement I have received in response to my Facebook question, “Whose story can I make better today?"
  5. A change in perspective on an important personal issue.
  6. The ability to communicate with a long-time friend on Facebook.
  7. Discussing faith, science, and affordable housing with friends at a morning men’s group.
  8. Learning to use a milling machine and making my first piece on it.
  9. Good conversation with a student who is having trouble.
  10. Helping a friend I have never met
  11. Opportunity to speak at The Well on Nov. 1
  12. Handing out candy to trick-or-treaters; my favorites were the boys dressed as Mario and Luigi!
  13. Physics Halloween social 2015, with us dressing (and acting) as Dark Matter an Dark Energy
  14. My friend wrote a novel called Truest, which is powerful, moving, deep, and infused with her faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.
  15. Laughing with my wife while watching recorded TV shows on our Entertainment PC
  16. Homemade Sloppy Joes, including peppers from our garden.
  17. Clearance Halloween candy
  18. My presentation at The Well was well-received. 
  19. Time with a good friend (Nov. 1)
  20. My improving ability to play our upcoming concert pieces in the SDSM&T Symphonic Band
  21. Progress in seeking new projects for my lab.
  22. Good meetings with students on Nov. 2