Lightning: A Natural Nuclear Reactor!

A thunderstorm in Annemasse, Haute-Savoie, France (click for full credit info)

In 1994, a scientific team using the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory reported seeing intense gamma ray flashes coming from the earth. The researchers called it an “unexplained terrestrial phenomenon,” but they noted:

The apparent correlation of the events with storm systems leads us to hypothesize that they are caused by electrical discharges to the stratosphere or ionosphere.

This generated interest among certain research groups, so ground-based observatories, airborne detectors, and other space-based observatories began looking for the same thing. It is now well-known that lightning is accompanied by the production of high-energy gamma rays.

While these gamma rays are of high enough energy to induce nuclear reactions, until now there has been no conclusive evidence that such reactions are actually occurring in connection with lightning storms. However, thanks in part to a Japanese academic crowdfunding site, we now have strong evidence that lightning does, indeed, produce nuclear reactions in the atmosphere!

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More Evidence That Bill Nye Has No Idea What He Is Talking About

Bill Nye, the Anti-Science Guy (click for credit)

Bill Nye calls himself “The Science Guy,” but most of his actions are decidedly anti-science. In 2012, he made a video saying that we should censor a scientific idea because it goes against the scientific consensus. He also narrated a faked experiment, demonstrating his ignorance of the physics related to global warming. He published a book about evolution that was riddled with scientific errors. He tried to discuss human reproduction and once again, ended up showing his ignorance. He also contends that the discipline which gave us science is essentially useless. The fact that he is one of today’s spokepersons for science is a frightening indication of this generation’s scientific illiteracy.

As I was preparing to blog about a completely different subject today, I realized that over the past few days, I have come across two more examples that indicate Bill Nye really has no idea what he is talking about, so I decided to put off the topic I was going to discuss and write about those examples instead. One of them relates to the first anti-science action I mentioned above. Nye made a video telling parents to stop thinking for themselves and encouraging their children to think for themselves. Instead, he told them to simply parrot what the High Priests of Science say when it comes to the origin of life and its diversity. Obviously, that is about as anti-science as one can get. Along the way, he made an incredibly ignorant statement about the debate regarding origins:

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States.

As I pointed out previously, that is utter nonsense. There are creationist movements in many, many countries, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Just a few days ago, however, I blogged about a specific example that comes from Germany. In 2015 Dr. Günter Bechly, a German paleontologist who was the curator of the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, publicly announced that he thinks Intelligent Design is the best explanation for the origin and diversity of life. The Inquisition was mobilized, and he is no longer the curator of the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History. He is now a Senior Fellow at an Intelligent Design Think Tank, and he spoke at an Intelligent Design conference that was held at Cambridge University.

If denial of evolution were unique to the United States (as the anti-science guy says) Dr. Bechly would not have been “converted” from materialist NeoDarwinism to Intelligent Design, and there would not have been an Intelligent Design conference at one of England’s most famous universities.

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Another Atheist Comes to Christ Because of Science

A 2009 display used by paleontologist Dr. Günter Bechly. It was meant to show that the weight of the scientific evidence supports NeoDarwinian Evolution. For Dr. Bechly, it ended up having the opposite effect! (Image taken from the video linked below.)

In 2009, one of the largest German events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, was headed up by Dr. Günter Bechly, a world-renowned paleontologist with an incredibly impressive list of original research published in the peer-reviewed literature. At the time, he was the curator of the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, and he wanted to show, in no uncertain terms, that there is absolutely no scientific dispute about origins. As a result, one of the displays in his museum’s celebratory exhibit (shown above) was a scale with creationist and intelligent design resources on one side and Darwin’s book on the other. Darwin’s single book tipped the scale, indicating that the weight of the scientific evidence was in evolution’s favor.

There was only one small problem. Dr. Bechly had not actually investigated any of the resources that were on the “light” side of the scale. Oh sure, he had read other evolutionists’ views on those resources, but he had not actually investigated them himself. He decided to do so, and he was surprised by what he found. As he explains in the documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines:

…and what I recognized to my surprise is that the arguments I found in those books were totally different from what I heard either from colleagues or when you watch Youtube videos where the discussion is around intelligent design versus NeoDarwinian evolution. And I had the impression on one side that those people are mistreated – their position is misrepresented and on the other hand that these arguments are not really receiving an appropriate response. And they have merit.

He ended up being scientifically convinced that Intelligent Design is the better explanation for the amazing world he had been studying his entire career, and he made that decision public in 2015. Then he faced a firestorm.

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Thankfulness Despite Tragedy

I have written about tragedy and faith in previous posts (see here, here, and here). As Christians, we should understand that the pain we experience as a result of tragedy is temporary in light of eternity. We will eventually be in a place where all tears are wiped away (Revelation 21:4), and that should provide us with some measure of comfort. But there’s a big difference between being comforted and being thankful, isn’t there? Can we really be thankful if we experience a serious tragedy?

Yesterday, I preached at my home church, Wesley Free Methodist. I have preached there a few times before, and you can find three of my sermons and many better ones preached by others on the church’s “Weekly Message” page. This sermon was different, however, because it was not the sermon I wanted to give. It was challenging, and if you listen to it, you will hear my voice crack a few times due to emotion. However, I think the message I am trying to impart is important, so I am sharing it here.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the “play” icon in the bar below, or you can right-click on the link below the bar and choose “Save Link As” to download it to your device. If the message touches you and you think you know of someone else it might touch, feel free to share it.


http://www.drwile.com/11_19_2017.mp3

Please Stop Believing Facebook, Especially When It Comes to Science!

A picture from a high school experiment that has been hyped on Facebook.

As I was scrolling through Facebook, finding my historical twin and learning what my friends are eating, I noticed a post on my wall. It was from someone I know only through Facebook, but I read her work from time to time, because she is a really good writer. Her post contained the picture above and linked to an article entitled, “WiFi Experiment Done By A Group Of 9th Grade Students Got Serious International Attention. THIS Is Why…” She asked if I knew whether or not the results were legitimate.

The experiment went like this: Students took 12 trays of cress seeds and put 6 of them in one room and 6 in another room. The six trays in one room were next to two WiFi routers, while the 6 trays in the other room were nowhere near a router. They tried to keep everything else (temperature, amount of water given, etc.) the same for all 12 trays. The article says:

After 12 days what the result spoke was clear: cress seeds next to the router did not grow, and some of them were even mutated or dead.

Obviously, then, WiFi routers produce something that kills (and apparently mutates) cress seeds.

I told my Facebook friend that the post reminded me of something that was popular a few years ago. It was an experiment where a person watered a plant with regular water and watered another plant with water that had been in a microwave oven. After several days, the one watered with microwaved water died, while the other one flourished. Obviously, then, microwave ovens are bad for you. Of course, the heart of science is being able to replicate experiments, and many people found that they couldn’t replicate the reported results. Indeed, the Mythbusters did an episode showing that microwaved water didn’t harm plants in any noticeable way.

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Homeschooling: It’s Worth the Tears

This is the expression my daughter had pretty much every morning in home school.

There is a new blog that might be of interest to my homeschooling readers. It’s called Homschooling.mom, and as time goes on, it will offer insights from various speakers and authors who are popular in the homeschooling movement.

I wrote two of the articles that open up this blog. The most important one is

Homeschooling: It’s Worth the Tears

It discusses my homeschooling journey with my teenage daughter and what it has meant for both of us now that she is an adult.

The other one discusses some of the research that has been done on homeschool graduates in university. I have discussed the contents of that article in separate blog posts on this site, but the article below compiles the information into one source:

Homeschool Graduates and University

I hope you enjoy the articles. I also hope you remember to go back to homeschooling.mom, because I suspect that it will be very useful to those who are still homeschooling.

What’s the Matter with the Universe?

A portion of the universe as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, using its full range of light sensitivities (ultraviolet to near-infrared).

The MSN headline is attention-grabbing, to say the least:

The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say

One of the things my Ph.D. advisor stressed over and over again is that there are two phrases any good scientist should be very comfortable saying. The first is, “I don’t know.” The second is, “I was wrong.” I have uttered both of those phrases throughout my career, and I am very glad that in this case, the scientists mentioned in the headline are wrong!

So why do these scientists say the universe shouldn’t exist? Well, if you don’t want to believe in a supernatural Creator, you have to figure out where the universe came from. Experiments demonstrate that even empty space contains a certain amount of energy, and our current understanding of quantum mechanics says that it is possible for energy to spontaneously be converted into particles. This is often called a quantum fluctuation, and for those who don’t want to believe in a supernatural Creator, it is a way of explaining how the universe got started. Particles sprung into existence from the energy of empty space, producing the universe we see today.

If this seems strange to you, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. As a nuclear chemist, I am well-versed in quantum theory and have no problem with the concept of particles springing into and out of existence in empty space. Nevertheless, the idea that this process can produce a universe is very strange to me as well, for a host of reasons. The MSN article linked above gives one of the most important: when particles spring into existence from energy, they must always be paired with their antiparticles. In other words, matter can, indeed, arise from the energy of empty space, but an equal amount of antimatter must be formed as well.

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Another Stunning Confirmation of General Relativity

An artist’s conception of a pair of neutron stars producing gravitational waves.

Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity make some really odd predictions. Many people don’t care for those predictions, but as a scientist, I have one simple question: Are the predictions confirmed by the data? If the answer is “yes,” the theories are reasonable. The more often the answer is “yes,” the more scientifically sound the theories become. The answer has been “yes” many, many times for these theories, so regardless of how odd their predictions, I have to accept them as sound scientific theories, until another theory becomes even more successful at making such predictions.

While the special theory of relativity is strange enough, the general theory is even stranger. It predicts the existence of black holes, and those black holes have been indirectly observed. It predicts that time speeds up in low gravitational fields and slows down in high gravitational fields. Not only does the global positioning system verify this every nanosecond of every day, but it has been confirmed in the laboratory as well.

General relativity also predicts the existence of gravity waves. A special facility designed to detect such waves, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), made headlines last year when it finally confirmed their existence. It has since detected more gravitational waves, but with the help of other facilities, it has now done something truly amazing!

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By Teaching, We Learn

A single-celled organism from genus Anisonema, as captured by high school student Brynna Taylor.

I have a small plaque on my wall that reads, “Docendo Discimus.” It is a Latin proverb that means, “By teaching, we learn.” The very first time I helped a friend with her homework, I realized the truth of that proverb, and it is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching so much. I love to learn, and since teaching helps me to learn, I love to teach. Part of the proverb’s truth comes from the fact that as we explain things to others, we think about them in new ways, which often leads to new insights. Over the years, however, I have found other ways that teaching helps us to learn, and I experienced one of them this past weekend.

Because of the Lord’s leading, I decided to offer some online high-school courses this year. It has been a blast teaching students from all over the U.S. as well as a handful of foreign countries. Along with the joy of teaching and getting to know students, however, comes the drudgery of grading. While I love the former, I most certainly do not love the latter. However, on Saturday, I graded lab reports from my various classes.

I started with my high school biology class, which had spent the last week or so culturing pond water and looking at samples of it under the microscope. A lab like that is “hit or miss,” because finding interesting microscopic creatures in pond water depends on a lot of factors. Some students see many organisms, while other students see few or none at all. I was in the “monotony zone,” having gone through several lab reports, when I came across a submission with an excited note attached. The student, Brynna Taylor, was thrilled with what she saw, and she just had to share a few videos with me.

The first of three videos is posted (with her permission) below. She thought the organism she was focusing on was a Euglena, and while I understood her reasoning, I quickly realized she wasn’t correct. Euglena typically have only one flagellum (a tail-like appendage used to move around), and the organism she was focusing on had two. In addition, only one seemed to be used for movement. The other was pushed out in front of the organism, almost like it was using the flagellum to sense what was ahead.

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A Climate Skeptic’s Story

A polar bear on drift ice. (click for credit)

I was recently sent this article, which was written by a student. It’s about how she became a “climate skeptic.” It is definitely worth reading in its entirety, because it demonstrates how critical thinking can overcome indoctrination. In addition, it shows you what this critical thinking can cost, especially at the university level.

Rather than encouraging her to investigate and think for herself, her university “science” classes simply try to indoctrinate her. As she says near the end of the article:

I am disappointed by the quality of the “science” taught at University though — when theory is presented as fact, and computer models are regarded as gospel despite their infamous unreliability, it’s not actual science.

It’s propaganda—dogmatic as any religion.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with her. Even back when I was a university student, I could see examples of my “science” professors pushing propaganda on me. As a university professor, however, I have seen it become worse and worse.

But why did the student first decide to question the propaganda that was being pushed on her in the guise of science? Because of what she was being taught in middle school about global warming drowning polar bears. She was an animal “fanatic,” so she started reading about polar bears to learn more about them. In her reading, she found that they are able to swim 60 miles at a time. She asked her teacher how ice loss could harm polar bears that could swim so far. Her teacher simply told her that polar bears can’t swim that far (even though they routinely do) and then repeated the propaganda.

This caused her to start questioning what her teachers were telling her, and so she started investigating the issue of climate change for herself. As a result, she became a skeptic. Now I am sure that her middle school teacher wouldn’t want to hear this, but I think the teacher did a great service to this one student. Of course, the teacher has probably committed educational malpractice on many more students, but in the case of this one student, by simply denying the science and restating the propaganda, she taught the student to question the pronouncements that come from the high priests of science.

That’s probably the most valuable thing the student learned in middle school!

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