What are the differences between my old chemistry course and my new chemistry course?

The cover of my new chemistry course.
The cover of my new chemistry course.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I recently wrote a new chemistry course. The publisher of my old chemistry course came out with a new edition, and they did not consult me. This happened with another course, and the result was excellent. However, the new edition of the chemistry course was riddled with errors. Many of the errors weren’t just typos or minor mistakes in the solutions to the problems. They were serious scientific errors that would put students at a disadvantage in their future studies. I asked the publisher to make my old chemistry course available for those who wanted to avoid such errors, but it refused. As a result, I wrote a new chemistry course, Discovering Design with Chemistry.

I was recently asked on Facebook about the differences between my old chemistry course and my new one. While I have touched on that issue in a couple of other posts, I thought I would provide a thorough answer to that question here.

Continue reading “What are the differences between my old chemistry course and my new chemistry course?”

Another Bad Sermon Illustration

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)
An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

I posted my previous blog article on my Facebook page, and someone asked about another sermon illustration that involves eagles. A typical version of that illustration is:

To convince the little eagles that the time has come to leave the nest, the parent eagles “stir up the nest.” That is, they rough it up with their talons, and make it uncomfortable, so that sticks and sharp ends and pointy spurs stick out of the nest, so that it is no longer soft and secure, ruining their “comfort zone.” The nest is made very inhospitable, as the eagles tear up the “bedding,” and break up the twigs until jagged ends of wood stick out all over like a pin cushion. Life for the young eaglets becomes miserable and unhappy. Why would Mom and Pop do such a thing?

But to make matters worse, then the mother eagle begins to “flutter her wings” at the youngsters, beating on them, harassing them, and driving them to the edge of the nest. Cowing before such an attack, the little eagles climb up on the edge of the nest. At this point, the mother eagle “spreads her wings” and, to escape her winged fury, the little eagle climbs onto her back, and hangs on for dear life. As if that were not enough, then the mother eagle launches out into space, and begins to fly, carrying the eagle on her back. All seems safe and serene, the little eagle never expected such a thrilling ride — but that was nothing to what was to come shortly. For suddenly, without any warning, the mother eagle DIVES, plummeting downward, depriving the little eagle of its “seat,” and the next thing it knows, it is in free fall, falling, and tumbling down, down, down, in the air, its wings struggling to catch hold of the air currents, but flopping crazily due to its inexperience. For it must learn to flow, and there is nothing like “experience” to teach an eagle to fly! Instinct alone is not enough!

Just at it thinks all is hopeless and lost, however, the mother eagle swoops down below and catches it once again on its back, and soars back into the atmosphere. Much relieved, the young eagle hangs on for dear life. But just when he thinks everything is “OK” once again, the mother pulls another sneaky trick, and dumps him into the air, alone, again! Once again, the little eagle struggles, this time his wings begin to work a little better, and instead of tumbling like a rock pulled by gravity to certain destruction below, he manages to slow his descent, and is able to stay aloft a little longer, as his wings begin to strengthen. Again, if necessary, the mother eagle rescues him from death, and soars back into the heavens. But just as he thinks everything is finally “hunky dory,” she does it again! And down he goes! Finally, he learns how to catch the air currents and ride the winds, and begins to soar “like an eagle” — and now experiences the thrill of total “freedom” and “liberty”! Now he is no longer confined to the parameters of the nest. Now he is free to soar in the sky, and to be a true “eagle.”

Like the previous one I wrote about, there is nothing true in this illustration.

Continue reading “Another Bad Sermon Illustration”

A Bad Sermon Illustration

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)
An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

A student who has used some of my science courses contacted me asking if something he heard in a sermon was actually true. He said that it sounded kind of hard to believe, based on what he knew about science. The student’s question made me happy for two reasons. First, it showed that he was diligent in trying to learn the truth. Second, it showed that he was able to take what he had learned from my science courses and use it to do some critical thinking.

Here is one version of the story he heard:

The eagle has the longest life-span among birds. It can live up to 70 years, but to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40’s, its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain-top and sit on its nest. There, the eagle knocks its’ [sic] beak upon a rock until it plucks it out. After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. After five months, the eagle takes it famous flight of re-birth and lives for 30 more years!

The idea, of course, is that change is hard, but if you make the change, great things can happen. While this is an inspiring tale, almost nothing in it is true. Let’s just start from the beginning and work through the story, comparing what the story claims to what we know about eagles.

Continue reading “A Bad Sermon Illustration”

Did We Really Save the Ozone Layer?

Ozone hole size and worldwide use of ozone depleting substances (click for credit)
Ozone hole size and worldwide use of ozone depleting substances (click for credit)

A reader sent me this article and asked for my thoughts on it. It discusses the fact that the ozone “hole” over Antarctica grew 22% from 2014 to 2015. It presents the graph shown above, which demonstrates that despite the fact that the worldwide use of chemicals known to destroy ozone has dropped to nearly zero, the size of the ozone hole has not really decreased. It points out two studies that claim the ozone hole will shrink in size by either 2020 or 2040, and it concludes with this sentence:

But the longer the hole persists, the greater the likelihood that the ozone layer is dominated by natural factors, not human CFC emissions.

So what’s the story? By banning the use of CFCs, which we know can destroy ozone in the ozone layer, did we really fix the ozone “hole” problem? Or did we, as this story seems to imply, try to fix something that is probably the result of earth’s natural variability?

The first thing you need to know is that the ozone “hole” isn’t really a hole. It is a reduction in the amount of ozone that exists within the ozone layer, a portion of earth’s atmosphere that is roughly 15-35 kilometers above the surface of the earth. While all portions of the atmosphere have some ozone in them, this portion has the highest levels. Ozone’s molecular structure allows it to absorb some of the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. That’s good for us, because ultraviolet light is energetic enough to kill living tissue. You can therefore think of the ozone layer as a “shield” that protects us from most of the sun’s ultraviolet light.

The amount of ozone in the ozone layer is measured using Dobson Units (DU). The larger the number of Dobson Units, the more ozone there is in the ozone layer. Globally, the average amount of ozone in the ozone layer is about 300 DU, but in Antarctica, that number fluctuates significantly with the seasons. While there are times the amount of ozone in the ozone layer above Antarctica is 300 DU and higher, there are also times it is significantly lower. The lowest recorded level of ozone in the ozone layer above Antarctica was in September of 1994, when there were only 74 DU of ozone. That reduction of ozone is what scientists refer to as the ozone “hole.”

Continue reading “Did We Really Save the Ozone Layer?”

I’m Back!

You might have noticed a deafening silence coming from this obscure stop on the Information Superhighway. It has been more than a month since my previous blog post, which is nearly unheard of for me. I might go a week to two without blogging, but rarely a month! In fact, one of my readers was concerned enough to text me and ask if everything was okay. Yes, everything is fine. I was really, really busy last month finishing up my new book Discovering Design with Chemistry. Things are still on track for it to be released on August 17th, so that’s good. After I got done submitting the final pages of my book to the publisher, my wife and I then left the country for two weeks to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, which was actually last year. We had a wonderful time and just got back into the country.

With all that said, I thought I would break the silence with something a bit different – a question to my readers. Since many of you are interested in science, I wonder if you remember back in March of 2014 when it was announced that evidence for inflation, a a necessary fudge factor in the Big Bang Model, had been discovered. Researchers on the BICEP2 experiment supposedly found a polarization pattern in the cosmic microwave background that should have happened as a result of the inflationary process. It was greeted with great media fanfare. For example, Scientific American (which should be more scientific) had an article entitled, “Gravitational Waves from Big Bang Detected.” In it, the author said:

Physicists have found a long-predicted twist in light from the big bang that represents the first image of ripples in the universe called gravitational waves, researchers announced today. The finding is direct proof of the theory of inflation, the idea that the universe expanded extremely quickly in the first fraction of a nanosecond after it was born.

So, according to Scientific American, the BICEP2 experiment proved inflation! Space.com said the data were the “Smoking Gun” of inflation, and the New York Times agreed.

Of course, there were other news outlets that were more responsible, including the fact that the results were tentative and not yet peer reviewed. Nevertheless, the overall coverage made it seem like the research team had confirmed that cosmic inflation really occurred.

Continue reading “I’m Back!”

The 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference

A portion of the crowd at the 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference.
A portion of the crowd at the 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference.

I spent this past weekend speaking at the Homeschool Iowa Conference. I had never been to this particular homeschool conference before, and I am so glad I got to go this year. The attendance was excellent, the conference ran smoothly, and the organizers treated the speakers incredibly well. My publisher’s booth was right across from Heidi St. John’s booth, and for the first time in quite a while, I got to spend some time talking with her and her husband, who has the world’s best first name (Jay). They are both wonderful servants of God, and spending time with them is a real blessing.

I gave six talks at the conference: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ Science at Home, Building a Biblical Worldview, Ecohysteria, Creation Versus Evolution, and What I Learned by Homeschooling. They were very well attended, and I got some excellent questions afterwards. I also spent a lot of time taking with individuals, including several very impressive homeschooled students.

One particularly impressive student was a junior in high school. After one of my talks, she asked me to sign a couple of her books. I noticed that one of them was my advanced chemistry course, which is essentially AP-level chemistry. I told her that I was impressed she was taking advanced chemistry, and she told me that she had already taken my biology, chemistry, and physics courses as well as a Human Anatomy and Physiology course. Once she finished advanced chemistry, she planned to take advanced physics. This means that by the time she graduates, she will have covered the equivalent of three AP-level science courses in high school! I told her how impressive that is, since many high school students don’t even take one AP-level science course. She was quite humble, however, brushing aside my praise and simply telling me that she really enjoys studying science.

Another student and his family spoke to me about their experience with the third edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry. As you might know, I don’t recommend that edition to anyone because of its many scientific errors and its habit of requiring students to know things they have not yet been taught. The student told me that he had started with the third edition of the the course, not knowing that I wasn’t the author. As he tried to cover the material, he got more and more confused. Eventually, he realized that my name wasn’t on the book, so he got online and found a used second edition of the course (which was authored by me). When he used that edition, he understood and enjoyed the material. I told him I was very sorry that he had to do that and, unfortunately, there are probably many students who have found themselves in a similar position.

Continue reading “The 2015 Homeschool Iowa Conference”

The 2015 Michigan Home Education Conference And The Success of Homeschooled Students

This is the Lansing Center, where the conference was held.
This is the Lansing Center, where the conference was held.

This past weekend, I spoke at the Michigan Home Education Conference. It might have been the very first time I have spoken at this convention, even though it has been going on for quite a while. It was held in the beautiful Lansing Center (pictured above), and the weather was quite nice, so I got an opportunity to enjoy the conference center’s riverfront setting. When I wasn’t outside enjoying the view or talking with people at my publisher‘s booth, I was giving talks. I gave a total of six talks at the convention: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ High School at Home, Teaching Science at Home, Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, How to be a REAL Environmentalist, and Why Homeschool Through High School.

The conference was well attended and ran quite smoothly. One interesting thing this conference does is offer a free session on Thursday night. It is designed for those who are thinking about homeschooling their children, but in the end, anyone is welcome. The first speaker of that session was Carol Barnier, and she was a delight to hear. She spoke about the basics of homeschooling, and she had one of the best phrases I have heard regarding the homeschool model:

Homeschooling is incredibly efficient and forgiving.

It is efficient because the education is tailor-made for the child. As a result, the child can learn a lot more in a set amount of time than one who must sit in a classroom that attempts to meet the needs of all the students there. It is forgiving because it is so efficient. It might take you several years to find the ideal educational approach for each of your children. However, once you find what works, each child learns so efficiently that it doesn’t matter if you wasted a few years. In the end, the child will “catch up” and eventually surpass what he or she would have accomplished in a classroom setting.

I wholeheartedly agree with Carol. Homeschooling is incredibly efficient and forgiving, which is why homeschooled students are so outstanding, especially those who were homeschooled K-12.

Continue reading “The 2015 Michigan Home Education Conference And The Success of Homeschooled Students”

The Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention

The convention was held on the lovely campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada. (click for credit)
The convention was held on the lovely campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada. (click for credit)

On Friday and Saturday last week, I spoke at the Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention in Ontario, Canada. It has been 10 years or more since I last spoke there, so it was nice to be back. The convention was held on the campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, where the admissions director is a home educator. Like many universities, Redeemer has learned that homeschool graduates make above-average university students (see here, here, here, here, and here), so they actively encourage homeschool graduates to apply. They are also happy to support homeschooling in Canada.

The convention was very well attended, and based on a show of hands at my keynote session, about 20% of the attendees had never been to a homeschool convention before. As I spoke with individual attendees, it became clear that several of the people at the convention were considering home education for the first time. When I mentioned this to one of the conference organizers, he indicated that the new premier of Ontario is introducing a radical sex education program, and it is causing many in Ontario to look for a way out of the government school system. Based on what I read about the new program, I truly hope lots of parents remove their children from such a horrible situation!

I gave a total of six talks at the convention: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, What About K-6 Science?, Why Homeschool Through High School, ‘Teaching’ High School at Home , and How are Homeschool Graduates Doing? When I give talks in a different country, I always try to make them relevant for that country, so most of the statistics I shared came from Canadian education studies, and most of the experts I quoted in my talks were Canadian. The conference organizers really appreciated that. I guess some U.S. speakers come to Canada and just assume that all of their U.S.-based talks are relevant to Canadians, and some of them just aren’t.

One thing I have to note is that this convention really knew how to make an out-of-the-country speaker feel right at home. They arranged for me to have a home-cooked dinner the night that I arrived, and it was great! The couple who hosted me had three charming children, two of whom colored pictures for me. Those pictures are now on my bulletin board in my office. Then, each morning, another couple cooked breakfast for me. The other meals were catered by Redeemer University College. Everyone made sure I had everything I needed to be as comfortable as possible. I don’t get pampered like that very often, and it was really nice!

Continue reading “The Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention”

The 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention

An overhead view of half the vendor hall at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention
An overhead view of half the vendor hall at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention

This past weekend, I spoke at the 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention. I gave a total of six talks. Four of them were solo talks: Creation versus Evolution: Religion versus Science or Religion versus Religion?, What I Learned by Homechooling, Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity, and College and Faith: What’s The Real Story? I also gave two talks with Diana Waring: Homeschooling: Things We Wish We Had Known and Dealing with Pressure: The Benefits of Slowing Down. The conference was very well attended and ran quite smoothly.

I did learn one sad thing, however. Diana Waring announced that she is retiring from the homeschooling conference circuit. She will still be writing, but she will not be speaking at homeschool conventions on a regular basis anymore. The homeschooling community will be missing out on some real blessings as a result. If homeschoolers want to continue to benefit from her wisdom, they should follow her blog.

I didn’t have the chance to speak to as many people as I usually do at such conventions, because I am currently performing in a musical called The Fantasticks. As a result, I had to drive a bit more than two hours from Anderson, Indiana to Cincinnati, Ohio every morning to speak at the convention, and then I had to leave the convention early so I could drive back to Anderson, Indiana to perform in the play. Normally, I wouldn’t consider doing such a crazy thing, but this is my all-time favorite play. I have performed the roles of El Gallo (my all-time favorite role) and Henry (a washed-up actor), and in this version of the play, I got a chance to perform a different role, Amos Babcock Bellomy (a nerdy father). The role was played by Joel Grey in the movie, and I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Here is a picture of me during one of the performances (I am the one in the bow tie):

fantasticks

Continue reading “The 2015 Midwest Homeschool Convention”

A Few Questions and Answers

questions

About two weeks ago, I spoke at the Greater St.Louis Area Home Educators Expo. It was an excellent convention. One of the sessions I did was entitled “Q & A With Dr. Wile.” It was a forum where students and parents could ask me questions about pretty much anything. Well, the convention wanted to make sure they had plenty of questions in case there weren’t many from the audience, so they solicited questions on their Facebook page and in one of their popular homeschool co-ops. Since there were plenty of questions from the audience, I didn’t get a chance to answer many of the ones that came in before the convention, so I wanted to answer a few of them now. Here they are, in no particular order:

What is your favorite play or part you have done?

My favorite play is The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. It’s a wonderful “boy meets girl” story with a couple of really good twists. It is the world’s longest-running musical, with the original production running off-Broadway for a total of 42 years. I have had the honor of playing two parts in the show: El Gallo (the narrator) and Henry (an old actor). El Gallo is also my favorite part.

I am actually currently in rehearsals for another production of The Fantasticks! This time, I play one of the nerdy fathers, which is a perfect fit for me. Here is a picture of me, my (fictional) daughter, the other father, and his (fictional) son at one of the rehearsals. We aren’t in costume, but I am wearing the hat I will wear in performances:

fatasticks

Do you perform Drama in a ministry setting, or just community theater?

I do both. In fact, I have a section here on my blog that contains original scripts I have written for my church’s drama ministry.

What is your favorite song to play on piano?

Back when I had time to really play the piano, it was the first movement of Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique.” However, that’s beyond my ability at this point in my life. My favorite piece now is an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” by Cindy Berry. It starts off as Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood,” moves into “Amazing Grace,” and then moves back into “Morning Mood.” It is stunningly beautiful, and I love it because “Amazing Grace” is my favorite hymn. I actually wrote a play about it a few years ago.

Continue reading “A Few Questions and Answers”