On-Line Catholic Faith & Science Course Starts February 9th

A brief post to let you know about a unique on-line course starting next week. The website bills it as:

The first 100% online course of the Catholic Church on the dialogue between Science and Faith. Provided by specialists it is easy to follow and uses the latest e-learning methodology.

Under the Patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture

It’s not free (like most MOOC’s), but there is a discount based upon country of residence. And I imagine most schools, churches, dioceses, etc have reimbursement plans for Continuing Education Units and similar.

 

Astronomy Treat This Week – 5 Planets & A Comet!

A quick post today about something exciting (and rare) happening in the sky this week.

As reported by CNN, early (45 min before sunrise) risers will be able to see 5 planets in the sky simultaneously. Here’s the overview:

From January 20 to February 20, you can see five planets spanning the sky together just before dawn: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will all be visible about 45 minutes before sunrise.

This is the first time all five of the so-called naked-eye planets have appeared together in the pre-dawn sky in more than a decade, according to Sky and Telescope.

The group got the name “naked-eye planets” because you can see each of them with your own eyes — you don’t need binoculars or a telescope.

I’ve blogged about astronomy and the cosmos previously. I strongly believe that the cosmological aspect of creation one of the most awesome revelations of God. As the popular song proclaims: “The Heavens are telling the glory of God…”

OSU Talk on Laudato Si by Cardinal Turkson

On Monday the 3rd I trekked down to the OSU campus for a presentation the National Catholic Reporter called “a watershed event for climate discourse.”  Cardinal Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was the featured speaker.   The first cardinal from the nation of Ghana is a key advisor to Pope Francis and some even perceive him as a possible future pope. 

After Cardinal Turkson spoke for about twenty minutes on Laudato Si, he sat down with OSU President Dr. Michael Drake for a brief “fireside chat.”

Cardinal Turkson -3

The inspiring evening concluded with an encore performance by a local gospel choir.

Please see below for the images of the notes that I took during both parts of the presentation. Click on the image of each page to enlarge it for easier reading.

LS Talk -1

LS Talk - 2

LS Talk - 3

Cardinal Turkson - 1

LS Talk - 4

LS Talk - 5

LS Talk - 6

Eye-Popping Video on How a Virus Spreads and How to Stay Well

You likely learned (or perhaps taught) in Biology class how a virus multiplies inside of a cell. Chances are though that you’ve never seen this process like it’s illustrated in a new video from NPR:

 

Convinced that you should indeed get a flu shot this season? What else can you do to stay healthy this winter? From CNN comes The Ultimate Cold and Flu Survival Guide.

And you can also enact this “immodest proposal” from Ozy: “Don’t Shake On It” because:

Beyond the power politics, handshakes are also natural vehicles for spreading infectious diseases. They’re ticking germ bombs — with the CDC estimating that nearly 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hands, which teem with millions of bacteria and viruses. This led Dr. Tom McClellan of West Virginia University to laud a safer salutation — the fist bump — while other health officials promoted the elbow bump during Haiti’s cholera outbreak, Mexico’s swine flu scare and the recent Ebola epidemic.

8 Little Known Video Resources Popular With Teachers

Ahh… the use of videos. Remember when we had to check out a cart with a TV/VCR, roll it to our classroom, rewind or fast forward the VHS tape and then have our students gather around the screen which was usually too small for the space in which we were using it.

My how things have changed. Now, with an LCD projector and an internet connected computer or tablet, showing videos has become infinitely easier. Sure, you can search YouTube and take your chances with what you find. Or, you can let others do the vetting for you.

eSchool News offers this list of 8 Little Known Video Resources for use by teachers:

  • Have Fun Teaching
  • TeacherTube Math
  • WordWorld
  • Learning Games for Kids
  • Complabteacher
  • Time4Writing
  • Discovery Education
  • Educator

Do check out the article as it offers links to each of these sites.  And, to share teacher wisdom, that I learned both in one of my first education classes (and also learned the hard way in my own classroom) – never, ever show a video without previewing ALL of it first!

The Beauty of Mathematics and the Predator/Prey Relationship

I’m preparing to teach my students the Genesis creation myths and so I’m reviewing the delightful, scientifically-rich, and theologically-expansive book Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Stories by Karl W. Gilberson.  In the chapter entitled: “Day 2: A Universe of Horseshoe Nails” he writes:

“Unfortunately, few of us have any idea what it might mean to describe mathematics as beautiful and even less an idea about the mystery raised by its existence…replace the beautiful music [in an analogy previously used in the chapter] coming from the abyss with the mathematical equations that physicists have discovered at the foundations of reality.  On the surface, nature is, to be sure, noisy in the sense of being cluttered, busy, and seemingly without patterns.  Even beautiful scenery – picture a mountain lake with snowcapped mountains in the background – rarely seems organized.

But as we apply our scientific knowledge to the cluttered world we experience and drill down to the bedrock of our understanding – eliminate the noise – we find something quite wondrous.  At the end of the great hallway that takes us from the social sciences to the natural sciences, through biology and chemistry and ultimately to physics, we find ourselves at last in the presence of a most beautiful and unexplained symphony of mathematics.  Across the dark abyss, explaining the world around us while remaining unexplained itself.  It is part of the Logos of creation.” (p.54-55)

I thought of this profound insight this morning when reading the Washington Post and this short article entitled: “Scientists May Have Just Stumbled Upon a Mathematical Secret to How Nature Works”  It’s worth reading to understand how the unexpected consistency of the numbers of predator and prey in a wide variety of ecosystems might be explained by a single mathematical equation.

And the pattern in these changes is governed by — you guessed it — that same mathematical function.

The recurrence of this function in many levels of the natural world indicates “that there might some kind of process that exists at multiple levels of organization,” Hatton says. “The cell, the tissue, the body, the community: Those are all levels of organization in ecology-speak. I think that this suggests that there could be processes that sort of recur, recapitulate, across different levels.”

In the meantime, for researchers who like a good puzzle, the paper provides another mystery to chew on — one that, once unlocked, could reveal many secrets about how the natural world works.

“The Conversation” Website

I stumbled across a website which I’d like to share.  As mentioned in a previous post, I believe educators should keep on top of what’s being posted about the events and ideas in the world. Obviously, this can take up much valuable time in an already busy educator’s life.  Thus, it’s important to find those quality sites which aggregate solid information.

The Conversation is an excellent site for this.  Their masthead states: “The Conversation is a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish.”

I receive their email every morning (along with many other less useful news/info updates) and consistently The Conversation has the most interesting, insightful, topical and useful articles.  The diversity of articles that are featured currently include:

A Melting Arctic and Weird Weather: The Plot Thickens

What Historic Megadroughts in the Western US Tell Us About Our Climate Future

How Russia is Building a Psychological Firewall Against the West

Why We Should Get Rid of Tipping (not a favorite article of mine as I work Saturdays in a wine tasting room)

Great, Short (60 seconds) Evolution Video to Show in Class

Don’t you love it when something lands in your inbox that you can literally use the next day?  We’ve been talking in my freshman class about the symbolism of the Genesis creation stories.  One fruitful area of discussion is how one can believe in the Deeper Truths of those stories and also what science teaches us about evolution.  Pope Francis got a lot of attention when he affirmed this just a few months ago. As I tell my students: As long as you believe that God created everything and that everything God created was good, then the “how” of creation can include evolutionary theory.

So, thanks to Buzzfeed and Open Culture, here’s the video I’ll be showing tomorrow:

Aviary Photo_130679028902758295

Access it directly at YouTube.

And I’ll be giving my students this brief article from our local Catholic Times (scroll to left side of page 6)

State Dept. + Teaching About Climate Change = Use of Disney’s “Frozen?”

Apparently not.  According to this article in the Washington Post, a senior State Department official approached Disney with a request to use the “Frozen” characters in a series of PSA and related media.

The official, Adm. Robert Papp was quoted in the National Journal:

“I said, you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said, relaying his conversation with the Disney exec. “Unfortunately, the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

The Post writer continues:

“Papp described the executive as perplexed at the idea that Princesses Elsa and Anna, Olaf the snowman, and Sven the reindeer would star in PSAs making dire warnings about the rapidly warming Arctic. The executive told him, ‘Admiral, you might not understand, here at Disney it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.’ ”

And as the writer concludes:

“So, Disney doesn’t see the whole climate change thing ending well?”

Apparently not.