Sunday, October 30, 2016

The King Planet's Pole Has Changed Color



Saturn is known as the "King Planet" and throughout Biblical history Saturn and the "King Star" Regulus have been associated with Messianic expectation. In the past 4 years NASA has observed a gradual change in the color of Saturn's North Pole.

The ongoing 20,000-mile storm at Saturn's North Pole has intrigued scientists ever since it was discovered. Now the changed colors of Saturn's North Pole are causing more wonder and speculation. From the images released by NASA, it is evident that the once blue color has gradually changed to gold.

To learn more, go herehere and here.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Basic Computer Coding



This is an example of simple C-language source code, a procedural programming language. The resulting program prints "hello, world" on the computer screen. This first known "Hello world" snippet from the seminal book The C Programming Language originates from Brian Kernighan in the Bell Laboratories in 1974.


Computer operations require a system of signals that represent letters or numbers in transmitting messages. These signals give instructions in a computer program. Instructions written by a programmer in a programming language are called source code. The source code is often transformed by an assembler or compiler into binary machine code understood by the computer.

Hour of Code is an initiative that provides students with an hour to learn to program. This is a global movement by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org reaching tens of millions of students in over 180 countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.

Kahn Academy Hour of Code is a great way to develop your skills at basic coding.


Watch this one too!



Sign up for Hour of Code here.

Another helpful site is Adam Dachis's Learn to Code: The Full Beginner's Guide. You may down load a PDF of this to keep handy.

Related reading:  Coding Conventions; Five Steps to Understanding HTML Code; How to Code: 15 Steps; Design and Code Your First Website


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

YouTube Video Editing


You Tube video editing is a skill that students should learn. Get started with Video Editor at http://www.youtube.com/editor. You will need to establish an account.

Then follow these steps:
Log in to your YouTube account.
In the top right, click Upload.
On the right under "Video Editor," click Edit.
Choose from the Video Editor tools listed below.
When you're done creating your project, click Create video.

Here is a video that has a sermon preached by my father, Kenneth W. Linsley. Watch how the message connects with the scenes of nature. This may give you an idea for you videos.

Here are tutorials on video editing: How to Edit Videos Using The You Tube Video Editor


YouTube Censorship

The You Tube censorship program utilizes an algorithm developed that flags videos that appear to breach the You Tube terms and conditions. Identified videos are "demonetized" which means stopping any revenue potential for the video's creator. Videos that provide information on current events and analysis of social issues are often demonetized, as well as some that have entertaining but controversial content. YouTube initiated this censorship in response to advertisers that do not want to be associated with content that might hurt their sales.


Removing Ads on YouTube

Here is how to avoid pop-ups while viewing YouTube videos with PureView

Here is another way using AdBlock

The easiest way is simply to type _popup after the word watch in the URL when you launch the YouTube video. Try it!  Click on this video about volcanic eruptions in Hawaii.


Edpuzzle video editing

Here you may select a segment and record over the segment, crop a video add a question, etc. Super easy! Click on the Edpuzzle link for a tutorial.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sister Mary Celine Fasenmyer


Sister Celine is one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century and also one of the least known. She is most noted for her ground breaking work on hypergeometric functions and linear algebra.


Mary Celine Fasenmyer, Ph.D., RSM, was born in Crown, Pennsylvania on Oct. 4, 1906 to George and Cecilia Leight Fasenmyer. They were members of St. Mary Catholic Church in Crown, Pennsylvania. Her father owned an oil lease in Crown and he ran his own business from there. Mary's mother died when she was only one year old. Three years later George remarried Josephine.

Mary attended St Joseph's Academy in Titusville, a town about 30 miles from Crown. At St Joseph's Academy she exhibited talents in mathematics but there was no opportunity for her to go to the university and her step-mother Josephine was very sick, so she entered the St. Joseph Novitiate in Titusville on April 13, 1924 before graduating from high school. She began to teach and did so for the next ten years. She was sent to teach in Pittsburgh and during this time she studied mathematics and physics at the University of Pittsburgh.

The research she did during her doctoral studies became an item of interest among mathematicians in the early 1990s when advances in computer technology made her research practical.

Sister Celine was told by her community of nuns to go to the University of Michigan for her doctorate, which she did in 1942, earning her degree in 1946. Her thesis - "Some Generalized Hypergeometric Polynomials" - was written under the direction of Dr. Earl D. Rainville, who Sister Celine regarded as an extremely good teacher and mentor. Dr. Rainville dedicated a chapter in his textbook entitled, "Sister Celine's Technique" based on the research she had conducted. It is the intellectual progenitor of the computerized methods that we use today to prove hypergeometric identities, thanks to the recognition by Doron Zeilberger that her method can be adapted to prove such identities. The hypergeometric polynomials she studied are called Sister Celine's polynomials.

Sister Celine's doctoral thesis showed how one can deduce recurrence relations that are satisfied by sums of hypergeometric terms, in a purely mechanical ("algorithmic") way. She used the method in her thesis to find pure recurrence relations that are satisfied by various hypergeometric polynomial sequences. In a 1947 paper in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, she developed the method further, and in her paper On Recurrence Relations in the American Mathematical Monthly, she explained its workings to a broad audience [Volume 56 (1949), p.14, Abstract].

These papers were further elaborated by mathematicians Doron Zeilberger and Herbert Wilf into "WZ theory", which allowed computerized proof of many combinatorial identities. Before Sister Celine's work there was no pattern or algorithm to prove difficult identities. The power of her method was recognized by Zeilberger and Wilf who read her work and set about to test it using computers. Their 1996 book A=B devotes two chapters to Sister Celine's polynomials.

Zeilberger teamed with Herbert Wilf to enhance Sister Celine's technique. Zeilberger called Sister Celine's dissertation "a work of genius."

"Before her method came to light, mathematicians needed to spend months, sometimes years, to `prove' something," Zeilberger said. "Now, with computers, it takes a few seconds."

Ironically, Sister Celine had little interest in computers. She told the historian Larie Pintea, "Mechanical things don't interest me."

This modest genius once told a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "I don't think I'm proficient in math."

Sister Celine also did post-graduate study at Montclair State College, Michigan College of Mining and Engineering, and American University. In 1945 she became a professor of mathematics at Mercyhurst College and taught there until her retirement in 1979. From 1954 to 1960 she also served on the Mercyhurst College Board of Trustees.

Herbert Wilf, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, contacted Sister Celine in 1993. He went to the Mercy Mother House in Erie where she lived and invited her to attend a discrete mathematics conference in Boca Raton, Florida. The conference was attended by about 500 people from 15 countries. The diocese awarded her a travel grant and she was able to attend the conference. When Wilf introduced her from the audience, the 87-year-old nun rose to her feet and said she wished to make only two remarks. First, she wanted to thank Professor Wilf for the invitation. And second, she said, casting a level gaze at the distinguished mathematicians, "I want you all to know - I really did that work." It is reported that there wasn't a dry eye in the house.




She died on December 27, 1996 and was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her grave is marked by the simple stone shown above. She served 73 years as a Sister of Mercy and taught for 34 years at Mercyhurst College.

"My whole aim in getting my doctor's degree was for the college," Sister Celine once explained to Dr. Wilf. "I didn't want to do more research, except what would help me to be a better teacher."



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Robert Runnels Williams


Chase Carrier, Grade 8

Robert Runnels Williams
1886 – 1965

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 at coordinates 15.03827N, 80.03919E.




Robert's main contribution to science was his effort to synthesize thiamine (vitamin B1), which he did in 1936. Among his awards were the Willard Gibbs Award in 1938, the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1940, and the Perkin Medal in 1947. His brother, Roger J. Williams, also was a chemist who discovered Vitamin B5.

Robert was ten years old when he left India with his family and returned to the United States. He studied at Ottawa University in Kansas and procured a master's degree at the University of Chicago in 1908. He taught for a time at the Bureau of Science in Manila. In the Philippines, Robert met U.S. Army Capt. E. B. Vedder, who went on to isolate Vitamin C in 1932. Vedder was concerned about a wasting disease among the Philippine Scouts, a group of soldiers who did police work with American officers. The American soldiers did not develop Beriberi, but the number of deaths and discharges due to disability were high among the Filipino soldiers.  Among the civilian population in Manila, about 220,000 deaths occurred each year from Beriberi.

Capt. Vedder had been experimenting with chickens and showed Robert Williams a quart of brown liquid, an extract of rice polish. Vedder note that when 1 milliliter of the extract was given to the chickens daily they did not develop the paralysis known today as polyneuritis gallinarum, a condition that caused the birds to die in three to six weeks. Vedder suspected that the polyneuritis of chickens was a clue to understanding the cause of Beriberi in humans. Soldiers with Beriberi developed swelling in the feet and hands, atrophy of the muscles, beginning in the legs, and severe neurological problems. Death usually occurred by heart failure, often very suddenly.

Robert's early efforts to discover the cause of Beriberi failed. He was so troubled by the ravages of the disease that he witnessed that he began to pray about the problem. 

Robert became aware of the research of Kanehiro Takaki, a Japanese medical officer whose perseverance in the face of considerable opposition, led the Japanese to issue rations to Japanese sailors that improved diet and greatly diminished the number of Beriberi cases. Takaki's 1906 lectures were published in Lancet (Volume 167, No. 4315, p1333, 12 May 1906)

Williams now was convinced that the disease was due to nutritional deficiency. He reviewed all the available research and began to think that the disease was most likely to appear in populations that consumed white rice as their main staple. He suspected that beriberi is due to a lack of some essential component in white rice.

Robert returned to the United States in 1911. He did additional graduate work at the University of Chicago. He married Augusta C. Parrish and returned with his bride to Manila in the summer of 1912.  He and Vedder continued feeding experiments with chickens for one year. During this time they attempted to treat a few cases of human Beriberi. 

Vedder left the Philippines in the spring of 1913 Robert continued to search for a better way to isolate the curative component of rice polishings. He used a colony of domesticated chickens that he set up at the Bureau of Science and he sought opportunities to test his preparations on people with Beriberi, especially infants who would otherwise die within a short time. He made excursions into the Tondo section of Manila, but often arrived too late, and was informed that the child had died. In his book Towards the Conquest of Beriberi (Harvard, 1961) Williams reports, "Sometimes I found the house in time and was then uniformly successful, sometimes dramatically..." (p. 102)

In 1916 Williams began trials of synthetic substance in the hope that he could identify a substance with antineuritic potency and could then proceed by modifications of the structure to improve on it. He was now collaborating with Atherton Seidell who worked at the Hygienic Laboratory, later the National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C.

In 1930 Maurice I. Smith experimenting with rats showed that Beriberi resulted when rats were fed a diet that was deficient in one particular vitamin, the antineuritic vitamin B1, as it had come to be called.  He found that "the only reliable source" of vitamin B2 (essential for growth), nearly or completely free from vitamin B1, is an autoclaved yeast or yeast extract. Smith first suggested this in 1926. Both Smith and Williams also recognized that the autoclaving process destroys most of the vitamin B1 factor essential in the prevention of Beriberi. Another process was needed.

In 1934 Robert developed a way to isolate 1/3 ounce of thiamine from a ton of rice polishings. In 1936, he worked of the molecular structure of thiamine, and in 1936 he synthesized thiamine, making it possible for rice and other products to be fortified with vitamin B1, thus virtually eradicating Beriberi worldwide. In 1961, Williams wrote, "The great killing epidemics of beriberi are a thing of the past for all but the most ignorant know enough to prevent them when they start." (Toward the Conquest of Beriberi, p. 219)

Today vitamin B1 is also known as the Antiberiberi Factor, the Antiberiberi Vitamin, the Antineuritic Factor, and the Antineuritic Vitamin.

Reflecting on the "long history of failures and occasional successes in the struggle to isolate the vitamin in profitable amounts," Williams wrote, "It was really necessary for biochemistry to gain new insights and powers, to learn new ways of dealing with minute quantities of perishable substances in nature... Synthesis has produced a thousand tons of the once rare substance and much of it has been used to bring better health to millions in all parts of the world." (Toward the Conquest of Beriberi, p. 284)

The Rev and Mrs. Williams at home in Redlands, California in 1915 
with their children
From left to right: Robert, Henry, Paul, Alice and Roger
After returning to the United States, Robert Williams worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1915 to 1945. He resided in Summit, New Jersey, where he died at the age of 79 on October 2, 1965. On his grave stone it reads "He labored much in the Lord."





Related reading: The Rev. Robert Runnels Williams (father of R.R. Williams, the chemist); Alice Williams Linsley (beloved sister of Robert Runnels Williams)


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Katharine Hayhoe on Climate Change


Katharine Hayhoe, a Christian, appears on stage with President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio to discuss climate change. Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian and the daughter of missionaries. She is married to Andrew Farley, a linguist and the pastor of an evangelical church in Lubbock, Texas.

Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. She is also the CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting. Katharine is one of the plenary speakers at 2017 American Scientific Affiliation annual meeting next summer.



Note that climate change is a reality. Biblical evidence of that is the flood of Noah in what is today the Sahara. During Noah's time the Sahara was wet.

Climate change and the theory of global warming are distinct conversations. The first is a fact, the second is a theory which has not been proven.

Carbon emissions are a factor in climate. However, there are many other factors that influence climate and they interact to create a very complex picture that scientists do not fully understand.

Hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone into the expensive climate modelling enterprise has all but destroyed governmental funding of research into natural sources of climate change. For years the modelers have maintained that there is no such thing as natural climate change…yet they now, ironically, have to invoke natural climate forces to explain why surface warming has essentially stopped in the last 15 years! -- Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D., climatologist and former NASA scientist

Piers Corbyn, astrophysicist, and founder of WeatherAction, says that "There is no evidence for the CO2 climate driver proposition in the real world using real data over hundreds of thousands of years. World temperatures do not follow CO2. The world is not warming."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Volcanic Eruptions and Climate


Scientists have identified 10 main factors that influence Earth's climate. They are shown on this chart.


In this article, we will consider the effect of volcanic eruptions.

Volcanism is the process by which land is created through the release of molten magma from the earth's core. This process produces sediment and rock. Volcanism takes place both above and below the Earth's surface. When molten lava reaches the surface geologists say that it is extrusive volcanism. When molten magma cools and hardens beneath the surface of the Earth, it is called intrusive volcanism. Molten magma that cools and hardens deep beneath the surface of the Earth is called plutonic volcanism.

The young earth had many active volcanoes. Some were above the surface (extrusive) and others were beneath the surface (instrusive). Many volcanic eruptions took place under the sea. According to Genesis 1 God separated the dry land from the sea as one of the first acts of creation. We can imagine a great sea with steam rising from deep underwater fissures in the earth. Now imagine volcanoes rising up from the sea.

When volcanic islands emerged from the sea they were battered by wind and tidal wave action that caused the peaks to erode and the land to spread.

This is described in the oldest religious narratives. One of the oldest creation accounts is found among the ancient Egyptians. They envisioned the first place in the world as a mound emerging from the waters of a universal ocean. Here the first life form was seen as a lily, growing on the peak of the primeval mound. The emerging mound was named TaTJaNuN, a reference to TT (twin peaks) and nun (water). TTJNN likely means the "pillars of God in the water" and is a reference to volcanic peaks emerging from the universal ocean.  I Samuel 2:8 states that these "pillars of the earth" belong to God. (Also see Psalm 75:2,3; and Job 9:6.)



This conception of how the dry land was formed was carried into lands where the Proto-Saharan Nilotic rulers established territories. This includes Mesopotamia and parts of India and Pakistan. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology the mound that rose from the sea is called Mount Meru. It emerged from the center of the Cosmic Ocean and according to the Hindu cosmology, the Sun and 7 visible planets circled the emerging mountain.


Volcanic eruptions and climate

The gases and dust particles spewed into the atmosphere during volcanic eruptions influence climate by shading the planet from solar radiation. Depending on the eruption the cooling effect can last for months or years.

Rain can clear the particles from the air, but the rain sometimes has a toxic effect on plants, animals, and water systems. 

Many of the minerals that are needed by the human body for good nutrition come from volcanic dust that is dispersed across the earth's surface. Volcanic deposits can develop into some of the richest agricultural lands on earth. Crops planted in volcanic soil are nutrient rich. Volcanic ash slowly releases nutrients that the human body needs to be healthy.

Related: Watch this video of a volcanic eruption in Hawaii.


Monday, October 10, 2016

The Life and Faith of George Washington Carver


How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.--George Washington Carver



Prepared by Ethan Williams
Grade 7

George Washington Carver was born into slavery and yet he became one of America’s leading scientists and inventors.

He was born in Diamond, Missouri, around 1864. The exact year and date of his birth are unknown. A week after his birth, George was kidnapped, along with his mother and sister, from the Moses Carver farm by raiders from Arkansas. The three were sold in Kentucky. Only the infant George was located by and returned to Missouri.

Carver became one of the most prominent scientists of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. He found over 300 uses of the peanut, including dyes, shampoo, shoe polish, plastics and gasoline. In 1920, Carver delivered a speech before the Peanut Growers Association, attesting to the wide potential of peanuts. The following year, he testified before Congress in support of a tariff on imported peanuts. With the help of Carver's testimony, Congress passed the tariff in 1922.

Carver became a recognized authority on cotton, the peanut, and the sweet potato. His name appears in "Who's Who in America," and he was accorded a membership in the Royal Society of London.


Education

Carver applied for admission to a Presbyterian college in Highland, Kansas. One day he received a letter announcing his acceptance to Highland College. That fall he eagerly arrived on campus, but the dean said, "You didn't tell us you were a Negro. Highland College does not take Negroes." Instead of attending classes, he staked a land claim and conducted biological experiments. He also compiled a geological collection.

Carver was equally interested in the arts. In 1890, he began studying art and music at Simpson College in Iowa. He developed into a skilled painter and his sketches of botanical samples were so outstanding that one of his teachers urged Carver to enroll in the botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College.

At age 30, Carver graduated from Iowa State with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1894. He was put in charge of the college greenhouse and the bacterial laboratory work in systematic botany. During this time, he worked toward a Master of Science degree, which was awarded in 1896.

Around this time Carver made the acquaintance of Booker T. Washington, the Head of the African-American Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Recognizing Carver’s brilliance, Washington hired Carver to run Tuskegee’s agricultural department in 1896.

Carver taught at the Tuskegee Institute for 47 years. His work at Tuskegee included groundbreaking research on plant biology that brought him to national prominence. Many of his early experiments focused on the development of new uses for crops such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans and pecans.

In 1928, Carver was awarded an honorary doctorate from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.


The Years at Tuskegee

While at Tuskegee, Dr. Carver taught Sunday classes. This started in 1906 when a number of students asked him to teach them the Bible on Sundays. In a grand narrative style, he taught by impersonating Bible characters. The story is told that he astonished his class when recounting the story of how God fed the Israelites in the wilderness. He produced a handful of “manna” that he had collected in the woods near Tuskegee.

He taught Bible classes for many years and influenced the lives of numerous African American young people. Among them was a young woman named Frances A. Smallwood who was the second African American nurse in the US public health service. She earned two degrees from Tuskegee. Frances’ father also worked at the Tuskegee Institute, now called Tuskegee University.

Carver had a good relationship with his students. He encouraged his students to collect specimens of plants and insects because, as he wrote in 1902, “The study of Nature is both entertaining and instructive… it encourages investigation and stimulates originality.” His students thought that it would be funny to trick him with a “new” bug. They took parts from several different insects and assembled their own bug and asked him to identify it. Carver saw through the trick and called it a “humbug.”

One day, upon returning home from Tuskegee, Carver slipped and fell down a flight of stairs. A maid found him unconscious and took him to a hospital. Dr. Carver was confined to his bed as his health continued to fail. He was extremely weak due to acute anemia. He died January 5, 1943 at age 78. He buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University.


Remembering a Great American

Before Carver died, Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman launched a project to erect a national monument in Carver's honor. The bill passed unanimously in both houses.

After Carver died, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated $30,000 for the monument. It was to be erected on the site of the plantation where Carver lived as a child, west of Diamond, Missouri. This was the first national monument dedicated to an African-American. The 210-acre memorial complex includes a statue of Carver as well as a nature trail, museum and cemetery.

In 1929 Dr. Carver received one of the three Roosevelt Medals for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture.

Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative postal stamps in 1948 and 1998, and a commemorative coin was minted in his honor between 1951 and 1954. Many schools are named for him, as are two U.S. military vessels.

In 2005, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis opened a George Washington Carver garden that includes a life-size statue of Carver.

George Washington Carver should be honored for his brilliance and tenacity. He should be remembered also as a man of profound Christian faith.

Carver was offered money and positions by such famous men as Thomas Edison, but he declined both fame and fortune. He declined $100 sent to him from a manufacturer in acknowledgment of one of his peanut discoveries that the manufacturer had put to use.

Carver was never interested in financial gain. He wanted his work to improve the quality of life for the thousands of struggling poor, particularly in the South. In a 1924 address to the annual meeting of the Women's Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church, at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, he said, "My discoveries come like a direct revelation from God.”

Regarding his prayer life, Carver explained:
My prayers seem to be more of an attitude than anything else. I indulge in very little lip service, but ask the Great Creator silently, daily, and often many times a day, to permit me to speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world which He has created - the animal, mineral, and vegetable Kingdoms - to understand their relations to each other, and our relations to them and to the Great God who made all of us. I ask Him daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding, and bodily strength to do His will; hence I am asking and receiving all the time.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Greater Now Than in 2012



Arctic sea ice during the September minimum when
levels are always at their lowest

 CREDIT: NASA

Sarah Knapton, science editor

Dire predictions that the Arctic would be devoid of sea ice by September this year have proven to be unfounded after latest satellite images showed there is far more now than in 2012.

Scientists such as Prof Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, and Prof Wieslaw Maslowski, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Moderey, California, have regularly forecast the loss of ice by 2016, which has been widely reported by the BBC and other media outlets.

Prof Wadhams, a leading expert on Arctic sea ice loss, has recently published a book entitled A Farewell To Ice in which he repeats the assertion that the polar region would free of ice in the middle of this decade.

As late as this summer, he was still predicting an ice-free September.

Yet, when figures were released for the yearly minimum on September 10, they showed that there was still 1.6 million square miles of sea ice (4.14 square kilometres), which was 21 per cent more than the lowest point in 2012.

Read more here.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Social Media and our Kids' Security


Parents and teachers are concerned about the potential dangers for children using social media. "Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith" is discussing this and provides this excellent resource:  www.faithandsafety.org.



Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mary Anning


On 21 May 2014 Google Inc. honored the famous paleontologist Mary Anning on the anniversary of her birth with this Doodle on the homepage.

Mary Anning homage on Google today.  Image credit: Google Inc.Image credit: Google Inc.


Mary Anning (1799-1846) has been called "The Greatest Fossilist" in the world. The cliffs of Lyme Regis in Dorset, England were right at her back door and she had been exploring these cliffs for years. She became a fossil expert after years of collecting fossils to support her family after her father's death. She spent more than 30 years collecting and describing fossils found mostly in Jurassic age rock.

By the age of 12 Anning had discovered in rocks of the English countryside fossils that she would later describe as a plesiosaur, an early marine reptile. This find gained her much attention from fossils collectors worldwide.

William Buckland, an admirer of Mary’s work, described the first true dinosaur. Anning, Buckland and the French naturalist Georges Cuvier were instrumental in developing a picture of life in the Jurassic.

Cuvier was a devout Christian who regularly attended worship at his local Lutheran church. He regarded his faith as a private matter, but he identified himself with the Lutherans when he supervised governmental educational programs for Protestants. He was instrumental in founding the Parisian Biblical Society in 1818, where he later served as a vice president. From 1822 until his death in 1832, Cuvier was Grand Master of the Protestant Faculties of Theology of the French University.

Cuvier proposed that there had been an "age of reptiles" when reptiles would have been the dominant animal on earth rather than the mammals of today. This idea of earth’s biota changing over time presented a challenge to prevalent views of creation. (Read more here.)

Mary Anning became known for important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis. Her work contributed to fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. Mary's work drew considerable attention in England as most people believed in a young Earth and regarded this to be a Biblical view.

Fossil collecting was a popular hobby in the late 18th and early 19th century, but gradually developed into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology became better understood. Anning searched for fossils in the area's Blue Lias cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils. It was dangerous work, and she barely escaped death in 1833 during a rockslide that killed her faithful canine companion.

In 2010, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Mary Anning, though raised Congregationalist, questioned some of their beliefs.  She read the Congregationalists' Theological Magazine and Review for 1801. One essay insisted God created the universe in six, consecutive 24-hour days. Mary also read a model curriculum for Nonconformist schools urging Dissenters to study geology.

Mary's faith helped her take risks while fossil hunting. Her friend, Anna Maria Pinney, wrote in 1833 that after several mishaps on the cliffs
"The word of God is becoming precious to her after her late accident, being nearly crushed to death. I found it healing her mind."
Mary Anning died in 1846 from breast cancer. She was buried in the graveyard of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Lyme Regis. Her brother, who became church warden in 1846, was buried beside her in 1849. Raised Congregationalists, both brother and sister ended up Anglicans.

Related reading: Mary Anning of Dorset

The 2016 Nobel Prize Winners in Chemistry and Physics


The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to these three scientists: Tomas Lindahl, Paul L. Modrich and Aziz Sancar for having discovered how cells repair their DNA and protect it.

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics went to David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane, and J. Michael Kosterlitz for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter. Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise.

Related reading: Nobel Prize Events Lack Gravitas


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Copernicus: Renaissance Mathematician



"I am aware that a philosopher’s ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God." Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543)


Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric model of the universe based on his observations.

Copernicus was born in the city of Torun, in northern Poland on February 19, 1473. He was born into a wealthy family. He was named after his father, Mikolaj Kopernik, who was a prosperous copper trader. His mother, Barbara Watzenrode, came from a wealthy family of merchants. Nicolaus was the youngest of their four children.

At birth Nicolaus was named Mikolaj Kopernik, but he called himself the Latin form of his name, Nicolaus Copernicus, when he went to study at the University of Krakow at age 18. There he studied astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and the sciences.

When Nicolaus was 10 his father died and Nicolaus became the ward of his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, a nobleman who became Prince-Bishop of the region of Warmia. For many years Copernicus served as his uncle's secretary and physician and traveled with him as Bishop Lucas visited the churches in his diocese.

Frombork Cathedral

After his uncle died in 1512, Copernicus went to live in the Frombork cathedral chapter. He lived there as a canon until he died on 24 May 1543.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Does Knowledge of One's Genetic ancestry Matter?

Here is an interesting story, told my Michael Cook, Editor of BioEdge:


One of the recurring themes thrown up by assisted reproduction is the importance of genetic ties. Are we determined by our origins, or can we forge our own identity? Does it matter whether our nearest and dearest are our kith and kin or whether they are just the people we hang around with?

By chance I just stumbled across the astonishing story of a Hungarian politician whose life was transformed when he discovered his true genetic identity.

By the time Csanad Szegedi was 24, he was vice-president of Jobbik, a far-right, nationalist and virulently anti-Semitic party. He was elected to the European Parliament as a Jobbik MEP in 2009 and wrote a book, I Believe in Hungary’s Resurrection.

Then he learned his family’s deepest secret: he was a Jew. His grandfather and grandmother were actually Auschwitz survivors.

Szegedi’s life fell apart. He was forced to resign from Jobbik.

Suddenly he did a complete about-face. Under the tuition of a Lubavitch rabbi from New York who was living in Budapest he became an Orthodox, observant Jew; he had himself circumcised, adopted the name Dovid and burned a thousand copies of his book. Now he is migrating to Israel with his wife and two children. He is interesting in joining the Knesset.

Szegedi is obviously a complex, intense man. He could even be a charlatan. But his astonishing journey does suggest that there is something to the idea that our personal identity is incomplete if it lacks the genetic heritage.


The Nobel Prize becoming a show business?


Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor, MERCATORNET


The Nobel Prize season kicks off today with the announcement of the 2016 prize for medicine. Some 273 scientists have been nominated for this one prize, according to @NobelPrize, which also informs us that the average age of medicine laureates has climbed from 58 to 67 over the past century -- a fact which contributes to the view of the the prizes as an affair of "old white men".

That is an image the Nobel organisations are anxious to change. It's not easy because the achievements behinds the prizes -- especially in the scientific fields -- are usually highly technical and difficult to explain. (The sorts of things that cause men, and a few women, to grow old and white while they work at them for decades.)

But in an article today Australian researcher Lukasz Swiatek describes how the organisers are reaching out to non-academic audiences and in particular youth. The Peace Prize Concert, for example, is going to be bigger and louder than ever this year. Not everyone is happy with this trend -- not just because it lacks gravitas but because of the commercial interests it involves. Is the Nobel enterprise on the right track? Tell us what you think.

    * * * 

The most vocal critic of the push to celeb status for the Nobel Prize has been the Norwegian jurist and peace activist Fredrik Heffermehl. Writing about the Peace Prize in particular, he has argued that the new communication activities diminish the “character, integrity, and independence” of the prize.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

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Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus


“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 (1466-1536)

Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was one of Europe's most famous and influential scholars. A man of great intellect who rose from meager beginnings to become one of Europe's greatest thinkers, he defined the humanist movement in Northern Europe. His translation to Greek of the New Testament brought on a theological revolution, and Erasmus was the dominant figure of the early humanist movement. Neither a radical nor an apologist, he remains one of early Renaissance controversial figures.

Erasmus rose from obscure beginnings to become one of the leading intellectual figures of the early Northern Renaissance. Most historians believe that he was born Gerard Gerardson in 1466 (with many noting his probable birthdate as October 27) in Rotterdam, Holland. His father, believed to be Roger Gerard, was a priest, and his mother was named Margaret, the daughter of a physician. He was christened with the name "Erasmus,"

Read more here.


Erasmus the Linguist

Erasmus had great facility with languages. He spoke and read Dutch, German, English, classical Greek, and Latin. His writings reveal scholarship, imaginative wit, and wisdom.

He used his linguistic gift to help advance education and Biblical scholarship. He translated the writings of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers which made these writings accessible to educated people. He also wrote books of spiritual counsel in Latin, several of which were translated and reprinted in numerous other languages of Europe.

Erasmus's guides to interpretation that he wrote as prefaces to the 1516 and 1518 editions of the New Testament remain one of his most significant contributions.

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 and Luther Disagree

In 1524, Erasmus wrote a treatise in which he dealt with the Lutheran notion of the bondage of the will to sin. He systematically set out the weaknesses of Martin Luther’s Augustinian view in his De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio (The Freedom of the Will). In response, Luther wrote On the Bondage of the Will which directly attacks Erasmus, going so far as to claim that Erasmus was not a Christian.

Luther’s view was challenged by the Christian Humanist Erasmus and by others who believed that Luther's doctrine of total depravity 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.

During the Renaissance, humanism took various expressions. Some humanists, such as Erasmus, were deeply religious. These stressed the dignity of man and both heavenly and earthly rewards. Others were scoffers of religion. This secular humanism was a reaction against Church authority and against the bloodshed that resulted from religious conflict.

To Erasmus, the Bible and the Classics were two sides of the same coin, thus he strove to combine them. 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.”

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 the seeds for a good life are in us ‘by nature’, and teachers are to cultivate these seeds. 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.”

While Luther began his theology 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. To Erasmus, 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...” 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: “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.”

Erasmus's work has stood the test of time, and today he is recognized as a linguistic giant and one of the most erudite scholars of Western civilization.

Related reading:  Erasmus, Dutch Scholar and Humanist