Why Biology?

Each program [at ESU] helps students to think. But when a student chooses a program, it is a choice of what to think about. A physics major thinks about different things than a psychology major.  A math major has different matters on her mind than an art major., Dr. Peter Hawkes, Dean of Arts and Sciences at East Stroudsburg University.

While you will always learn new things beyond your college major in your lifetime, college gives you a trajectory for your career and other areas of adult life.


My introductory biology textbook.

For me, that number one thing is biology.  It has a beauty of both unity and diversity.  Contradictory as they may seem, it is a reality.  Diversity in all the life forms on Earth manifests God’s beauty in their habitats and niches, yet their unity in all the core systemic processes equally shows what a wonderful and providential Creator He is.  (Evolutionists claim that all life is not from a common creator, but a common ancestor.  But what is that ancestor?!?)  Remember the idea that cells come only from other cells, and so forth.

And even at the moment, before transfer to a university, I love looking at numerous websites concerning biology.  These can be about animals, plants, neural processes, you name it.  Of course, God made all these structures and processes; the scientists among us just named them.

So to all my fellow undergraduates, whatever your passion, biology or otherwise, go for it!

“Evolve” and “Express”: Two Subtle Yet Loaded Biological Words

As you may know, I just started my Biology class, and while the focus right now is on the basics of biochemistry, I can state two words that are part and parcel of biology, yet may be overlooked when one reads biological materials.  These are “evolve” and “express.”

One, “express,” is what it means:  proteins encoded by the cell’s DNA.  While you should know about the basic scheme of DNA –> RNA –> Protein; for most people, the details aren’t so important.  RN A, by the way, is the “bridge” molecule carrying the instructions for the necessary proteins.  In a nutshell, DNA is proclaiming its intended form for that cell’s needs.  (Which is why proteins are important in the diet.)  Still, it a word that can be overlooked, so I feel like I needed to advise science students or mere science lovers about this.  (True scientists themselves probably already have it right.)

“Evolve” on the other hand is much weightier.  Probably, everyone knows about Charles Darwin, who, as he embarked on his ship (the Beagle),  identified some subtle differences among the finches on the Galapagos Islands.  This is the primary basis of the evolutionary theory.  (Of course, he had some far more innocent experiment on plant movements, and perhaps others, but that’s beside the point.Now while I personally am a young-earth believer, it’s not my place to pick on or quarrel with those who believe otherwise.

The only word, to creationists like me, that one should especially worry about is “evolve.”  Fortunately, the sentence in a secular book can be modified (in your head, that is; let’s not put tons of white-out to “restore” the book to less-than-pristine condition!).  This process simply removes or substitutes words suggesting evolution.  For instance:

“This animal evolved this structure/function…”

Instead, say it has this structure/function (i.e., as God created it)!

See how fun and easy creationist thinking is? And, boy, 6000-odd years is much more manipulative than a timescale of millions or billions of years.  And even when professors torture students with the gory details of evolution and/or an old earth, creationism keeps simplicity.

Conclusion:  Biology (and other sciences) can do without evolution, despite Theodosius Dobshansky’s claim on biology.

Getting Ready for Another Semester

This fall semester, starting the day after Labor Day, I return to my (formal) studies at CCP.  And it will be quite exciting.

The three courses to be taken are Biology, Chemistry, and Public Speaking.  Both Biology and Chemistry are the formats designed for majors, and have a second part in the Spring 2017 semester.  This will be a heavy semester, with lots of homework, so blog posts this fall may be a little sporadic.

If I get a job, I will restrict it to Fridays and Saturdays, as the rest of the week is busy with school.  Sunday, as a “rest day,” will hopefully involve more personal pursuits, such as reading some books such as the various Scientific American books, (a few) texts I may own, and perhaps even novels.  Later on, hopefully, church and Bible study will be back to normal.  Yet at home, I could listen to sermons and some personal Bible study.  The bottom line is, as a Christian, that I will not work a job on Sunday.  Period.

So I thank the Lord for all my potential He has bestowed in a number of areas.

The Scientific American Library

As one who loves creation (and of course, its Creator) I love to learn science topics, whether in school (as we approach such, for summer is wrapping up and we soon enter the fall semester),  or just by reading and personal self-study.

The Scientific American Library, while now out of print, is still an awesome way to learn a number of topics on science.  You can find them in the Amazon Marketplace (Amazon’s department for sellers not part of Amazon) and cost a minimum of $4 per book (actually, a cent plus $3.99 for shipping)

There are many neat topics in this series.  They usually don’t demand too much scientific background, but if they do, it may be enough to Google certain points that you find murky.  Moreover, they are often interdisciplinary, so you see connections among topics.

Best of all, they include some historical and cultural background and practical applications; to support the info (instead of the in-your-face science of typical textbooks made for scholastic use).  While a layman series, it can be semi-technical at times, so again, have Google ready in case you’re stumped.

And since no book, let alone no series of books, has all knowledge on its topic, there’s always more to learn, through the internet, etc.

While I have abandoned some titles because I was “finished” with them, I may get them back (with the hope I can get the whole series and perhaps devour them).  Also, they may make good reference, even though I may have additional college textbook material.  But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.


Slouch, Yawn

Whenever I sit upright, say, when reading, I can usually stay alert.  But when I slouch on a bed or couch, I start yawning when I read or do something similar.

Of course, it makes sense, but is there something scientific behind it, at least in general?

In fact, there is.  I learned it in Psychology last fall.  In the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, discovered the concept of classical conditioning.  He used a dog as his subject.  Dog naturally salivate at food, for it is internally wired into their brain.  They don’t need extrinsic commands. Then, Pavlov rang a bell to draw the dog to the food.  After then, the food was no longer necessary.

So, how do we explain this?  The bell, when combined with the food, takes precedence.  Thus, what was once irrelevant to the dog (the bell) has been incorporated into the dog’s repertoire of behavioral stimuli.  This incorporation is known as classical conditioning.

Now for my situation.  Keep in mind I’m no doctor or psychologist (and probably not planning to be either one), so I’m not trying to develop a direct theory of why slouching on a couch causes yawning or drowsiness when reading.  Just the correlations are enough.  Yet again, correlation does not mean causality.  But hey, at least it’s something quite practical from the course, that can be easily applied to us humans.  I guess I could do without the causality.  At least for now.

Source:  McLeod, S. A. (2013). Pavlov’s Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html

Western Geology and Eastern Meteorology

Don’t get me wrong, both earth sciences are important on both coasts.  Weather is everywhere, and earth is our planet.  But the effects of these areas of knowledge are more profound on their respective sides of the United States.

My point is the majority of geological disasters (as well as benefits, whether practical or aesthetic) happen on the west side of the country.  And because of the 1959 ratification of Alaska and Hawaii as states, that adds to the picture.

A prime example is the state of California.  Pros of living out there (concerning geology) are its beautiful structures, from mountains (i.e., Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada), to the coast itself.  A notorious con is, of course, earthquakes, due to the San Andreas Fault.

The Pacific Northwest (i.e., the states of Washington and Oregon), extreme northern California, and the Canadian province of British Columbia also hold a grand mountain range, the Cascades.  This is where things get nasty, however, namely, concerning volcanoes.  If you are old enough to remember 1980’s Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington state, you will understand what I mean.  There are other Cascade volcanoes as well.  I hope to discuss in a later post in more detail about how volcanoes work, as well as other geological phenomena.  For now, as a sneak peek, I will at least mention that Hawaiian volcanoes are a little safer.

And further inland, we all know about all the major spectacles, like the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, and many others.  Ditto for Alaska and much of Canada, which are not only sublime sights, but Canada may provide oil and natural gas, to help our economy divert from imports from Middle Eastern lands.  But that’s politics, so let’s not go there)

Now on to the east.  As an east coast dweller (Pennsylvania) myself, we worry more about hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods.  (And maybe the very occasional tornado).  While many of these ills are of an issue on the southeastern portion of the east coast (as well as the states by the Gulf of Mexico), in rare instances, like 2012’s “Superstorm Sandy,” a strange type of hurricane, portions of the northeastern end (mostly the states of New York and New Jersey) was quite severely traumatized.

But the east is not devoid of geologic structures!  The Appalachians (another splendid region) are probably the best example.  Pennsylvania (and probably other states) has some iffiness on “fracking” (namely, shale fracturing).  The dilemma in this case is either clean water, or more and/or better energy.  Again, though let’s stay away from politics!

Perhaps the heartland gives the best of both worlds.  The Great Plains in the Midwestern Untied States, often known as Tornado Alley, was intended as the path for the Keystone XL pipeline designed to capitalize on American and Canadian fossil fuels.  And obviously, it is a tornado risk area.  The Gulf of Mexico, also an oil source, is also hurricane prone.  (Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005?  Most locals would rather repress it.)

So while both sides of our great country involve both branches of earth science, geology seems more dominant out west and meteorology in the east.  I’ll be sure to update you as I read things on the subject!

Hey, this stuff may make a good hobby later on.

Ramadan, VCR Connection, and Vision

Many of my Muslim readers, now in the throes of Ramadan, their holiest month when eating is prohibited daily from dawn to dusk, are probably really bent out of shape.  Their main test of when to cease eating each morning is by distinguishing a white thread from a black one.

As for me, one evening, had a similar battle when hooking up a digital-to-analog converter (using red-yellow-white A/V cable) to a VHS VCR, in turn to a analog TV.  The portion with the yellow plug is for video, that with the white plug is for audio.  The red plug, also for audio, was here irrelevant due to the monaural nature of this VCR (it would typically be used for stereo purposes).  So anyway, due to the A/V inputs (and outputs) being in a deep nook in the rear face of the VCR, without enough illumination, the yellow and white jacks were hardly distinguishable.

For this situation and the Ramadan test above, the same phenomenon is at play here.  Colors cannot be distinguished until light is bright enough.  Until that threshold is reached, the retinal rod cells all act the same way (though differently with different colors, I assume these are different shades of gray).  But with enough light, yellow and white are distinguishable, and ditto for the daily Ramadan thread test.

Hmm…maybe I should use a flashlight next time.  As for the early-morning “thread test” and the all-day fast throughout Ramadan, that makes me glad (personally at least) that I’m not a Muslim!

Seeing God’s Wonders in Scientific Details

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction
— Prov 1:7, ESV

Right now I am reading an article (obtained from the online Britannica subscription service accessed through Community College of Philadelphia, where I currently attend) about the invertebrate phylum known as annelids, or segmented worms.  I have learned tons of neat facts about these critters, but for the sake of space (and relevance to the real point of this post), I will only mention a few very striking ones.

-Leeches, a class of annelids, known for their “medicinal” species used in centuries past by sucking blood, actually can be a source of a “real” (i.e., chemical) medicine!  Known as hirudin, it is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that might be a better natural alternative to popular prescription blood thinners like Xarelto and Pradaxa (claimed to cause serious risk, including that of death).  Maybe this natural remedy could be better, but since I’m not a medical doctor, who am I to compare?  But hey, it sure is practical and thought-provoking!

-Some “sedentary” members of a class of annelids known as polychaetes actually make tubes into the ocean floor.  Their skin secretes a substance, which may include components such as mucus and calcium carbonate (known in various common forms such as limestone, marble, and chalk), which binds to marine sediment.  Wow, this is a marriage of the inanimate with the animate!  (I now pronounce it tube and worm.)

-Wait!  You may think a “defecation dilemma” may result from this since the anus is trapped in the tube.  Guess what, no problem, a side groove is the way for the feces to be expelled into the waters.

-Finally, earthworms have minute, perhaps microscopic, eyes all over their body.  Yikes!

So much for the annelids.  Now, reflecting on the Scriptural heading, you really don’t know anything unless you know God.  If you fear God (i.e., worship and have awe for him, out of love, not terror), you will gradually increase in your intimacy with Him.  After all, God created nature, and science is simply its interpretation.  Science is to nature as theology is to Scripture.

Many readers think many substantial detail in scientific discussions can be overwhelming, trivial, technical, unnecessary, whatever.  Or as the old cliché goes, they could be “gory.”  (Quite a strong word, isn’t it?)  While I am by no means pushing memorization of the entire material (very few people have truly photographic memories, and I doubt, IMHO, I would even qualify).  But they shape a piece of writing (fact or fiction), and give substance to it.  And when detailed to a substantial (though often not excessive) degree, instead of dismissing the ins-and-outs, an interested reader should appreciate God’s creative power therein, to the best of his ability.  One’s awe and recognition for God will increase, regardless of the information’s practicality, or lack thereof.

Yes, atheist Stephen Hawking can go on and on about his knowledge and insights on astrophysics, but he (most likely) may just be hoarding knowledge to impress.  Or some other motive.  But as a fellow human, it’s not my prerogative to judge him.  Only God knows his motives.  Ditto for secular scientists dead and alive, like Darwin, Haeckel, Svante Arrhenius, Linus Pauling, Ernst Mayr, Richard Dawkins, the list goes on and on.

Incidentally, as for the second part of my verse, atheists, according to the Bible, are cited as “fools” (Ps 14:1).  Fools would rather act as “know-it-alls.”  Whether instructed directly by another person, or indirectly from written material (which can often be posthumous!), a believer will appreciate it more than an unbeliever.

So, no matter what your brain capacity or “tolerance” for details in a written work, make the most out of those that you can.  Always jump “in and out” of whatever you read!

What is silica gel and why do I find little packets of it in everything I buy?

SilicaGelThe maligned substance “silica gel,” which is simply a porous synthetic form of the mineral quartz (the principal constituent of sand, is really more of an irritant than a poison (even though they want you to “throw it away.”)  The real reason it is placed into boxes is to desiccate, or dry, moisture that may jeopardize the quality of the packed product.  Click here for some clever applications that involve silica gel.  Of course, that does not include eating it!  (LOL)

Source: What is silica gel and why do I find little packets of it in everything I buy?

Why You Can Measure A Tree’s Age By Its Rings

Most people know that you can count a tree’s rings to determine its age.  But what makes a ring count for a year?

Remember that a tree’s true “wood” is really only the central tissue that conducts water up from the roots.  Around this constitutes the bark, which includes living tissue that distributes various substances (e.g., photosynthetic products) as well as the dead cork.

Focusing on this inner wood, development of these cells varies across a given growing season.  In the spring and early summer, there is much water and minerals (thanks to melted snow), but as summer progresses, they are depleted.  By autumn, the wood cells are smaller than what were produced earlier.  (Winter, due to its cold, does not allow many cells to be produced.)  The cycle restarts the following spring.  The study of these processes, by the way, is called “dendrochronology.”

The earlier cells (known as early wood or springwood) are the larger cells, followed by those smaller cells formed later in the season (late wood or summerwood).  The darker late wood abuts the following season’s early wood, thus separating the years marked.

To conclude, some of the oldest trees are 4,000 years old.  Some dead trees, dated to be 5,000 years old, using radioactive carbon dating.  When the earliest trees were germinating, human history (in the strictest sense) was just dawning.  Since this falls within the domain of the 6,000-10,000 years of young earth creationism, yet discussed by an anonymous evolutionist and liberal Christian, sorry, that’s a contradiction in terms.

(Source:  http://plantphys.info/plant_biology/secondary.shtml)

Tree Stump
A tree stump.  The dark periphery is the bark; the pale outer wood is the “sapwood” (living wood conducting water); the dark central wood (heartwood), is the older wood that no longer conducts water.  You can see the many rings in both regions making the years.  (Source:  http://plantphys.info/plant_biology/lechtml/stem/Slide29.jpg)