The Vault

The Universe in a Teaspoon

There are 1.648×10^23 molecules in 1 tsp (4.929 ml) of water. There are three atoms in a single molecule of water, meaning there are a staggering 4.943×10^23 atoms within a single teaspoon of water.

This means there are more atoms held in that teaspoon than there are stars in the universe (3×10^23 stars, according to research published in 2010 by Pieter G. van Dokkum and Charlie Conroy).

The volume of the Pacific Ocean, according to the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center in 2010, is 1.339×10^23 tsp, which is significantly less than the number of atoms in a single teaspoon of water.

I’m amazed that within something as seemingly insignificant as a teaspoon of water, there might as well be an infinity of atoms. Those atoms can themselves be broken down into subatomic particles which can be broken down still into tinier objects still, such as gluons.

The mind boggles.

The Vault

Jet Fuel Can Catastrophically Weaken Steel Beams

I hope your experience is different, but in my circle of experience, there are still people who well and truly believe that something incredibly conspiratorial occurred on September 11, 2001 — that the impact of two aircrafts could not have caused the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

It doesn’t matter how often the conspiracy theories are debunked, people still believe it.

This may frustrate those of us with a more rational approach to the situation, but it certainly should not surprise us. 

The Vault

Every Viewer an Editor

In the future, realtime graphical rendering will be advanced to the point that no movie will need to be produced using live action. Any plot, actor, animal, location, or prop will be rendered at will according to the preferences of the end user. Don’t like Matt Damon in a movie but do like Ben Affleck? Download the Affleck package (combining animations, skins, and voice patterns), insert into the movie, and there you go. Fancy changing the macguffin from a cosmic cube to a rubber ducky? Swap the prop preference, and wham-o! 

The Vault

Periodic Parties

Idea for celebrating the birthdays of science lovers: For every birthday, celebrate in a manner which coincides with the matching element on the periodic table. Turning 10? Break out the neon and party like it’s the 80s/90s. Seventeen coincides with chlorine, so hit the pool! At 28, ritually burn in effigy any Nickelback merchandise you can lay hands on. Thirty-six, naturally, requires a Superman themed party. In a few weeks, I’m turning thirty-three; arsenic coincides with that, so I’m either to poison my enemies (gonna have to find some enemies first, I suppose) or relax with a salad and some apple juice (both natural sources of arsenic) while watching Arsenic and Old Lace. We’ll see.

The Vault

The Shadow of Death

Spring 1990. I was turning seven years old, and I was opening presents at Dad’s house where only a few months earlier I had wished on a turkey wishbone for a Nintendo system.

My wish came true, and Mom let me set the new game system up on the extra television in her room. I became a video gamer. Well, at least in the sense that I was holding a controller and interacting with the system.

I loved The Legend of Zelda — the original one — but looking back, a rather curious thing happened: I didn’t play that game to win, but to think. I wouldn’t have known what I was doing then, but I meditated over that game.

About death.

The Vault

There and Back Again

Five thousand four hundred twenty-seven days ago, I visited Garrison Creek Baptist Church after having been invited by an online friend, something which was altogether new for me, considering this was 2001 and meeting folks in real life who were first met online carried with it a fairly significant stigma of danger.

The acceptance of that invitation changed my life substantially in that within the span of just a few months, I became increasingly enamored with the church experience and the religion of Christianity. 

The Vault

The Ascent Begins…

I suck at blogging. No, really. I do. For nearly a decade (holy crap, seriously?) now, I’ve attempted to push my thoughts out into the world — longer if my pre–WordPress blogging days are taken into account.

In that time, I wrote a lot about my faith in Jesus Christ and about my understanding of the Bible, sometimes loudly, often without a clue about which I was talking.

Without focus, I published movie reviews, anti-science rants, conservative political rants, contextless journal entries, and so much more, little of which contributed to an overall narrative or theme — as if there was an actual ultimate goal to my blogging besides pretending that what I had to say on any and all topics mattered and thus should be said. 

The Vault

Gluten: The Facts and The Fad

I never quite understood what gluten was til my wife came into my life — she has celiac disease, which hasn’t resulted in huge changes in my life, but now unless I’m buying just for myself, I try to be a bit more aware of the breads and grains that I buy: No more whole wheat purchases for family consumption! Not a big deal, by any means, and it keeps my wife’s insides from tormenting her.

The Vault

Contribute to the Frontiers of Science with Nothing but Your Smartphone

Just over a decade ago, I had finished a months long DIY project: I had built, from parts old & new, a pretty powerful (for its time) desktop computer. Doing so was, of course, a pretty remarkable feeling in and of itself, but then having a beast of a computer let me do something even cooler: I loaded it up with a couple distributed computing programs and donated my idle computer power to protein folding research, the search for extraterrestrial life, or various other projects.

I loved the feeling of being able to contribute in a direct way to the scientific bettering of humankind, but when I transitioned entirely to a MacBook laptop, I abandoned the distributed computing scene; don’t get me wrong, I did try it, but it made my laptop run incredibly hot regardless of how I set the throttling on the research. Rather than shorten the life of my computer, I cut the distributing computing projects from my life. That was about half a decade ago, thereabouts.

Flash forward a few years, and I now have a smartphone — a powerful device that, particularly when it’s charging, sits idle, doing little more than awaiting the next push notification. The idea that my phone could be crunching numbers for SETI or some other research group has crossed my mind numerous times since first getting my phone, but searches of the App Store have never turned anything of that nature up.

That was frustrating because smartphones are incredibly versatile in just what they can process or detect. I remember when I first heard about phones containing barometric pressure sensors — useful for fitness apps to detect whether you’re going up and down stairs, for instance, by detecting variations in atmospheric pressure) — thinking that a clever climatology group could take advantage of the distributed weather stations that smartphones represent, data mining atmospheric information on an extremely local scale. Of course, a phone would probably have to know whether it was indoors and outdoors to provide good data, but crowdsourcing the weather isn’t that farfetched of an idea.

As it turns out, thinking about the weather was thinking too small.

The Vault

The Hastening Sun — Ecclesiastes 1:5

It’s hardly any secret that the Bible speaks of a flat Earth. [ref]…unless of course you have a bias which requires the Bible to speak of a spherical Earth.[/ref] It was written, after all, when cosmology was a colorful array of imaginative ideas from all over the world — Atlas carrying the Earth, the sun being charioted across the heavens by a god, stars being placed there to honor those who died in gods’ good graces, and so on.

Richard Gunther has said, “Modern science has confirmed that the air around the planet turns in huge circles, clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other.” I honestly don’t know if this was said in reference to Ecclesiastes 1:6, but that quote appears as a footnote on that verse in The Evidence Bible, an apologetics study Bible compiled by apologist Ray Comfort.

What struck me about that footnote, though, is that it was the only one on the page. Far more interesting was the verse which was apparently glossed over.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.

Ecclesiastes 1:5, ESV

Let me preface all of this by saying that yes, I understand that the Book of Ecclesiastes is very poetic, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should be taken literally. I’m speaking about 1:5, then, only because apologists love to mention 1:6 — same poetry, same context. [ref]In addition to the aforementioned study Bible, and Eternal Productions are examples of 1:5 being taken literally.[/ref]

The Preacher, as the author of Ecclesiastes calls himself, describes the sun rising and setting, language which makes sense in a society which believed the earth was stationary and that everything — the sun, moon, and stars — all circled around it.

Rising and setting. We still use those figures of speech even today — each of us has ready access to sunrise and sunset times from any number of weather sites or apps. So maybe the Preacher was simply using figures of speech as well? Entirely possible — but contextually that would mean the next verse was being figurative as well, which throws a wrench into what apologists say about it. What about the second half of our verse, though?

“… and hastens to the place where it rises.”

Here, the Preacher is describing a sun which goes down on one side of the land, hastens underneath it, and rises again on the other side. Why would the Preacher use this imagery? It’s as if the other side of the earth didn’t matter, that it was merely the foundations of the earth and not another hemisphere full of other people with their own myths and legends.

The Preacher doesn’t say that it is as if the sun hastens, but that it hastens — of its own volition, no less.

So if Ecclesiastes 1:6 is evidence that a biblical author had prescience of scientific principles discovered centuries later, then Ecclesiastes 1:5 must be taken as evidence that even though an ancient writer may have noticed that the winds seem to blow in predictable patterns, the same writer still viewed the earth as a flat plane.

The Cerulean Standard