From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Vagina Dialogue

Let's start with a quiz.  Fill in the blank on this anatomical diagram.  For credit, one must use the correct scientific term.

The answer is vagina.  Did you get it correct?

Tim McDaniel, a 10 grade science teacher in Dietrich, Idaho, is facing charges filed by four parents.  Among those charges is that he "used inappropriate language in class."  The language he used was vagina.  

Dietrich, ID
Mr. McDaniel has been teaching this material for 17 years, because the health teacher wasn't comfortable with the subject.  17 years without a complaint.

This section of Idaho is highly religious and predominantly Mormon.  While statewide Idaho's teen pregnancy rate is roughly the same as the nation's rate of 34.3 births per 1000, this region of southern Idaho has a teen birth rate of 60 births per 1000.  Jerome County, just south of Lincoln County where Dietrich is located, has a teen birth rate of 90.

I think there's a bigger problem than a teacher using a scientific term correctly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baby Pictures

A baby picture of the universe!
This is a map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the leftover radiation of the Big Bang, made by the Planck mission of the European Space Agency.    This light was emitted when the universe was 380,000 years old. 

There's a number of AWESOME results here.

1. The colors represent small fluctuations in the temperature of the radiation, about 1 part in 100,000 or 0.001%.  Since the average temperature is a mere 2.73 K (2.73 degrees above absolute zero), the fluctuations are roughly 0.00003 K.  To put this in perspective, imagine setting your oven to 350ºF and it never varies by more than 0.008ºF.

2. This light was created just 80,000 years after the universe was cool enough for neutral hydrogen atoms to form.

I couldn't find any baby pictures,
but here I am when I'm about
10% of my current age.
3. It provides the best estimate for the age of the universe.  13.82 billion years.

4. The universe is 4.9% normal matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons for the most part.) Dark matter makes up 26.8% and dark energy 68.3%.

5. The universe is amazingly uniform, isotropic in the physicist's lingo. But there is a tiny difference in the size of the fluctuations in one half of the sky as compared to the other half.  Intriguing!

6. This picture represents the universe when it was just 0.00002750 of its present age.  Let's compare this to one of my students who say is 20 years old; this student was only 5 hours at 0.00002750 of 20 years.    

2 Peter 3:8 & Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity

On March 26, Steve Hess posted to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official) FaceBook page. I have copied the text verbatim.
I guess me merging einstines equations with the bible isn't science enough for you, what do you honestly know about quantum mechanics and cosmology?  And we are the ignorant ones
Followed by Mr. Hess's derivation of something again copied verbatim.
here is something interesting if you take peter 3:8 which mention's a difference in time and plug it into einestines special theory of relitivity you get this. here i will show you
EDIT: I miscopied one number -  7.5060981.
To save you the trouble of running to a Bible, here is the verse Mr. Hess is referring to.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (NIV)
Mr. Hess is impressed that the Bible seems to predict the speed of light.  However, he lacks understanding of what the time dilation formula is about.

What this equation deals with is the relative motion of two laboratories (okay - inertial reference frames for the physicists).  If lab A is moving by lab B at a constant velocity then when the observer in lab B looks at a clock in lab A, he measures clock A to be running slow.  That is, if clock B ticks off 60 sec, then clock A will tick off a time less than 60 sec.
So if the lord is in lab B watching us whiz by at 99.9999999996% of the speed of light then he would measure 1000 years go by while we age just one day or if we are watching him hurtle through space with that speed, we would measure 1000 years while he(?) experiences just one day.

Lest one worry about the word theory which has a different meaning to scientists than to the nonspecialist, this is a well documented effect.  One well known experiment* was performed by David H. Fritsch and James H Smith. Smith, by the way, was the professor who taught me special relativity at the University of Illinois. They measured that muons, a component of cosmic rays, survive 8.8 times longer as they pass through the Earth's atmosphere than they do at rest in a physics lab.  The factor 8.8 corresponds to the time dilation factor these muons have by moving at a speed  99.5% of the speed of light.

*David H. Fritsch and James H. Smith, "Measurement of the Relativistic Time Dilation Using μ-Mesons," Am. J. of Phys., 31, 342-355 (1963).

Here's the original image posted by Mr. Hess.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick Was an Engineer?

If you believe the engineering students at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, St. Patrick did more than drive the snakes from Eire. From the MU Archives:
The students of the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia were the first to "discover" that St. Patrick was an engineer. Since 1903, UMC engineering students have celebrated St. Patrick's Day (March 17) as a holiday set aside for engineers. This celebration has developed into a week of festivities, including lab exhibits, a canned food drive, a knighting ceremony, St. Pat.'s Ball, and the coronation of the King and Queen of the engineers.
According to engineering tradition, the discovery that St. Patrick was an engineer began with the excavations for the Engineering Annex Building. During the excavation, a stone was unearthed with a message in an ancient language. This message was translated into "Erin Go Bragh." Although those of Irish descent may recognize "Erin Go Bragh" as "Ireland Forever," the engineers loosely translated this phrase as, "St. Patrick was an engineer." The stone, now known as the Blarney Stone, is an integral part of the St. Pat. festivities. The engineers looked to the legend that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland as proof of his engineering skills. They further credit St. Patrick with the invention of calculus. 
For more on Engineering Week at Mizzou, follow this link.