Adam and the Big Bang


This is another piece from the bloggers over at the Vatican Observatory.


Noah’s Ark has been re-built, right here in Kentucky.  It just opened to the public this summer.  It is supposed to bring in many tourists who will see something from Genesis on a Kentucky landscape.  The Kentucky Ark will probably generate plenty of the usual discussion of science versus traditional belief systems—that is (from an astronomy perspective), The Big Bang versus Genesis. Some years back in the Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, two authors, Martin Griffiths and Carlos F. Oliveira, wrote a contribution to that usual discussion. Their article, “The Big Bang—a Hot Issue in Science Communication,”* portrayed the communication of ideas from science that challenge traditional belief systems as “an ideological war that is worth the fight.”  They said— The Big Bang theory strikes at the heart of human philosophical and cultural meaning, uprooting a secure humanity from a known place in the Universe to one of unimaginable smallness, adrift in the unfathomable sea of space.  This is … Continue reading →

Source: Adam and the Big Bang

2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 11


These are the responses of the 2016 Presidential candidates to the fourth of the twenty questions posed to them earlier.

I posted the responses to Question #1 at (concerning innovation) at “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 1”.

The responses to Question #2 (concerning research) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 2″.

The responses to Question #3 (concerning climate change) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 3″.

The responses to Question #4 (concerning biodiversity) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 4″.

The responses to Question #5 (concerning the Internet) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 5″.

The responses to Question #6 (concerning mental health) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 6″.

The responses to Question #7 (concerning energy) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 7″.

The responses to Question #8 (concerning science and mathematics education) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 8″.

The responses to Question #9 (concerning public health) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 9″.

The responses to Question #10 (concerning water) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 10″.

I hope that you will take the time to look at these responses and offer your own thoughts.  My own thoughts and analysis are at the end of the post.

  • Nuclear Power

Nuclear power can meet electricity demand without producing greenhouse gases, but it raises national security and environmental concerns. What is your plan for the use, expansion, or phasing out of nuclear power, and what steps will you take to monitor, manage and secure nuclear materials over their life cycle?

Hillary Clinton (D)

Meeting the climate challenge is too important to limit the tools available in this fight. Nuclear power – which accounts for more than 60 percent of our zero carbon power generation today – is one of those tools. I will work to ensure that the climate benefits of our existing nuclear power plants that are safe to operate are appropriately valued and increase investment in the research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear power. At the same time, we must continue to invest in the security of our nuclear materials at home, and improve coordination between federal, state, and local authorities. We must also seek to reduce the amount of nuclear material worldwide – working with other countries so minimize the use of weapons-grade material for civil nuclear programs.

Donald Trump (R)

Nuclear power is a valuable source of energy and should be part of an all-the-above program for providing power for America long into the future. We can make nuclear power safer, and its outputs are extraordinary given the investment we should make. Nuclear power must be an integral part of energy independence for America.

Jill Stein (G)

Nuclear fission technology is unsafe, expensive, and dirty from the mining of uranium to the disposal of spent fuel. As such we will end subsidies to the nuclear industry immediately and phase out nuclear power over a 10-year timeline. Existing nuclear waste will be handled with onsite dry cask storage of high-level waste into perpetuity. No transport of nuclear waste.

My thoughts

Well, this is even shorter than the answer for water.  As it happens, Trump’s answer is part of the answer but it is incomplete.  Stein offers part of the solution as well but it is also incomplete.  Neither one of the them even comes close to addressing the other side of the question, the national security one.

Clinton’s answer is the only one addresses the same fears that lead to Stein’s answer (the limitation of nuclear material because terrorists can get it).

The answer is that nuclear fission is not the answer, nuclear fusion is.  But to get to nuclear fusion, you have to go through fission.  Second, I will not deny that there have been problems with nuclear power plants but, to the best of my knowledge, the problems have arisen from human error, not from the power plant technology.

What does that imply?  Training and making sure that individuals are not pushed to the limits of their endurance for the sake of the bottom line.  Maintenance issues must also be high priority (problems at some of the plants have come from minimal maintenance budgets).

Nuclear fusion will be one of the answers to the question of energy problems.  Whether or not, we like it, nuclear energy is a part of the path to that end.  it will require a commitment that this country has not been willing to make and none of the candidates wants to make either.  It will also require, as so many other topics, a greater increase in educational funding and a change in priorities about where our tax money goes.

2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 10


These are the responses of the 2016 Presidential candidates to the fourth of the twenty questions posed to them earlier.

I posted the responses to Question #1 at (concerning innovation) at “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 1”.

The responses to Question #2 (concerning research) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 2″.

The responses to Question #3 (concerning climate change) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 3″.

The responses to Question #4 (concerning biodiversity) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 4″.

The responses to Question #5 (concerning the Internet) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 5″.

The responses to Question #6 (concerning mental health) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 6″.

The responses to Question #7 (concerning energy) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 7″.

The responses to Question #8 (concerning science and mathematics education) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 8″.

The responses to Question #9 (concerning public health) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 9″.

I hope that you will take the time to look at these responses and offer your own thoughts.  My own thoughts and analysis are at the end of the post.

  • Water

The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values. If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?

Hillary Clinton (D)

Chronic underinvestment in our nation’s drinking and wastewater systems has sickened and endangered Americans from Flint, Michigan, to Ohio and West Virginia. Outdated and inadequate wastewater systems discharge more than 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage a year, posing health risks to humans and wildlife life, disrupting ecosystems, and disproportionately impacting communities of color. In addition, many struggling communities around the United States have limited or no access to clean, safe water.

We will invest in infrastructure and work with states, municipalities, and the private sector to bring our water systems into the 21st century and provide all Americans access to clean, safe drinking water.

Climate change is also triggering changes in weather patterns, including the increased prevalence of long, hard droughts that pose a dire risk to the health and prosperity of American communities, particularly in the West. The federal government must become a better partner in supporting state and locally-led efforts to improve water security. To that end, we will create a coordinated, multi-agency Western Water Partnership to help fund water efficiency, consideration, and infrastructure modernization projects across the region, including significant new investments in water reuse and reclamation.

We will also work to bring cutting edge efficiency, treatment and reuse solutions to our nation’s water challenges by establishing a new Water Innovation Lab. The Lab will bring urban water managers, farmers and tribes together with engineers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and other stakeholders to develop practical and usable technologies and strategies that can be deployed by local water utilities, agricultural and industrial water users, and environmental restoration projects across the country.

Donald Trump (R)

This may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation. Therefore, we must make the investment in our fresh water infrastructure to ensure access to affordable fresh water solutions for everyone. We must explore all options to include making desalinization more affordable and working to build the distribution infrastructure to bring this scarce resource to where it is needed for our citizens and those who produce the food of the world. This must be a top priority for my administration.

Jill Stein (G)

We need a national comprehensive water plan.

Clean water is a human right. The Green New Deal’s focus on infrastructure will help prevent future poisoned drinking water crises like that in Flint, Michigan.

Rejuvenating the federal Superfund program will help clean up the polluted drinking water of millions of Americans.

My Thoughts

For a topic as important as this one, each of the candidate’s response is remarkably brief.    One of the most important topics for this planet is fresh, drinkable water.  And yet, Trump offers nothing, Stein speaks of rejuvenating the federal Superfund and Clinton suggests two more committees are needed at this time.

Personally, I would like to know who came up with Trump’s answer that making desalinization work.  It is a viable and feasible alternative but it won’t get fresh water to the interior portions of the country.

I don’t think that rejuvenating the Superfund will help with water problems.  My knowledge of this fund was that 1) it deal with landfills, which may or may not have infiltrated water supplies and 2) it didn’t work that great.

Both Stein and Clinton understand the need for new infrastructure but there is nothing innovative in the solution.  You can’t use generalities or superlatives when what is need are new pipes.  And the one thing that we have learned from Flint is that we need new materials to make the pipes out of, not traditional iron pipes.  Many cities are doing this at this time but it will take more than new committees.

Any investment in the infrastructure of this country is going to require funds and the question arises where are we going to get those funds?  There has to resetting of national priorities that says monies for construction and innovation must take precedent over monies for destruction.

Are we real?


An interesting idea has reached the blackboards of scientists that would normally stay on the blackboards of philosophers. Simply put, are we real people in a real universe, or might we just be characters in a large computer simulation? This follows the reasoning presented in a BBC article earlier this month. Well, what if the universe was made small enough relative to its creator to fit into one of the ‘test tubes’ in the lab, or was able to be represented as bits in a massive “universal computer game?” As a scientist, all I am qualified to ask is the following: how can we start a scientific discussion on the topic? Philosopher Nick Bostrom suggests that there are only three possibilities. The first option is that intelligent civilizations will not ever conduct experiments such as constructing our entire universe in a ‘video game.’ This is because before they get sufficiently powerful to do so they are instead destroyed by war, … Continue reading →

Source: Are we real?

2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 9


These are the responses of the 2016 Presidential candidates to the fourth of the twenty questions posed to them earlier.

I posted the responses to Question #1 at (concerning innovation) at “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 1”.

The responses to Question #2 (concerning research) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 2″.

The responses to Question #3 (concerning climate change) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 3″.

The responses to Question #4 (concerning biodiversity) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 4″.

The responses to Question #5 (concerning the Internet) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 5″.

The responses to Question #6 (concerning mental health) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 6″.

The responses to Question #7 (concerning energy) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 7″.

The responses to Question #8 (concerning science and mathematics education) are at  “2016’s Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions – Question 8″.

I hope that you will take the time to look at these responses and offer your own thoughts.  My own thoughts and analysis are at the end of the post.

  • Public Health

Public health efforts like smoking cessation, drunk driving laws, vaccination, and water fluoridation have improved health and productivity and save millions of lives. How would you improve federal research and our public health system to better protect Americans from emerging diseases and other public health threats, such as antibiotic resistant superbugs?

Hillary Clinton (D)

America has witnessed enormous successes with some of its major public health initiatives, such as smoking cessation and water fluoridation. Yet, we have a long way to go to strengthen the public health system to provide adequate protection for our communities. Recent events like lead contamination in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, development of antibiotic resistant microbes, uncontrolled spread of Aedes mosquitos that spread tropical diseases like Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya, the growth of opiate addiction, and the continuing need to address HIV make clear the shortcomings of our public health system and the urgent need for improvements.

But despite these threats, we are not investing in public health preparedness and emergency response the way we should to keep our families and communities safe. A 2015 study found that spending on public health had fallen more than nine percent since 2008. And uncertain long-term budgets leave our public health agencies dependent on emergency appropriations—meaning that when Congress fails to step up, communities are left without the resources they need, vaccines languish in development, and more people get sick.

That is why as President, I will create a Public Health Rapid Response Fund, with consistent, year-to-year budgets, to better enable the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local public health departments, hospital systems, and other federal agencies to quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics. I will also ensure that our government has strong leadership and is organized to better support and work with people on the ground facing public health challenges.

In addition, we need to do more to boost our preparedness for biological threats and bioweapons; to support research for new diagnostic tests, therapeutic treatments, and vaccines for emerging diseases; to build capacity in public health departments; to train the next cadre of public health professionals and ensure that public health and environmental health practices are standard to the educations of medical students; and to provide resources for states and local governments to plan for complex, multi-faceted public health threats, like the impacts of climate change, and build more resilient communities.

Donald Trump (R)

The implication of the question is that one must provide more resources to research and public health enterprises to make sure we stay ahead of potential health risks. In a time of limited resources, one must ensure that the nation is getting the greatest bang for the buck. We cannot simply throw money at these institutions and assume that the nation will be well served. What we ought to focus on is assessing where we need to be as a nation and then applying resources to those areas where we need the most work. Our efforts to support research and public health initiatives will have to be balanced with other demands for scarce resources. Working with Congress—the people’s representatives—my administration will work to establish national priorities and then we will work to make sure that adequate resources are assigned to achieve our goals.

Jill Stein (G)

A “Medicare for All” single payer healthcare system would place health as the bottom line rather than industry profits, which is fundamental for improving public health.

A “Medicare for All” system would:

  • allow health data to be aggregated on a population-wide scale (much of it is currently held in secret as proprietary information by private companies like health insurers) so that trends and outbreaks could be monitored.
  • permit assessment of the health needs of the entire population to be determined so that priorities could be set based on areas of need and funds could be given to institutions that would focus on solutions to priority areas.
  • drive public policy to pursue a greater public health and preventative approach because having a healthier population would save money.
  • cover every person living in the United States and would remove financial barriers to care. This means that people with infectious diseases and other conditions that impact the population would have access to care when they need it.

My Thoughts

Trump’s non-answer answer makes an interesting comment about limited resources.  The implication of what the answer that he provided is that we will continue to spend massive amounts of money in areas such as military and security.  This answer shows that, no matter what rhetoric he offers, he doesn’t care about the people, choosing to say/indicate/imply that we have to get by with less.

Stein’s answer is a little better than Trump’s simply because she recognizes the need for health care in this country.  But it doesn’t address the question.  Perhaps her plan is buried in the details but that is not evident in the answer.

As in previous answers, Clinton provides a very comprehensive answer.  But I wonder the funds will come from and if she is willing to cut the military and security budget to fund her proposals.

Blame the Methodists


Here are some thoughts regarding communion.

A Grace-Filled Life

Here is a bit of trivia for you–Methodist minister Thomas Bramwell Welch developed non-alcoholic grape juice in 1869. You can read all about it in this article from Christianity Today.

As a Lutheran, I do not understand providing grape juice for the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That’s not what our Lord used when He instituted the meal on the Thursday before His death. But Welch was trying to address a problem of his day and inadvertently created other issues at the same time.

In my congregations, those who have had issues with wine have usually found ways to deal with it without the wine not being used for communion. Most times, they were able to receive the wine because they understood that the wine had been brought together with the blood of Christ and the bread joined with the body of Christ to give us a powerful meal for the…

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Patriotic Citizenship at its Best


From a colleague (posted with his permission20884151-road-in-the-beautiful-garden-stock-photo-garden-landscape


Tom Morris (www.TomVMorris.com)

A few years ago, after 9-11, when everyone was debating patriotism and what it is, I wrote a little essay called “The Everyday Patriot: How to be a Great American Now” and privately printed it for friends and clients. One of the main themes was that patriotism isn’t about nationalism or xenophobic jingoism. It’s not an us-versus-them mentality. It’s not essentially a polarized form of thinking and feeling at all. Not at its best. It’s rather a matter of cultivating the garden we’re in, for the greater good of all. And it’s about voting every day—with our time, attention, energy, and thoughtfulness. That allows us to vote better when the ballot box is available.

Citizenship isn’t the remote, airy abstraction that it’s come to be for most of us. It’s an essentially participatory role. We’re not supposed to be on the sidelines, appraising those on the field and either cheering in support or booing. We’re supposed to be on the field of action ourselves, engaged in the big game.

Consider what’s going on in Charlotte right now. Patriots don’t riot against their neighbors. Engaged citizens find a way to make their voices heard without ripping up their own gardens and destroying their own communities. But we’ve forgotten our duties. If we think of government at all, it’s either as a drain on our resources or an institution we can call on for help. But in a democracy, we all are the government at its most fundamental level. That’s the most basic truth of self-government. That’s why I pick up litter when I’m out on a walk. The little things add up. It’s also why I write a representative when I think action needs to be taken. And I don’t do nearly enough. Most of us don’t. We need to cultivate the garden more.

So today, perhaps let yourself dwell on that image. Our garden needs tending. Just remember the old adage: Great gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so. And go vote every day.