Saturday, December 31, 2016

Australia's Great Barrier Reef

NASA photo of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is located at the northeast edge of Australia's continental shelf. It is comprised of 3000 separate reefs that started growing about 200,000 year ago. There are 350 species of coral. The Barrier Reef attracts thousands of tourists each year. Half of the Reef is protected from fishing.

Related reading: What is a Coral Reef Made of?; Are Corals Animals or Plants?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Robert Runnels Williams

Robert Runnels Williams was an American chemist who was born in India, the son of Baptist missionaries. His father designed and supervised the building of the Baptist church and seminary in Ramapatnam, Tamil Nadu (now called Ramayapatnam, Andhra Pradesh) in India. It was built by many of his pupils, who had never seen a two-story building or an architectural plan. The photograph below was evidently pressed at some time against a book or document that partially imprinted itself onto the photo. This building is still in use today and is visible in Google Earth.

The script of this talk is available here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ann Marie Thro: A Life of Service

Ann Marie Thro in consultation

Tatum Davis, Grade 8

Ann Marie Thro is a scientist whose experiences throughout her life have made her the exceptional person she is today. She was raised in a military family which meant frequent moves and exposure to new places and people. She is the oldest of three siblings. She is 67 years old and very active professionally. She is a member of the American Scientific Affiliation and a former board member of Christian Women in Science (CWIS). She enjoys gardening, hiking, and working with animals. She also enjoys reading, singing, and needlework. 

Ann was raised a Catholic and she believes that this religious upbringing gave her an awareness of Christ’s love. She attended college during the “hippie era” and during those years she questioned many of the Church’s beliefs.

Ann began to question many things during the 1960s. She felt disappointment that different theories of reality presented by secular philosophies seemed empty. Philosophy was taught as a chronological flow of ideas, but not as a search for wisdom. No one attempted answers to the questions she was asking, and that left nothing. Still, Ann resisted the nihilism of her day.

Several years later Ann became aware of the work of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the director of the L'Abri community in Switzerland, founded in 1955. Dr. Schaeffer and his wife Edith were Christian theologians and philosophers whose writings from a Christian perspective interested Ann. So, desiring to travel, she went to L’Abri. She listened and found the Schaeffer’s analysis of Western culture to be convincing, but she was not willing to change her lifestyle.

She started praying again, wondering what God had for her future. She couldn’t find a job so she decided to return to school to “retool” for a future career. She completed some courses at a community college, and eventually found an assistantship in agricultural science. Her job prospects were good, but her heart was still stiff toward Jesus Christ.

Ann was drawn to plant breeding as a way to serve. When she first became involved in agriculture science there were relatively few women in the field. The numbers of women increased rapidly. Today there are many women in agricultural sciences.

She received a PhD from Iowa State University where she was did research in plant breeding and genetics​. She conducted research and developed teaching skills as associate professor of agronomy at Louisiana State University for 10 years.

In 2014, she became senior advisor for Plant Health Production and Products. Ann was in the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

Plant breeding began in the 1800’s and is increasingly important today. Ann explains, “It is one of the few ways that humans can use new science to cope with many of the challenges that the world faces today: challenges such as population growth and the need for food that is both affordable and good for our health; and, challenges such as variable and extreme weather and climate, and the need to protect the environmental.

Simply defined, plant breeding is the human-aided development of new plant varieties, including new types of seeds that have needed characteristics. The basic steps involve the use of various methods, old and new, to make new, genetically-different plants, and then testing, and selecting among.

When we read about new discoveries in sciences such as biology, nutrition, genetics, micro-biology, information science and computing, soil science, climate science, engineering, robotics, and others, plant breeding is the discipline that brings all of this knowledge together to produce the food that we eat and all the other types of plants that we use. Without plant breeding, most of this new science would remain interesting but theoretical. Plant breeding is one of the major pathways through which science reaches our table and our lives.”

Ann has worked on research and development projects in Congo, South America, and Afghanistan.

Ann Marie Thro has written, “As a Christian, I often ask the Lord to help me see where I can be most useful. When I want to ‘star’, I often end up being disappointed, but when I want to 'serve', the Lord has given me very satisfying work and opportunities. I enjoy the role of taking the initiative to look around, see things that need to be done, and get started. Often others then join in and carry on the work.

Seeking to be useful is a role that both men and women can take; yet it fits a woman’s role in every age – ancient and modern. In my own case, as a scientist, this has led me out of research because I found that others were more gifted. I found instead that I have a gift for research coordination. I am grateful to have been able to bring different researchers together into networks and projects. This benefits science and the public by creating opportunities to exchange good ideas, recruit young scientists, and search for funding. These are things that researchers value, but they are often too busy. That’s where I can help, as someone who understands the world of science, seeks to be useful, and enjoys creating connections and looking for opportunities.”

Plant breeding provides practical solutions to real needs. It allows us to share God’s enjoyment and marvel at the world’s plants and wonders of variation. We are living in the most exciting time in agricultural sciences since the rediscovery of Mendel, also a Christian.

Basalt "Ship" Not Noah's Ark

Alice C. Linsley

Claims of the discovery of Noah's Ark have circulated for decades, but none have proven to be legitimate. Based on a common reading of Genesis, the attention has focused on the Ararat mountains (shown below).

Recently, the longstanding claim of the discovery of fossilized Ark material was debunked when it was shown that the supposed Ark in eastern Turkey is a slab of basalt. Read the account here.

A careful reading of Genesis diminishes hope that the ship of Noah will ever be found. The Bible tells us that it was built of gofer or papyrus reeds which would have disintegrated long ago.

Reed boats of this type can carry up to 50 tons when fully loaded.

Reeds were a readily available in the region of Bor-No (Land of Noah) during Noah's time. Moses's mother placed him in a reed (gofer) basket which is called an "ark" in Exodus 2:3. This is why some Bibles correctly read: "Make yourself an Ark of gofer wood, with reeds make the Ark..." (Schocken Bible, Vol. I, p. 35)

If the ark was constructed of a wood frame with hollow reeds in large bundles it would have had great buoyancy. Thor Heyerdahl learned from the Marsh Arabs that reeds cut in August retain their buoyancy rather than absorbing water. 

Noah lived approximately 4190-4015 BC, when the Sahara experienced a time of wet conditions. In Genesis 6:9-11, Noah is described as God's favored ruler on earth; "an upright man among his contemporaries."

The Genesis accounts of Noah's flood do not specify a mountain and there is doubt that the word Ararat refers to a mountain or range in Armenia. That idea is based on a supposition that the Biblical Ararat corresponds to Urartu, the Assyrian name for a kingdom in the region of Lake Van.

This view is based on Jerome's reading of Antiquities of the Jews, in which Josephus wrote:
“the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia ... However, the Armenians call this place, αποβατηριον 'The Place of Descent'; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day. Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berossus. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs."  (I.3.5-6, trans. William Whiston)

However, there is another interpretation that aligns with the biblical data about Noah, the Proto-Saharan ruler. The word ararat is from the root RRT in which the T was a mark symbolizing a mountain. The reduplicated R symbolizes a high-ranking ruler, even the Creator. Noah lands on a mountain where God confirms a covenant which marks a new beginning. In the Ugaritic creation story the twin mountains Trgzz and Trmg emerged from a universal ocean and held up the firmament.

Throughout the Bible mountains represent God's interaction with Man. Abraham and Isaac encounter divine grace and provision on Mount Moriah. Moses comes face-to-face with God on Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai.

The motif of mountains as the connection to the Creator and the Heavens is found in many ancient texts. In the Bhagvad Gita, Krishna says, "Among the mountains, I am Meru", that is, the spinal cord of the world. The Vishnu Purana (c. 200 BC) speaks of seven continents ringed by seven oceans. This cosmology was a mirror image of the seven celestail planets/bowls, following the ancient belief "as in the Heavens, so on Earth."

Likely, the association of Noah with Armenia has both a mythological and a historical basis. The word Armenia may be an inaccurate rendering of Har-Meni, meaning Mount Meni. As Noah's territory was Bor-No in the region of Lake Chad we should consider a mountain closer to Lake Chad. 

Josephus also quoted Nicolas of Damascus in his ninety-sixth book, where he wrote: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved." In the Greek we find Minyas and Meni in connection to the mount upon which the Ark was said to rest.

Noah's reign in Central Africa must have been one of great prosperity. There was abundant fishing and hunting. The climate sustained vineyards (Genesis 9:20). An oracle concerning Noah states, “This one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:29)

The dispersion of peoples from Noah's homeland has been verified by DNA studies. Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b is found in the region of Lake Chad, the Upper Nile, Southern Europe, France, and the British Isles. This dispersion took place long before Noah's time and was complete by around 40,000 years ago.

The dark red spot in Central Africa is Noah' homeland.

Haplogroup R1b, also known as haplogroup R-M343, is the most frequently occurring Y chromosome haplogroup in Western Europe, some parts of Russia (the Bashkir minority), Central Asia (e.g. Turkmenistan) and in the region of Lake Chad, Noah's territory.

This is the Haplogroup of Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors who dispersed widely and are known by different names in ancient history. Among them was a caste of ruler-priests known in ancient texts as Abrutu (from the Akkadian word abru, meaning "priest"), 'Apiru, Hapiru, Habiru or Hebrew.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Erasmus: One of Europe's Greatest Thinkers

Portrait of Erasmus

Jesse Butterworth, Grade 8

Desiderius Erasmus was born on October 27, 1469 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His father, Roger Gerard, was a priest and his mother, Margaret, was the daughter of a physician. He was christened with the name Desiderius Erasmus.

Erasmus of Rotterdam was a famous and influential scholar, and one of Europe's greatest thinkers. Erasmus was the main figure of the early Christian humanist movement. Much of his life's work went into improving the understanding and translations of Biblical and early Christian texts.

During the Renaissance, humanism took various expressions. Some deeply religious humanists, such as Erasmus, stressed the dignity of man and both heavenly and earthly rewards. Other humanists were scoffers of religion who resisted Church authority. Erasmus was unusual in that he opposed corruption in the Church and yet stayed loyal to Catholicism.

Erasmus rose to be a leading intellectual figure of the early Northern Renaissance. His sayings became famous. "The Adages of Erasmus" is a compendium of wisdom sayings. Niccolo Sagundino wrote about the Adages:
“I can hardly say what a sweet nectar as honey I sip from your delightful Adages, rich source of nectar as they are. What lovely flowers of every mind I gather thence like a honey-bee….to their perusal I have devoted two hours a day.”
Erasmus read and wrote in Dutch, German, English, classical Greek, and Latin. He used his ability for language to advance education. Erasmus wrote books of spiritual counsel in Latin. Several were translated and reprinted in other languages.

Erasmus's interpretation guides that appeared as prefaces to the 1516 and 1518 editions of the New Testament are his most significant contribution to the Church. His translation of the New Testament in Greek clarified the meaning of many texts.

Erasmus was a man of action and a moderate temperament. He said, "If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don't do it, and it won't happen.” He also wrote, "There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”

Erasmus challenged Luther's doctrine of total depravity, saying that it robs humanity of the dignity that remains even after the Fall. That dignity comes from the image of God (Imago Dei) that cannot be completely erased from human nature.

While Luther's theology started with the depravity of man, Erasmus started with the goodness of the teacher and the student, making Christ’s teachings the objective of all learning. Luther held that since the Fall of Adam and Eve man’s will is not free to choose or even desire God, and that we lost our humanity. Luther believed that it is only through Christ that people regain their full humanity and he thought that Erasmus made too little of this point. Luther wrote, “I am afraid, however, that he [Erasmus] does not advance the cause of Christ and the grace of God sufficiently.... Human things weight more with him than the divine.”

For Erasmus, the Bible and the many aspects of Classical culture were necessary for a person to be educated or refined. This is reflected in Erasmus’ definition of education: "The task of fashioning the young is made up of many parts, the first and consequently the most important part of which consists of implanting the seeds of piety in the tender heart; the second in instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts; the third in giving instructions in the duties of life; the fourth in training in good manners right from the very earliest years.”

Erasmus believed that classical antiquity showed the best method for teaching. He wrote, “I would not want you to imbibe pagan morals together with pagan writings. On the other hand, you will find many things there which are conducive to a holy life, and the good precepts of a pagan author should not be rejected...”

To Erasmus, “a man without education has no humanity at all; that man’s life is a fleeting thing; that youth is an easy prey to sin; that adulthood is afflicted with numerous cares; and that old age, which few are permitted to reach, is barren and sterile...”

He believed that teachers cultivate the soil in which the seeds for a good life are sown by nature. He wrote: “The seeds that nature has implanted in us to attain this goal are bursting with life; the only thing that is required, in addition to this natural inclination, is the effort of a dedicated teacher.”

Erasmus died on July 12, 1536 in Basel, Switzerland. He was buried at the Basel Münster Cathedral.

Related reading: Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus; Erasmus: A Moderate Voice in a Turbulent Time

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Erasmus: A Moderate Voice in a Turbulent Time

Connor Weist, Grade 7

Erasmus was born in 1446 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at the time of the Black Death. His mother, Margaret, was the daughter of a physician. She was left to care for her two children when her husband traveled to Italy to become a copyist.

His mother sent him and his older brother to the Cathedral school in Deventer. There he studied under the Brothers of the Common Life. This is where he began to follow God.

His mother and father died nine years later leaving him and his brother to the care of their paternal uncles.

Erasmus decided to join the Augustinian order and he entered the monastery. He joined the Augustinians because he wanted to travel, gain academic elbow room, and have put behind the barbarians who discouraged him. In 1492, he was ordained priest being Secretary to the Bishop at Cambric. The Bishop sent Erasmus to Paris to study theology. He hated being in Paris. His dorms stank of urine and it wasn’t comfortable being there. The food was horrible too. He also disliked the disciplinary system saying it was too brutal. Soon after, he began a writing career  which took him all over Europe.

In 1499, he went to England where he met Thomas More, his life long friend. Erasmus and More favored moderate dialogue and religious tolerance. They had a different style of arguing than the fiery Martin Luther. Erasmus hated the bickering on the both sides because he thought it very un-Christian.

On the same trip to England, Erasmus heard John Colet teach from the Bible. This was different from what he had studied in Paris. Colet encouraged Erasmus to become a primitive theologian who stupid Scripture.

Erasmus devoted himself to the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written. He wrote to Colet ‘I cannot tell you dear Colet, how I hurry on with all rails set to holy literature. How I dislike everything that holds me back.”

Erasmus, Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther are considered the great Bible translators of the Middle Ages.

Erasmus translated the New Testament in the original Greek language. The Bible had notes of his own Latin traditions. Erasmus’ Bible corrected over 600 errors from Jerome’s Vulgate (Latin).

Erasmus wrote the Bible so everyone could understand it. Two of the most noteworthy praises came from Pope Leo X and Martin Luther, a German monk who had launched the Protestant Reformation.

 Erasmus became famous for his writings. In 1530, 10-20% of books had Erasmus’ byline. Erasmus wrote to ‘correct the errors of those whose religion is usually composed of ceremonies and observations of a material sort and neglect the thing to conduce piety.”

He became famous for his satire of monastic and ecclesiastic corruption and miracles performed by images. His attack on the church's corruption caught Luther’s attention And Luther tried to win him to the Lutheran cause. Luther attacked Erasmus and said Erasmus would die in the wild, not enter the Promised Land.

Erasmus found that he liked the German language. He told Leo X the German language was a mighty trumpet of the Gospels truth. At the same time, he stopped printing Luther’s writings because he didn’t want his efforts tangled with the reformers.

For four years, Erasmus moderated both sides. However, he remained a Roman Catholic. His position between both sides didn’t please anyone. He wrote, "I only wish now I am old, I be allowed to see the results of efforts, but both sides approached and seek me. Some say that I am with Luther because I don’t attack him. Some say I am a coward who has forsaken the gospel for not being with him.”

Erasmus died in 15396. He was most known for his translation of the Bible and his correction of some linguistic problems in translation.

Related reading: Erasmus; Erasmus: One of Europe's Greatest Thinkers

Kepler: Celebrating God Through Astronomy

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. –Johannes Kepler

Jake Bowersox, Grade 7

Johannes Kepler was a famous mathematician and astronomer who formulated the three laws of planetary motion. He thought of himself as a mathematician and a historian.

Kepler was born on 27 December 1571 in  Germany. As a child Johannes was often sick. His hands were crippled and his eyesight was impaired after he contracted smallpox. His mother Katharina Guldenmann was a herbalist who helped her father manage an inn. Katharina was accused of practicing witchcraft and was imprisoned for fourteen months. Throughout her trial, Kepler was said to be by her side.

Kepler's father Heinrich died while was fighting as a mercenary in Holland when Johannes was only 5 years old.

Many noted that Johannes was especially gifted in mathematics from a young age. His mother inspired him by taking him out at night to show him interesting things in the heavens, including a comet and a lunar eclipse. He saw a comet when he was six and a lunar eclipse when he was nine. He remembered for his lifetime the experience of seeing the moon turn red (“blood moon”) during an eclipse.

Kepler was a man who thought of science and religion as working together. He was a pious Lutheran whose writings include theology. He said, “God is the beginning and end of scientific research and striving.”

"I wanted to become a theologian," he wrote. "For a long time I was restless. Now, however, behold how through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy."

Kepler said, "We astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature."

He wanted to go into ministry and sought ordination after seminary, but instead he went to University of Tübingen where he studied Greek, Hebrew, geocentric astronomy, and mathematics. In his first year there Kepler received excellent grades for everything except mathematics.

Kepler taught math at a seminary school in Graz, Austria and was assistant to the court mathematician for Emperor Rudolph II. In 1600 he moved to Prague to research with Tycho Brahe. From Tycho's death in 1601 until the ouster of Emperor Rudolph II in 1612, Kepler was Europe's most respected mathematician. 

Kepler married Barbara Muller in 1597. She was a widow with a young daughter. In the first year of their marriage, they had two daughters who died in infancy. Three more children followed, but Barbara’s health was failing and she died in 1612.

In 1613, Kepler married 24 year old Susanna Reuttinger. The first three children born from this marriage died in infancy.

Kepler's contribution to Science

He invented a better version of the refracting telescope. He used Tycho Brahe's Tables to prove the Laws of Planetary Motion. 

Law of Ellipses

Kepler's first law - also known as the law of ellipses - says that planets orbit the sun in an oval path called an ellipse. The path the planets orbit the sun is an ellipse, with the the sun in the middle.

The Law of Equal Areas

Kepler's second law - also known as the law of equal areas - describes the speed at which any given planet will move while orbiting the sun. The speed at which any planet moves through space is constantly changing. A planet moves fastest when it is closest to the sun and slowest when it is furthest from the sun. An imaginary line drawn from the center of the sun to the center of the planet will sweep out equal areas in equal intervals of time.

The Law of Harmonies

Kepler's third law - also known as the law of harmonies - compares the orbital period and radius of orbit of a planet to those of other planets. Unlike Kepler's first and second laws that describe the motion characteristics of a single planet, the third law makes a comparison between the motion characteristics of different planets. The ratio of the squares of the periods of any two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their average distances from the sun.

Kepler died on 5 November 1630. He should be remembered and honored as a scientist through whose efforts God is celebrated in astronomy. He built on the work of two earlier Christians: Copernicus and Galileo.

Related reading: Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Extraordinary Life of Hildegard of Bingen

Statue of Hildegard in Bingen’s Museum am Strom
(Photo credit: Bob Sessions)

Ashton Wooten
Grade 8

Hildegard of Bingen was a well-known female scientist and Christian mystic. She also was a Benedictine abbess and a prolific writer. She was born in 1098 in West Franconia in Germany to a noble family. Hildegard was the youngest of ten children.

When she was 8 years old, her parents offered her to the Benedictine monastery at the Disibodenburg. It was a custom that the tenth child to be offered as a tithe to God.

At the monastery her mentor was a wise woman named Jutta. She taught Hildegard how to read and write. Hildegard was with her until she was 18. Hildegard, Jutta, and some other women formed a Benedictine covenant.

When Jutta died in 1136 Hildegard became abbess. Her duties as abbess involved the spiritual formation and supervision of nuns, nursing, illuminating manuscripts, and travel in Germany and France. Benedict XVI proclaimed her a “doctor” of the church.

When she was the abbess, she decided to move the convent to Rupertsburg. She separated the women’s ministry from the men’s. The abbot opposed this decision, but the new convent was founded in 1150. The Rupertsburg convent grew to as much as 50 women. Most of the women came from very wealthy backgrounds.

She began having visions at age 3. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also had a remarkable vision when she was 42 years old. She wrote 3 great volumes of visionary theology: Dendermonde, Ghent, and Riesenkodex. All of these writings were later translated into English. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also wrote two treaties. They were called Physica and Causae et Curae. Another thing she wrote was The Book of the Merits of Life.

She also wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts. Also, she wrote 77 poems during her lifetime. She also wrote a musical morality play called Ordo Virtutum. Most of her hymns have been performed and recorded by Sequentia.

She rebuked church leaders for spiritual abuse. She criticized the abuses of the Roman Catholic church before Martin Luther. She did several controversial speaking tours around the Rhineland.

Hildegard died the day before her 81st birthday in 1179. She died in Rupertsburg. She was buried in her convent church. The convent church where she was buried was destroyed by the Swedes in 1632. There is a shrine dedicated to her in Einbigen, Hessen Germany.

People also have created a pilgrim trail in honor of Hildegard. Hildegard's legacy lives on in the nearby Hildegard Forum, founded by the Sisters of the Cross that sponsor workshops and classes inspired by Hildegard’s teachings.

Hildegard is considered to be the founder of scientific history in Germany. She was called Sybil of the Rhine. She was known for keeping records of experiments with herbs and other plants. She suffered from migraines and that is how she discovered the healing properties of many plants. She discovered the healing properties of many plants. She studied phyto-medicine which is medicine made from plants and herbs. She also discovered plants that calm the nerves such as lemon balm, passion flower, catnip, and valerian.

Even though she was a strong woman, Hildegard considered herself a poor weak woman. She was extremely humble. She should be remembered for all of her discoveries and her writings. She pioneered herbal medicines that laid the basis for some of the medicines that we have today.

Related reading: Hildegard von Bingen's Life of Service

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Producing Your Video

Watch this set of videos for information on how to set up a You Tube account and make a You Tube video.

5 things you should do to make videos with your phone look and sound good

Here are some basic instructions:

Instead of using You Tube you might want to try Magisto. This is user-friendly, but costs money. It is designed for business use, but students could use it also.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Agnes Giberne: A Lover of Science

"Look at that dim star, shining through a powerful telescope with faint and glimmering light. We are told that in all probability the tiny ray left its home long before the time of Adam.
There is a strange solemnity in the thought. Hundreds of years ago - thousands of years ago - some say, even tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago! It carries us out of the little present into the unknown ages of a past eternity."--Agnes Giberne (The Story of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, p. 104, published in 1898)

Agnes Giberne was born in 1845 in the state of Karnataka, India, where her father was in military service. Major Charles Giberne was directly descended from the nobleman Jean De Giberne who migrated to England in the seventeenth century. Agnes acquired her interest in science and the natural world from her father.

Agnes acquired her literary interest from her mother, Lydia Mary Wilson. She began to pen stories at age 7. She was a prolific British author who wrote fiction with religious themes and science books for children. Most of her writing was done before 1910.

From Giberne's book Sun, Moon and Stars
In the nineteenth century it was unusual for a woman to be involved in astronomy. Yet, Giberne became one of the most popular astronomy writers of her time. Through her writings she was able to present basic astronomy to children and women in the Victorian Age.

She was interested in many branches of science. In 1890, she became a founding member of the British Astronomical Association. In addition to astronomy, she also wrote on geology, oceanography, and meteorology. 

Her book Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners was first published in 1879. The foreword was written by Charles Pritchard, a professor of Astronomy at Oxford University. The book was printed in several edition and sold 24,000 copies in its first 20 years. She wrote a sequel titled Radiant Suns (1894).

These were but two of many books written by Giberne in which she made science accessible to children and beginners. Other volumes include The Starry SkiesThe World's Foundations (Geology for Beginners), This Wonderful Universe, and The Upward Gaze.

Artist's impression of midnight on Saturn
from Giberne's book Sun, Moon and Stars. (Wikipedia)

Agnes was a devout Anglican. She wrote with the catechism in mind. Some of her smaller works were written for the Religious Tract Society.

Agnes Giberne's prayer is quoted in over 100 books published in the early 20th century:
Gracious Saviour, gentle Shepherd,
Children all are dear to Thee;
Gathered with Thine arms and carried
In Thy bosom may we be;
Sweetly, fondly, safely tended,
From all want and danger free.
Tender Shepherd, never leave us
From Thy fold to go astray;
By Thy look of love directed
May we walk the narrow way;
Thus direct us, and protect us,
Lest we fall an easy prey.‎

Agnes lived most of her life at 25 Lushington Road in Eastbourne, United Kingdom. This was a popular seaside town often visited by Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson) who stayed at 7 Lushington Road, not far from where Agnes lived until her death on 20 August 1939, at age 93.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Galileo’s Extraordinary Scientific and Mathematical Journey

"A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must be right." -- Stephen Jay Gould

Nathan Calvino, Grade 7

Galileo was a scientist and mathematician who believed that the sun is at the center of our solar system. He believed that Copernicus was correct in his description of the universe. From an early age Galileo showed his scientific skills. At age nineteen, he discovered the isochronism of a pendulum while observing the swinging of a lamp hanging from the ceiling of a church. He noticed that "it took the same amount of time for one complete swing" whether the swing was significant or not. By age twenty-two, Galileo had invented the hydrostatic balance.

Galileo was foremost a mathematician. He said “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.” He had this in common with Copernicus. Another thing that Galileo and Copernicus had in common was their Christian faith. Galileo once said “I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Galileo said “I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures, but with experiments, and demonstrations.” He believed that correct interpretation of the Bible agrees with observed fact. He viewed Nature as a book written in the language of mathematics. This book of Nature and the Bible are in agreement, but they serve different purposes. He said the "Bible teaches men how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, Italy. He was the first of six children born to Vincenzo Galileo and Guilia Ammannati. Galileo’s father was a well-known musician and music theorist.

In 1572, when Galileo was eight years old, his family moved to Florence. However, Galileo remained in Pisa and lived with Muzio Tedaldi, a relative of Galileo’s mother. At age 10, Galileo joined his family in Florence and began his formal education at the Camaldolese Monastery. Galileo found the monastic life attractive and he became a novice, but his father wanted his son to become a medical doctor.

In 1581 Galileo was sent by his father back to Pisa to live with Muzio Tedaldi and Galileo was enrolled in the University of Pisa for a medical degree. Galileo left the university in 1585, without a degree.

After Galileo left the University of Pisa he continued the study mathematics. He got a teaching post at the University of Pisa in 1589. There he conducted experiments with falling objects and produced his manuscript On Motion.

His father died in 1591. In 1592, his contract with the university was not renewed. He quickly found a position at the University of Padua, teaching geometry, mechanics, and astronomy. Galileo invented the thermometer in 1593 and the compass in 1597.

In 1604, he published The Operation of Geometrical and Military Compass. In the same year, Galileo refined his theories on motion and falling objects and developed the universal law of acceleration. He began to express openly his support of the Copernican theory.

Galileo made a telescope of his own and in the fall of 1609, he turned his telescope toward the heavens. In March of 1610, Galileo published The Starry Messenger. In 1612, he published Discourse on Boarders of Water. In 1613, he published his observations of sunspots.

In 1616, Galileo was ordered by the Pope not to teach or defend the Copernican theory of a heliocentric universe. He obeyed the order for several years, partly to make life easier, and partly because he was a devoted Catholic.

Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was chosen to be the Pope in 1623. He was known as Pope Urban VIII and he was one of Galileo’s friends. Galileo received permission to write about both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems as long as he didn’t promote the Copernican theory.

In 1632, Galileo published the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World System, his most important writing. The Church summoned him to Rome for a hearing that lasted from September 1632 to July 1633. Galileo was treated with respect and was never imprisoned. However, in the end he was convicted of heresy and he was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life. These years were productive as he wrote many manuscripts. However, by 1638 he was blind and in ill health.

Galileo died on January 8, 1642 in Arcetri, near Florence, Italy after suffering from fever and heart palpitations. His will indicated that he wished to be buried beside his father in the family tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce. However, his relatives feared that this would provoke opposition from the Church, so his body was concealed. His body was later placed in a fine tomb in 1737 by the civil authorities against the wishes of many in the Church.

350 years after Galileo's death, on October 30, 1992, Pope John Paul II formally closed a 13-year investigation into the Church's condemnation of Galileo in an address given to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Paul Cardinal Poupard, the head of the investigation, said “We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory."

Galileo should be remembered and honored as an early pioneer in astronomy. Some of his discoveries include:

· that falling objects accelerate at a fixed rate in a vacuum

· that a pendulum can be used to measure time

· that a cannonball travels in a curve called a parabola

· that the planet Jupiter has moons revolving around it

· that the planet Venus has phases just like our moon

On October 18, 1989 the space probe Galileo, named after Galileo Galilei, was launched to study the planet Jupiter. The space probe orbited Jupiter 35 times then in 2003 was driven into Jupiter, deliberately destroyed to avoid contaminating Jupiter’s moon with any of Earth’s bacteria. The probe took close-ups on Jupiter’s rings and found evidence that its icy moons might hold atmosphere.

Related reading: Galileo's Struggle and Vindication

Resources for STEM Teachers

There are more and more good STEM resources available to teachers. Here is a website with the titles and prices of some of those resources:

There are STEM engineering projects, projects involving Algebra; projects related to Native American building technologies, Christmas STEM challenges, and much more.

Related reading: Technology and STEM Education Curriculum