Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

17 Feb 2017

Pollution: Still Learning

Scientists found PCBs and PBDEs in deep-sea critters, armyworms are on the march in Africa, and Mexico City's air isn't as clean as we'd hoped.

Rational concern seems reasonable....

...Last week I talked about blaming our tools for our mistakes. (February 10, 2017)

This week I'll revisit Lovecraft's "placid island of ignorance,"sort of....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

10 Feb 2017

Bogs and Bison

The good news is that bison are back in Banff, and Britain's bogs may bounce back, too. Keeping wetlands wet isn't what many folks had in mind, back in my youth.

But as I keep saying, we've learned quite a bit since then....

...This post's afterword is a quick look at how folks have perceived natural resources, plus a bit about pessimism and being human....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

3 Feb 2017

Footprints in Ancient Ash

Scientists are pretty sure that Saccorhytus coronarius is an ancestor of lancets, sea squirts, fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, and mammals: including us.

Much more recently, about 3,660,000 years back, five Australopithecus afarensis strolled across volcanic ash. One of them was "astonishingly larger" than any other A. afarensis we know of. Exactly what that means isn't, I think, clear. Not yet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

29 Jan 2017

Making a Universe: Why Bother?


"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft." (Psalms 19:2)
Okay, so who is this message proclaimed to?

Us, apparently.

One of the ways we can learn about God is by noticing order and beauty in the universe. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 31-32, 319)

St. Bonaventure said that the universe communicates God's glory, St. Thomas Aquinas said that the Almighty creates because God is good and loving. (Catechism, 293)

I think they're right.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

27 Jan 2017

Gems, Metal, and Earth's Core

The Fire of Australia, a whacking great chunk of opal, isn't particularly interesting from a 'science' viewpoint.

But I'm human, which is probably why anything big and shiny gets my attention: including that rock.

Wrenching myself back on-topic, scientists found a stream of liquid metal flowing at the edge of Earth's core. Studying it may help us learn why Earth's magnetic field flip-flops at apparently-irregular intervals. What we'll learn is beyond me: we didn't know much about geomagnetic reversal when I started school.

We still don't, for that matter. As I keep saying, there is a very great deal left to learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

13 Jan 2017

Urban Evolution and Big Brains

Life, and evolution, has been happening for quite a while. Cities are new, but the same processes happen there; with slightly different results. We're learning how urban environments affect critters, and are piecing together more of humanity's story....

...I see no problem with believing that God is creating a universe that's following knowable physical laws. That's just as well, since it's what we're told to believe....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

8 Jan 2017

Epiphany Sunday



Statues1 of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar started near the clock in our living room. I took those pictures of them on Wednesday. Their trip to the nativity scene ended today, Epiphany Sunday.

We read about "magi from the east" in today's Gospel: Matthew 2:1 through 12:
"1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, 2 behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
"saying, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star 3 at its rising and have come to do him homage.'"
(Matthew 2:1-2)
"Magi" is how μάγοι, mágoi, looks in my native language. That's the Greek version of an Old Persian word that would sound something like "magus" if I tried pronouncing it.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

23 Dec 2016

SETI: What If?

Contacting extraterrestrial intelligence, meeting people whose ancestors developed on another world, has been a staple of pulp fiction for generations.

Lately, it's become a matter for serious discussion. I'll be looking at an op-ed's take on how learning that we're not alone might affect folks with various religious beliefs. I'll also share what I expect: and what I don't....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

16 Dec 2016

Mars, Aliens, and SETI



I'd love to be talking about unambiguously artificial signals picked up by the Allen Telescope Array, or reports of a ship from beyond the Solar System settling into orbit around our moon.

But that hasn't happened, and probably won't. Not in my lifetime.

Instead, I'll talk about why I don't "believe in" extraterrestrial life; and do not assume that we are alone in the universe. That puts me in the third of folks who aren't sure, and I'll get back to that.

My 'Friday' posts are usually about more-or-less-current 'science news.' That won't happen this week. I've read a few interesting articles, and will be talking about them — after the Christmas-New Year's gymkhana is over.

This week I'm using material that didn't quite fit into an earlier post. I'll also talk about the Great Moon Hoax, Nicola Tesla and Martians; and what I think about life in the universe.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

11 Dec 2016

Jesus and Expectations



Pip's Christmas doesn't have much to do with Christmas, or Advent, but I figured this post should have something that looks 'seasonal.'

"...Blessed is the One Who Takes No Offense at Me"


We'll be hearing Matthew 11:2-11 this morning. The readings still aren't particularly 'Christmassy.'
"2 When John heard in prison 3 of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him "4 with this question, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?'
"Jesus said to them in reply, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see:
"5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.' "
(Matthew 11:4-6)
Our Lord balanced that rebuke with a reminder of the Baptist's great function in Matthew 11:7-15, and a complaint about folks who wouldn't listen to John or Jesus....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

10 Dec 2016

Tides and Our Moon’s Origin

Scientists have been wondering how our moon formed, and why its orbit isn't over Earth's equator.

It looks like our moon formed after something about the size of Mars hit Earth, roughly 4,500,000,000 years back.

But the giant-impact hypothesis didn't explain why our moon orbits Earth only five degrees away from Earth's orbital plane. The math had said that our moon would be orbiting pretty much over Earth's equator....

...God is Large and In Charge


I occasionally wonder if I should keep explaining why reality doesn't offend me, and why facts don’t threaten my faith....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

2 Dec 2016

KIC 8462852 and Strange Stars

KIC 8462852, Tabby's Star, has been in the news recently. Scientists are pretty sure that something very large orbits the star, but haven't worked out what it is.

A few scientists, looking at the data, say that it's probably a really odd natural phenomenon: but that it might something built by folks who aren't human.

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is still a science in search of a subject. But quite a few scientists are taking it seriously, which is why Berkeley SETI Research Center added few stars to the Automated Planet Finder's observing queue....

...What I say about SETI and science in general may take some explaining, if you're new to this blog. Basically, I think God is large and in charge; and that part of my job is appreciating God's work — not telling the Almighty how it should have been made...."

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

24 Nov 2016

Olive Threat, Ginkgo Genome

Something's killing Europe's olive trees: a bacterium that's probably spread by insects. Scientists don't know how to stop the disease, not yet.

Other scientists analyzed the Ginkgo genome. What they found helps explain the tree's remarkable endurance.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

18 Nov 2016

Brain Implants and Rewired Monkeys

Someone from the Netherlands gained a small measure of freedom after learning to use a prototype computer-brain interface.

I see that, and experiments with rhesus monkeys, as a good thing....

...As usual, I'll also talk about why I don't think God is offended when we help folks....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

4 Nov 2016

Near-Earth Asteroids

Scientists spotted 2016 UR36 days before it passed by Earth. "Killer asteroids" headlines notwithstanding, we knew it would miss our planet by a comfortable margin.

Sooner or later, though, something big will hit Earth: again. We still can't prevent that, not yet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 Oct 2016

Authority, Superstition, Progress


(From Diliff, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Authority, superstition, and misapplied technophilia (it's a real word) rate at least one post each: but that'll wait until another day. Days.

This time I'll take a quick look at all three, and then say why I don't believe in Progress with a capital P — and don't yearn for the 'good old days.'

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

28 Oct 2016

Right-Handedness and Evolving Jaws

At least one Homo habilis was right-handed, about 1,800,000 years ago. It's the earliest evidence of handedness in humanity's history. So far.

Our jaws may have started out as armor plate, not gill arches. Paleontologists found a second Silurian placoderm species with surprisingly familiar jaws....

...Before talking about Homo habilis, and new evidence showing how jaws evolved, I'll do my usual explanation for why science doesn't upset me....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

16 Oct 2016

Alchemy, Science, Life, and Health

(From BBC, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.)
("I find that nothing's ever exactly like you expect...." (Professor Richard Lazarus))

A mad scientist's lot is not a happy one. All he wants is to redefine being human: and the next thing you know, he's eating guests at his victory celebration.

Doctor Who's The Lazarus Experiment doesn't have much to do with The Devil Bat and The Brain That Wouldn't Die, apart from featuring a mad scientist — and science gone horribly wrong.

Some movies, like Fantastic Voyage and Things to Come, present science and technology as useful.

But "tampering with thing man was not supposed to know," as Mr. Squibbs put it, keeps the plot going for quite a few; like Altered Species, They Saved Hitler's Brain, and Island of Lost Souls.

Reticence, reasonable and otherwise, regarding new ideas isn't new....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

14 Oct 2016

Elastic Brains and New Tech

Maybe 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks,' but apparently the adult brain isn't nearly as rigid as scientists thought.

I'll be looking at neuroplasticity, the idea that brains can change; research that may lead to better neural interfaces; and 'brain training' games....

...We've been learning a great deal about the human brain and how it works. That's a good thing for me, since I have maintenance issues with mine....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

7 Oct 2016

Bioethics and a Three-Parent Baby

A Jordanian couple have a baby boy: who does not have a lethal genetic disorder, thanks to DNA transplanted from a third person. Four of his siblings did not survive the procedure.

I'll be talking about the decisions involved in that procedure, research involving "tiny brains" grown from human cells, genetically modified humans grown as research subjects, and water bears....

...After discussing recent genetics news, I'll share why I take human experimentation and medical ethics personally, and what I see coming in the near future....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.