Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My eclipse experience



I'm sure you've seen more eclipse reactions than you can shake a stick at.  And here's my little video from our eclipse party with the students and families of Rhea County Academy.  I don't have any grand words of wisdom.  It's just an amazing experience.  Truly one of the greatest shows in all of God's creation.  See it if you can.  It's more than worth it.  The next total solar eclipses will be in South America, but the US will get another eclipse in 2024.  Totality will last about twice as long, and the path of totality will run from Texas to Maine.  See it if you can.  It's astonishing.

(And for the record, before I get corrected: I got so excited when totality hit that I conflated "chromosphere" and "corona."  What you see during totality is the corona.)

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Just enjoy the eclipse!

Pixabay

OK, I'm going to try to be nice, but I've been reading some unbelievably stupid things on social media lately, so I'll do my best.  Apologies ahead of time if you've fallen for some of these absurdities.  If you actually believe some of these whoppers, please don't.  Stop twisting reasonable cautions into irrational fearmongering.

1.  You do not need to stockpile groceries, gas, prescriptions, etc.  It's not the end of the world.  The total eclipse lasts two measly minutes.  This is no time to panic, riot, or loot your neighborhood store.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

2.  Unless you get a large portion of power from the sun (California), you are unlikely to experience a power outage.  I saw a hysterical facebook post that said the power stations are unprepared for the sudden demand for power during the eclipse.  The total eclipse lasts two measly minutes.  There's no way that's going to cause such a spike in demand that your power goes out.  The power doesn't go out at night, does it?  Same deal.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

3.  You do not have to protect your pets because they'll stare at the eclipse and go blind.  Just... no.  Animals know enough not to stare at the sun.  They don't stare at the sun on a normal day, do they?  They don't stare at the sun when it's cloudy, do they?  No.  Your dog isn't going to go blind if you let him out during the eclipse.  He might be disoriented by the darkness, but that's it.  Get over it.  Stop scaring people.

4.  There is absolutely nothing special about the solar radiation during an eclipse.  Nothing.  Do you stare at the sun on a normal day?  No?  Can't do it because the sun's too bright?  That's the same deal during an eclipse.  The warnings are for you to take sensible precautions and not try to "tough it out" and stare at the sun while the moon only partially obscures it.  The warnings are not supposed to inspire some irrational fear so that you skip the eclipse.  If you're in the path of totality (or even near the path) and you're able to get out, you need to experience this thing for yourself.  It's one of creation's grandest shows.  It's a gift from God.  Enjoy it!  Stop scaring people.

Sensible advice: If you want to look at the moon partially eclipsing the sun (for the 90 minutes before and after totality), use eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer.  Traffic may indeed be a bit crazy Monday, but probably no worse than a well-attended football game.  Drive safely, leave extra time to get where you're going, and you should be fine.  You can look directly at the eclipsed sun only when totality begins if you are in the path of totality.  The corona of the sun should be faintly visible around the darkened disk of the eclipsed sun.  That should be a spectacular view, and it's not dangerous.  When you take off your glasses during totality, be careful to watch the clock, so you can put your glasses back on when the sun reappears.  Please don't waste all your time during this amazing experience trying to take pictures.  Snap a few shots, then enjoy the show.  Watch the world around you.  Feel the temperature drop.  The temperature will also cause a small breeze as the cool air under the moon's shadow falls and moves away from the shadow's center (No, it isn't dangerous.  It's just a breeze.  Stop scaring people.)

Here's some advice on glasses for kids and pinhole viewers from my old pal Dr. McGarvey and his colleague Dr. White:



Remember: If you skip this just because you're scared, you can't just change your mind when you see that there was nothing to be scared of.  Totality only lasts for two minutes.  The next two total solar eclipses go across South America in 2019 and 2020.  After that, you have to wait till 2023 across southeast Asia and 2024 before an eclipse comes back to North America.  In 2026, you could go to the arctic to see one.  So this isn't like any other event that rolls around regularly.  You may never have another opportunity in your lifetime to see this right outside your door.  Get ready, take sensible precautions, and enjoy!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Praise God for the eclipse!

Photo: Pixabay

Thirty years ago, I was a teenager, and I didn't know half as much as I thought I did. Or at the very least, I hadn't yet figured out how much I didn't know (which as it turns out is nearly the sum total of all possible knowledge).  The year was 1987, and a little booklet was circulating at my Christian school: "88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988."  I am very glad to say that most of my teachers and pastors were not fooled.

I remember this incident quite well, because it was the first time that I can recall thinking critically about something that was presented as a "Bible teaching."  Looking back at how dumb I was, I find it remarkable that I had such cogent thoughts at that age.  What bothered me about "88 Reasons" was the clear statements of Jesus.  No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus' coming, not even Jesus Himself!  Only God the Father knows the day of judgment.  When Jesus left this earth, He told us that it was not for us to know when the day of judgment would come.  When I heard about the "88 Reasons," I knew immediately that no amount of reasons would be enough to overturn the clear teachings of Jesus Himself.  No one knows the day of judgment, and we shouldn't be worried about precisely when it will happen.  We just need to be ready.

I've been thinking of this today as I prepare for the Great American Eclipse one week from today.  I'm excited about this eclipse.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime event.  A complete solar eclipse will go right over my house!  I just have to step outside to see it!  Our local Christian school is having a big event in the afternoon.  I personally bought eclipse glasses for all the students and staff, and we've got a sponsor who is donating Moon Pies for everyone!

And then Anne Graham Lotz rained on my parade.  In a blog post of her website, Lotz claimed that the eclipse is a portent of judgment on the United States and that those who celebrate the eclipse are like drunken Belshazzar on the eve of his own destruction.

Well, thanks.  How nice.

Now, I know Billy Graham's family is as close as American evangelicals will get to beatifying saints, and I'm not happy about publicly disagreeing with her, but...

Come on.  People have been prognosticating imminent divine judgment for almost 2,000 years now.  When I was a kid it was "88 Reasons."  Then it was Y2K.  Remember Harold Camping?  He made a prediction that it would happen in 1994, and inexplicably gained a huge amount of attention again in 2011 with the same false prophecy.

Yes, I said false prophecy.  Jesus' words still apply.  No one knows the day or the hour, not even Jesus.  It will happen like a thief in the night.  No one will expect it.  It is not for us to know when judgment will come.  Those who claim to have special knowledge or have figured it out are basically claiming that they know better than Jesus.  And when their predictions fail, they are exposed as the false prophets that they are.  They should thank God that we don't follow the ceremonial law of the Old Testament any more.

Will this eclipse be a sign of judgment?  No!  I can say that with absolute certainty based on the teaching of Jesus.  Jesus says that no one knows.  Now that someone claims to know that the eclipse is part of the judgment, you can be assured that it isn't, because no one knows the day or hour.

This doesn't mean that Lotz is wrong about the fact of God's judgment or the sin of modern culture.  There is much evil in today's world, and God is not pleased.  We have much to repent of.  That said, Lotz is wrong to be "speculating" on the day or time of that judgment.  We should leave the judgment to God and stop trying to tell Him when to act.  He will take care of it, and it's none of your business when He'll do it.

I'm ready!

Now, let's talk about eclipses and why you should be excited!  Our moon is in a remarkable position that it occasionally passes between us and the sun at just the right distance to cover the disk of the sun perfectly.  At any one point on the earth, the totality (the darkness) of the eclipse lasts only a few minutes.  The entire transit of the moon across the face of the sun can last for hours though, but you'd have to be moving really, really fast to experience any lasting darkness.

There's nothing special about the solar radiation during or around an eclipse.  Staring at the sun for any prolonged period is just difficult.  Doctors recommend eclipse glasses so you can see the moon moving across the face of the sun before totality.  Like the photo at the top of this post, the moon covers only part of the sun during most of the eclipse.  Eclipse glasses block out all but the brightest of light.  If you have eclipse glasses already, you shouldn't be able to see anything except the sun when you put them on.

During totality, you'll see a black disk ringed by the faint corona of the sun.  If you're not in the path of totality, you might not even notice the eclipse without the glasses.  Most of the eastern US will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, so you should get some glasses.

There's also nothing special about the darkness of the eclipse.  It'll be like twilight.  The temperature will drop, and a few minutes later, it'll be over.  The sun will begin shining again, and the temperature will go back up.

Solar eclipses happen about every 18 months or so, but most of the surface of the earth is uninhabited, so it's unusual to see one without traveling.  The last time we could see one in the US was 100 years ago, but in the next seven years, we'll get two!  What a blessing!  It is a tremendously exciting time to be alive.  I am immensely grateful that God has allowed me to see this and has given me this wonderful gift of sight and a solar system that produces total eclipses!  You should be too!

So get out there, buy some moon pies, get some eclipse glasses, and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!  And praise God for it!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A new Miocene Ape

Nyanzapithecus alesi, from Nengo et al. 2017

There isn't a lot of buzz about this, but I thought it warranted a few comments.  A new report in Nature describes a remarkably well-preserved ape cranium from middle Miocene sediments in Kenya.  The authors, Nengo and colleagues, used powerful X-rays to observe the unerupted teeth still in its upper jaw.  The teeth are really exquisite!  The researchers conclude that the fossil, Nyanzapithecus alesi, is 13 million years old (using conventional dating methods) and probably a "stem hominoid."  What does all this mean?  It's not much of a human "relative" even from the evolutionary perspective.

First of all, the oldest fossil that are most likely hominids (in our biological "family") are 4-5 million years old by conventional dating.  There are a few fossils from before this that have been proposed to be hominids, but 13 million years is more than twice as old as the oldest hominids.  So at best, from the evolutionary perspective, this new fossil is a very distant relative.

Second, the authors included a tree in their paper (a phylogeny) that purports to show the evolutionary relationships between this new fossil and other living and fossil apes.  The tree shows this new fossil Nyanzapithecus is a derived member of a branch that contains a lot of other previously-known fossil apes like Afropithecus.  Nyanzapithecus itself is not particularly close to the hominid or hominoid branch of the tree.  Certainly no closer than Afropithecus.

What does this mean to human baraminology?  Honestly, that's hard to say for sure.  I've never done much with the many Miocene apes for two reasons: 1. I haven't had time yet, and 2. There are far more Miocene ape fossils than are described in the literature.  I'd rather have a larger sample of taxa (always works better for baraminology), but that would require original research I am ill-prepared to undertake at this time.  Despite these reasonable reservations, I doubt that Nyanzapithecus is anything other than another non-human ape.

Read all about it in Nature (if you have a subscription):
Nengo et al. 2017. New infant cranium from the African Miocene sheds light on ape evolution. Nature 548:169-174.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Core Academy update

Here's a quick update of our building project!

As always, there have been delays with our construction plans.  What a surprise.  We've also run into code requirements that have modified our intentions as well.  It's been frustrating at times, but we're still amazed and thankful at how quickly things are moving.

We started out with this just an empty lot, and within a month, the buildings were on site and assembled.

Reminder: Our building is on the left.

Then the guys came in and tore up the ground to get utilities connected.



Once the electric was hooked up, we started work on replacing some trim and painting the inside.



And that's where we are.  We're currently working to finish the classroom, since school starts next week!  Then we'll finish the office part of the building.  That room will need flooring, paint, and some other minor modifications.  God willing, we'll also have a new door, closet, and kitchen.  We hope this will be done by the end of September.

Thanks to all the volunteers who have given us time and effort as we work on all the details!  Your prayers are appreciated, and if you don't pray, well, you should.

Thanks again to all our donors and to the Lord for providing this wonderful building!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.