Why Do Muscles Hurt One or Two Days After Weightlifting?

An infrequent but very entertaining commenter on this blog, Black Sheep, asked the following question:

In an effort to drop some pounds, I’ve started focusing on building muscle (instead of endurance) and therefore lifting weights. I understand the basic principle of why muscles get sore, but for me, and most people I know, 2 days after the work out seems to be FAR more painful than the day after. As with my other question, why is this, and is there anything I can do to prevent it?

I would like to use this blog post to answer her question.

There are three basic reasons why muscles get sore in response to exercise. First, there is a buildup of acid in muscles when they are forced to burn energy very quickly. The muscle soreness you experience during a workout is usually the result of acid buildup, but it quickly goes away as the acids are flushed out of your muscles.

The second reason is a bit more long-term. Your muscles work by contracting. In order for your muscles to contract, calcium must be imported into the muscle cell. When the muscle relaxes, the calcium leaves the cell. So repeatedly contracting and relaxing your muscles (which is what you do when you exercise) causes calcium to continually enter and leave the cell. This produces a swelling in the muscle tissue, and that causes inflammation. In addition, this constant import and export of calcium serves as a trigger for the cell to break down proteins and rebuild them so that they can do more. This ends up building up the muscle, but at the cost of some pain.

Neither of these effects explains what is happening in Black Sheep’s case, however. Black Sheep is experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and it is the result of a completely different process.

Continue reading “Why Do Muscles Hurt One or Two Days After Weightlifting?”

Good News for the UK

William Lane Craig (click for credit)
William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. He has a formidable intellect, which is best on display during debates. In fact, noted atheist Sam Harris once described Craig as, “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” It’s no wonder that when William Lane Craig announced that he wanted to have a debate during his tour of the UK, most atheists ran for the hills.

Richard Dawkins, for example, was asked to debate Dr. Craig, and he refused. When asked why, his response was:

I have always said when invited to do debates that I will be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop – indeed, I have done both, but that I don’t take on creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters. They’ve got to have to have something more than that. I’m busy.

This answer, of course, shows that his only real reason for not debating Dr. Craig is that he knows he would get destroyed in such a debate.

Continue reading “Good News for the UK”

Christian Educators – Heed This Survey!

I was sent a link to an interesting article written by Ruth Lukabyo of Youthworks College in Sutherland, New South Wales (Australia). In it, she reports on the results of a survey she gave to “scripture kids” in Australia. What are scripture kids, you might ask? They are children who elect to receive religious training as a part of their schooling.

In New South Wales, students in the government school system are allowed to choose whether or not to attend “special religious education” classes during the school day. These classes, commonly referred to as “scripture classes,” are not funded by the government, but they do take place during school time. The children who choose to attend them are commonly called “scripture kids.”

Well, Lukabyo decided to give 208 of these kids a survey. The children were 11-14 years of age, and since they have chosen to attend these classes, you would think that they are at least a bit more favorable to Christianity than the general public. In addition, since they have actually been attending these classes, you would think that they are better educated about Christianity than the general public. Given those two assumptions, the results are rather surprising.

Continue reading “Christian Educators – Heed This Survey!”

Opals Refuse To Obey Scientifically-Irresponsible Theories

Opal found in Nevada (click for credit)
Some geologists are very fond of telling us that certain things take a long, long time to form. They confidently state that there is simply no other way for such structures to come about, and therefore is it simply ridiculous to assume that the earth is only a few thousand years old. If we currently see geological formations that we “know” took hundreds of thousands or millions of years to form, the earth simply can’t be a few thousand years old.

For example, in his book, The World of Opals, Allan W. Eckert says:1

Throughout the study of opals, the scientific papers and textbooks have told that the process of opal formation requires tens of thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands…and some have suggested even millions.

The very presence of opals on earth, then, indicates that the earth is at least tens of thousands if not millions of years old, right?

Wrong! It seems that opals simply won’t behave according to the dictates of scientifically-irresponsible theories.

Continue reading “Opals Refuse To Obey Scientifically-Irresponsible Theories”

Good News in Autism Research

A model of the human brain, highlighting the different lobes. Click for credit.

Autism is a poorly-understood neurological disorder that affects many people throughout the world. Unfortunately, because it is poorly-understood, there is an tendency for people to blame autism on anything they don’t like. For example, there are those who try to claim that vaccines cause autism. When confronted with the overwhelming scientific evidence against such a claim, many of those people simply ignore the data.

For example, not long ago, I did an online debate on whether or not vaccines cause autism. The debate was heavily-publicized by the anti-vaccination group that hosted it, but after the debate, all mention of it was removed from the group’s website. Why? Because I simply presented the data that clearly show there is no way autism could be related to vaccination. The group decided to pull all mention of the debate rather than risk some of their readers learning what the data actually say about vaccines and autism!

Fortunately, most people are more interested in finding the real causes of autism. Thus, they have looked at the data and realize that vaccines simply aren’t a possibility. As a result, they have moved on and are looking at other possible causes. About a year ago, I blogged about a study that tried to pin down the genetic causes of autism. Since autism is a highly heritable disease1, it makes sense that the cause should be genetic. However, rather than implicating just a few genes, the study came to the conclusion that there are a lot of genes involved in autism. That made the results rather disheartening, because it is hard enough to treat a disease that is caused by only one or two genes. How can you possibly treat a disease that is caused by lots and lots of genes?

Well, researchers from UCLA might have found an answer to that question.

Continue reading “Good News in Autism Research”

Our Galaxy Is “Just About Perfect”

A model of what astronomers think the Milky Way galaxy looks like.
(NASA image)
The more we look at our place in the universe, the more we find how special it really is. For example, we are in a solar system that is a part of the spiral galaxy known as the Milky Way. Our place in the Milky Way is quite special, because we are essentially at the corotation distance from the center of the galaxy.1 This means we rotate around the center of the galaxy at the same rate as the spiral arms of stars that make up the galaxy. This produces a very stable environment for our planet, which is necessary in order for it to support life.

There are many, many other things we have learned about our solar system and the earth in particular that make it clear we are on a very special planet that orbits a very special star. If you are interested in learning more about how special our place in the universe is, I strongly recommend the book The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards. It details many discoveries in earth and space science that clearly show how special the earth and its solar system are. If even one of the many, many special factors that make life possible in our little corner of the universe were not present, you wouldn’t be around to be reading this blog post.

Even though we have known for a long time that the earth, the star we orbit, and our placement in the Milky Way galaxy are all quite special, we are just now beginning to find out that even the galaxy itself is special.

Continue reading “Our Galaxy Is “Just About Perfect””

God’s Cleanup Crew Is Tougher Than Expected!

NASA satellite photo of oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico roughly 20 days before the Deepwater Horizon well was capped.
On two previous occasions (here and here) I commented on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In both cases, I noted how God’s natural cleanup crew (made up of bacteria) was busy getting rid of the oil that had been so carelessly dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. The speed and efficiency with which the bacteria were getting rid of the pollution have been breathtaking. Indeed, in the second post linked above, I discussed how scientists thought that methane from the disaster would persist for up to a decade in the Gulf, when in fact, it wasn’t even able to stick around for a year!

While these (and many other) studies showed that bacteria were cleaning up the oil better than anyone expected, there was one nagging worry: what about the oil that was floating on the surface of the Gulf? Most of the studies dealing with bacterial decomposition in the Gulf concentrated on the oil that was deep underwater. The surface of the Gulf of Mexico is a much different environment from the deep waters, and it was feared that bacteria would not be as good at decomposing the oil that was floating on the surface.

Indeed, a 1995 study specifically looked at bacterial activity on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near where the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred. The researchers noted that the mix of chemicals in that region is not ideal for good bacterial activity. They even did experiments where they added excess glucose to the water and watched how the bacteria responded. While bacteria typically love to eat glucose, the researchers saw very little increase in bacterial activity. This led them to conclude that the surface waters were not very suitable for bacterial-led cleanup.1

The scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are, of course, familiar with the results of this study. So they thought that the oil on the surface of the Gulf would not be cleaned up nearly as quickly as the oil that was deep in the Gulf. Fortunately, they were wrong.

Continue reading “God’s Cleanup Crew Is Tougher Than Expected!”

Science Can’t Prove Anything

Sir Karl Popper's foundational work, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, makes it clear that science cannot prove anything (click for credit)
In one of my science textbooks, I make the statement that science cannot prove anything.1 I am always surprised at how controversial such a matter-of-fact statement is to some people. Almost every year, at least one student or parent will contact me simply aghast that I would write something like that in a science textbook. After all, science has proven all sorts of things, hasn’t it?

Of course it hasn’t. In fact, it is impossible for science to prove anything, because science is based on experiments and observations, both of which can be flawed. Often, those flaws don’t become apparent to the scientific community for quite some time. Flawed experiments and observations, of course, lead to flawed conclusions, so even the most secure scientific statements have never been proven. There might be gobs and gobs of evidence for them, but they have not been proven.

Karl Popper probably wrote the most important book related to this concept, which was titled The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Interestingly enough, he originally wrote it in German and then rewrote it in English. As a result, it is one of the few books that is published in two different languages but was never translated. The author wrote both versions. In this book, he argues that science should follow a methodology based on falsification. He shows quite clearly that while science cannot prove anything, it can falsify ideas that are currently thought to be true. He therefore argues that the test of any real scientific theory is whether or not it can be falsified. If not, then it is not truly a scientific theory.

There are a lot of scientists who disagree with Popper that falsification is the key to whether or not a theory is scientific. However, few would argue with his point that science cannot prove anything. Indeed, the journal Science seemed to forget this fact for a moment, but an astute reader chastised the editor, who admitted he was wrong.

Continue reading “Science Can’t Prove Anything”

I Was Wrong

Part of being a scientist is following the data no matter where they lead. Sometimes, that ends up requiring you to admit you have been wrong about something. No matter how painful that admission may be, it is a necessary part of being a good scientist. If the data speak, the scientist must listen. I regret to inform my readers that the data have spoken, and something I have believed in for some time has been demonstrated to be quite wrong. While it might be painful for you to read, believe me, it is more painful for me to write:

Cats are not more elegant than dogs, at least not when it comes to the way they drink!

In case you don’t remember the piece I wrote on this, here is what I said:

I have always been a cat lover. It’s not that I don’t like dogs; I do. In fact, I have one friend who says his dog misses me for a while every time I leave his home. Nevertheless, when it comes to what pets I want to have in my home, cats win over dogs every time. I have always found cats more… well… elegant than dogs. Now, a new study confirms this is true, at least when it comes to how they drink.

In the post, I discussed a study that showed the physical mechanism by which cats drink and compared it to the mechanism by which dogs drink. My conclusion was clear: cats are simply more elegant than dogs in many ways, including the way they drink.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong.

Continue reading “I Was Wrong”

We Have Liftoff!

NASA’s project “Juno” lifted off today at approximately 12:30 PM. It’s destination: the planet Jupiter. I encourage you to watch the two-minute video of the launch below. It still fills me with wonder that we can launch a rocket into space and then plan its flight so it reaches a planet that is hundreds of millions of miles away from earth! This video is especially interesting, because the rocket had a camera facing down, so you not only get to see the surface of the earth as the rocket races away from it, but you also get to see the solid rocket boosters fall off as they run out of fuel.

Even though the rocket launched today, Juno will not reach Jupiter until July of 2016. Why does it take so long to get there? Well, Jupiter can be somewhere between 390,682,810 miles and 576,682,810 miles away from earth, depending on when you check. However, it wouldn’t necessarily take almost five years for the spacecraft to travel that far. It takes that long because Juno will travel a lot farther than that.

Continue reading “We Have Liftoff!”