Science and Faith

All to often when we talk about finding a calling in life but not so often that we can have a calling within a calling. This one is pretty cool since it involves NASA and nuns. An former aerospace engineer and current professor at the University of Prince Edward Island is taking a sabbatical and becoming a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame. The CBC has a unique interview up as well so if you have some time take a listen. Sure she didn’t really work for NASA but for a company that worked for NASA but we’re all suckers for alliterations. The link between faith and science is real and not as weird as it seems. I mean the Vatican has it’s own science focus, with Guy Consolmagno, SJ the director of its Observatory and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  However many people swear that the Church doesn’t know anything about science or the fact that a bunch of huge topics come from Catholics. Genetics comes from Gregor Mendel who was an Augustinian monk,  Big Bang Theory was proposed by Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the list goes on and even just Catholics in general they’ve had the first steps. From geology and astronomy to zoology and medicine Catholics have made and continue to today to make impact in all fields of science.

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Bill Nye Saves the World

Netflix has recently added a new show with Bill Nye. It’s a talk show that has a base in science in general it came out just in time for Earth Day. It sort of like Star Talk I guess but more focused on a single topic like the old Bill Nye, the Science Guy show. It takes a look at topics ranging from Climate Change and alternative medicine to sex and GMOs. Now this show has gotten some bad reviews as people are saying that it is uninformative, dumbed down, glosses over topics, political and not sure who the key demographic is.

Yet, this is what people in America need, most of us aren’t that scientifically literate to understand a lot of things. I mean look at the numbers of climate change deniers out there. Not to mention the current head of the EPA and President aren’t big fan of science. Science needs to be an aspect of all of our lives and we should understand it. Sure the simplicity of Bill Nye might be not what some people need but it gets some basic ideas out to people about the world and how science is all around us. If the show gets a second season perhaps the kinks will be worked out and it will be a better show which will help bring more science to the masses. More science would be great like that commercial with Millie Dresselhaus, It would be wonderful if we could name more than a handful of living scientist (Hawkings, Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson).

Aging limits and expectancy

This was an interesting article from The Guardian and Gizmodo about life expectancy. In a recent study published in Lancet and funded by UK Medical Research Council and the US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that by 2030 there will be some places with big increase and other with more modest gains. In 2030, girls born in South Korea will have an expectancy of 90.8 years and boys will be about 84. These were the highest points and if accurate we will be seeing many more supercentarians, those over 110, in the years to come. This points towards the advances in health technology that have happened and the ease of access to it. These were the reasons that the United States was given modest gains, with several problems including obesity and general violence. The article notes “Not only does the US have high and rising health inequalities, but also life expectancy has stagnated or even declined in some population subgroups.” Hopefully, Trump and the Republican can do something to fix what they call the “awful” Affordable Care Act other than just changing the name to not Obamacare. With an increase Life expectancy more people should be living into their 100 or so, these might help us figure out how long a human life span is, as many scientist think that it’s about 122-125. As the oldest living person lived until 122 and no one has lived longer since. If more humans are living into their 100s space travel and manned expedition that last for years like of Mars seem logical and perhaps eventually to some exoplanets as we have decades which we previously didn’t have.

News Roundup

Nature: Scientist at CERN have discovered that trees are good for clouds.  Now this doesn’t seem like it is that big of a breakthrough as anyone could have told you that trees make nature better. The scientists have discovered that trees can produce gases that make cloud seeds. It is an interesting process and perhaps we could do more for the world by planting more forest. It’s a good idea.

Beer: In yet another change it seems that Beer is now a healthy food. In a recent study they have figured that beer with hops might protect against liver disease. Sure it isn’t the best of research but I always find it funny how every couple of years some thing which we thought was bad for us is now the new trendy think to do. Look at wine and coffee over the years as well as fat and how many time we were told that drinking wine/coffee was bad for us and eating fat was a good thing only to be reversed a few years later. As Julia Child put it “Everything in Moderation . . . including moderation”.

 

News Roundup

Space: Remember the Electromagnetic Propulsion thruster which could if it works cut down travel time  from the roughly six months to a year to Mars to a more manageable 70 days. The EM Drive is about to be launched into outer space, although no date has been set for launch it could come within six months, to see if it really does what scientists have said it roughly does here one Earth. The drive works by using microwaves as fuel to propel, if this works it will be a major leap forward for space travel however it will throw a big kink into Newton’s Third Law. I hope that this happens soon as it would help lower to cost of space travel by a whole bunch since we won’t have to carry any fuel to get anywhere, and this seems like the first steps to a hyperdrive.

Star Wars: Someone had some free time and drew up an info graph about how much a AT-AT would cost to build and surprisingly it is even less than what the US has to pay for a B-21 bomber, but far more that a simple tank.

SpaceX: This is a cool article about Elon Musk’s company and how it’s using a similar plan that Boeing used that made air travel a regular occurrence. If Musk succeeds this could be a wonderful thing and would even perhaps begin to lower the cost of space travel.

Mythbusters

One of my favorite shows on The Discovery Channel has come to an end. It stated way back in 2003 and has been a constant source of entertainment and education. Sure it put science into national conversation but in doing so it inspired many fans of the show to explore science. It is not the sort of thing that need to be relegated to only those with degrees in science, humans are curious creatures and are willing to try anything at least once. They did a lot in their 14 years on television and even watching old episodes is something fun to do. Sure they blew up a whole bunch of things but they also did more mundane things as well like looking at the best way to board an airplane or queue in a checkout line. The boatload of fuel consumption myths like if having windows up with the AC on uses more fuel than driving with the windows down, these were great as well since everyone has had an opinion on these. While it is unfortunate that MythBusters is over it is bound to be rebroadcast for years to come and continue to inspire more people to explore the world of science

News Roundup

NFL: The National Football League has handed down a severe punishment to the New England Patriots for their role in the ball deflation incident. They are fined 1 million dollars and lose a first round pick next year and like a fourth round in 2017, and most significantly Tom Brady has been suspended for four games will this actually matter in the long run they are the first four games of the season and I’ve heard that Brady might appeal his suspension so it might be less. Now Harry Reid has spoken up about this and says that it is a shame that so much emphasis is on this and not the name of the Washington football team. While it is admirable that a politician is calling the team’s name offensive, that seems to be old hat right now as some 50 senators sent a letter to the NFL about this a year ago and nothing happened. I would really like it if Harry Reid actually cared about Native American and help push through whatever is need to actually federally recognized more tribes in the country. Since most of the tribes recognized are in the Western US while there are still some states with no federally recognized Indian tribes, notably in Virginia where I think the oldest recognition exist in the nation the Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes have reservations based in colonial-era treaties ratified by the Commonwealth in 1658. I am sure that the name Redskins, will change sometime in the next decade, as Dan Synder really wants the team back in DC and the DC council/mayor want the team back as well but have expressed that if the team does return it should be with a new name.

Science: This is a cool story, scientist have found a new state of matter. Now this isn’t going to change the states of matter that you learn in school (solid,liquid, gas\plasma) but it is one of the more obscure ones like Bose–Einstein condensate, degenerate matter, supersolids and superfluids, or quark-gluon plasma. At this new state the Jahn-Teller effect happens and insulators can be turned into superconductors by just adding pressure. A whole bunch of work has to be done before anything really comes of this but it is pretty cool to think of what can come of this.

News Roundup

Star Wars: In case you missed it this pass weekend a teaser trailer for the next Star Wars movies came out and boy did the internet seem to come to a standstill as many people just sat and watched it over and over again. This lead to people trying to analyze what is going to happen in the film. From what we can see from the teaser it is a nice fit into the Star Wars universe and might as well be the biggest release next December. If you haven’t seen the teaser yet or you want to watch it again here it is.

History: In an update to an earlier posting the remains of Richard III have been confirmed that the remains are that of Richard III as they match DNA from a descendent. Richard III is now the oldest known individual to be identified through DNA. This is pretty cool that it has been confirmed now I wonder if there will be some special news coverage of the reinterment of Richard III in the spring.

Lord of the Rings: In the big December movie this year at the London premiere Ian McKellen spoke saying that he doesn’t think that this is the end of Middle Earth and that Peter Jackson will come back to it eventually. Now although it would be really really cool if Jackson gets a chance to do any of the other books connected with Middle Earth I am not sure there is much that we can get a movie out of from the source material that they have the rights to make movies out of. There are lots of appendixes in the Lord of the Rings but to make another movie set in this world you need to have The Silmarillion to do so. This is a prequel to the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and tells stories from creation of Middle Earth through the first and second Ages and a little blurb that is a recap of the events in the Third Age (Hobbit\Lord of the Rings)

News Round Up

Redskins: There are news reports floating around that say that Daniel Snyder and the Redskins are in the early stages of building a new Stadium. According to the Comcast SportsNet interview the current stadium which is 17 years old will be replaced with a new stadium which will have a “retro vibe” (a bouncy lower bowl). The interview was very non specific about anything else. Daniel says that he’d be open to moving the team to Virginia, to a new stadium in Maryland, but it seems most likely that the move would be back to DC proper. I think it is a good idea for a new stadium as FedEx Field has a horrible game day experience, however what will be done with the stadium site after they leave.

NASA:  The Space Launch System has been announced but now NASA has announced that there will be a slight delay in when the rocket will launch. NASA have scheduled the first launch to take place in December 2017 but it looks like this date will not be met and the worst case plan that they were describing also seems a bit far fetched. In the worst case plan the first launch would take place in late 2018. This first flight would be an unmanned flight and the first crewed mission seems like it wouldn’t happen until 2021. That will be a complete decade without USA launching any manned missions. This is why I am very interested in the Commercial Crew option which according to their schedule should be ready by 2017 so at least there will be some way for NASA to get astronauts up into space without going to Russia.

Science: Ever wonder about the Sailing Stones in Death Valley? According to researchers the mystery has been solved, and the answer is a very unexpected one.  If you want to know more read the story

Star Wars: Over at The Atlantic there is a moronic article talking about how George Lucas doesn’t want to release the original version of his films. It goes on to talk about how there are many people out there who have made “despecialized” versions of the films more in line with the original print of the films. It is funny how many people are so up in arms about this, and now that Disney owns the films so people are now calling for an official original release, with none of the special edition amendments. So after the new trilogy comes out and they make a pack in which they release all 9 film together, or perhaps when Star Wars turns 50 will be when an official high definition release of the original print will happen.

The Mind of a Chef

This past week I stumbled upon a cool little show on Netflix. Sure it is a PBS show so it was bound to be interesting but this one has become one of my favorite recent shows. I liked it because it isn’t the typical food show where they show you a recipe and you can make it after the half hour is over but it goes into the process of how things are made and what inspires chefs. The show has the feel of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation with chefs going around exploring food things, but it never get to traveloguey. One of my favorite parts of the show is when Harold McGee pops up and explains the science behind things like smoking or preserving or salt and how they make an impact on the food that we eat.

The first season of the show focused on David Chang of Momofuku fame, and he travels to Japan, Denmark and Spain and explores some of the food in the countries (ramen, miso, and fideos). The second season of the show is a bit different as it is split into two half with featuring a different chef in each half. The chefs are Sean Brock of Husk and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig. In the first hald of the season we look at Brock’s passion the reintroduction of Southern Food to the world, through the rediscovery of flavor in ingredients by using seeds  to bring back long lost varieties of different ingredients. Brock stays put in the south and take journeys to Senegal to explore the roots of Southern Cooking.  The second half of the season we follow Bloomfield as she explores the various influence on her cooking from the curries of India (in London), fish and chips of England to Italian pasta. Bloomfield for the most part stay put in London but makes some salami and harvests some salt as well. A common thread through all the season so far is that the chefs are bringing their friends and the people who inspired them to cook and are cooking dishes for or with them. The third season debuts in September and will feature chefs Edward Lee and Magnus Nilsson,

I think that programing like this is important and hope that it last for a couple more  seasons as I would really like to see the likes of Jose Andres or Alice Waters or at least someone like her on the show. A lot of people don’t know much about food and this needs to change. One of the biggest problems facing America today is the obesity epidemic this is due to many people not understanding what food really is. All food is not good food. The processed crap that most people think is food isn’t that great to begin with. Hopefully with the rise of the farmer’s markets we will begins to see more varieties of produce make it to the general public. I also hope that more people will try to make meals at home and not always rely on takeout or some frozen dinner to get through the week but work with fresh foods and produce great meals from them.