Does God play poker?

Einstein once said that God does not play dice with the universe. He was critical, at the time, of the emerging quantum theory, which states that we cannot know everything about the motion, position and energy states of subatomic particles. So I wonder if God may be a poker player. The creationists/intelligent design folks discount the role chance might have played in the evolution of life. Now the main problem is, “how much time did the designer/universe have available to try all these different combinations of CHONP?” The theory of evolution suggests that life took about 1 billion years to form from simple organic molecules. Creationists and ID folks use a much shorter time span, since they tend to believe the earth is much, much younger than the accepted 4.6 billion years. As a crude analogy, suppose God had an honest deck of 52 and dealt out five cards every second. According to Mathworld, the odds of dealing a royal flush (KQJ10A) is 1 in 649,739 deals. In other words, roughly speaking within every 649,739-second time block one hand has to be a royal flush. Now 649,739 seconds is about 7.5 days (hmmm, God got lucky on that 6th day!). ...

Is Washington getting ready to play ball with Cuba?

The US Treasury Dept. is going to allow the Cubans to play here during the inaugural World Baseball Classic. This news is like hearing Nixon is going to China! The US has been maintaining a cold war against Fidel’s Cuba for almost 50 years. Is the anti-Fidel sentiment beginning to thaw? Or is Washington just planning ahead for the day when the old man dies? Cubans do love their beisbol. Either way, it’s good news for the game. Sixteen nations will field teams to compete against each other in the first international contest involving professional teams. Some of the games will be played in the States, which prohibits commercial transactions with Fidel’s government. So, there was some question that Cuba would be barred from the US, effectively killing the whole event. For more details, see here.

Vatican nixes “intelligent design”

While the statement doesn’t come directly from the Pope, the official Vatican newspaper this week denounced “intelligent design” as unscientific, proving that not all religious believers are complete ninnies. Intelligent design (ID) is the model favored primarily by U.S. Christians of a more conservative stripe over the predominant theories of evolution and the Big Bang. Proponents of ID hold that living organisms and the universe in general are too complex to have developed by mere chance. Rather, they insist that a designer of some sort arranged the universe to favor such complexity. “If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another,” Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, writes in L’Osservatore Romano. “But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science,” he continues. “It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious.” Or in other words, if you do not like or accept a scientific theory, don’t go around inventing new explanations from whole cloth, and calling them “scientific” when there is no scientific evidence to support them. ID ...

Hot rod to Pluto launches successfully

NASA launched the New Horizons probe today on an express ride to the Solar System’s last outpost, Pluto. While most recent interplanetary probes have taken the slow and easy way to their destinations, taking long, looping trips around way-station planets, New Horizons is taking the Metroliner approach — short and fast. The probe’s launch vehicle, an Atlas 5 rocket, will accelerate the Pluto probe to almost 16 km/s (36,000 mph), quick enough to pass the moon’s orbit (384,000 km or 240,000 miles) in just nine hours. In contrast, the Apollo missions, with a top speed of 11 km/s (25,000 mph) took a week to reach the moon. New Horizons will reach its icy, remote destination, 30 times farther from the sun than the earth is, in 2015, just nine years from now. That’s about 500,000,000,000 km/year! Pluto remains the last known planet in the solar system to be visited by an interplanetary probe. Its physical properties resemble a comet’s more than the rest of the planets, leading some astronomers to say it should no longer be classifed as a planet. IMHO, it’s a planet, so I’m going to call it that. For more details about New Horizon, visit the official ...

The resurgence of Ma Bell

Now is it just me, or does it seem like the Bell Telephone Company is slowly reassembling itself? Back in the day, kids, there was only one phone company in the USA. It manufactured its own equipment, which you rented from it. It also handled long distance traffic through an associated company, AT&T. In the 1980s, the US government broke up Ma Bell into separate parts: seven Baby Bells (like BellSouth), AT&T and Western Electric. The research and development branch, Bell Labs, also got pulled away from Ma Bell. Since then, the splintered parts of the Bell monopoly seems to be magnetically attracting themselves into larger and larger units, as Baby Bells buy up cellular companies, AT&T reconfigures itself several times over, buying up cable companies and cellular companies, and Baby Bells merge. So I wonder, will we once again see a bigger, more powerful Ma Bell, controlling land lines, cellular traffic, cable TV, broadband internet and long distance, too? If you’re worried, like me, that Bell is getting too big again, protest with your wallet and switch to a different carrier. I am using Voice Over Internet Protocol now over my cable broadband connection and paying just $25 a ...

Will the world flip over?

All right, this is for real. I actually heard someone say on the radio that he was afraid the earth will tip over. Granted, it was someone calling into Coast to Coast AM, but the mere mention of it sent chills up my teacherly spine. Here’s the gist of what he said. As we approach the summer solstice (June 22 here in the N hemisphere), the sun moves higher and higher in the sky. As we approach the winter solstice (Dec. 21), the sun moves lower in the sky. The caller asked if there was ever a possibility that the earth might just keep going and tip over. The guys on the radio program I think we thinking the same thing as I was — this guy is clueless — but they managed to set him straight without deflating his ego. It took me awhile to figure out why he was worried, though. Here it is. His concept of the (apparent) motion of the sun northward and southward during the year was that the earth was slowly rocking back and forth. He was afraid that the earth would rock too far, putting the sun on the horizon or worse yet ...

Obligatory introduction

So, why should I, who already has way too much to do, bother to start my own weblog? Like Everest, because it’s there! I maintain three websites in one way or another, and am support staff on another. None of them really allow me to vent my opinions, frustrations, rants, whatever. Now that the internet allows everyone to be their own publisher, I thought it was time to join in on the fun. So, what do I do? Who am I? I wonder myself sometimes … I have taught high school physics at St. Francis High School in Louisville, Kentucky, for more than 20 years. (I still retain some fragments of sanity, thank you.) In 2000, I spent a year teaching at Pretoria Boys High School in South Africa on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange. I have also been called upon to teach math. Aside from my teaching duties, I am the technology coordinator for the school. That title translates into “network administrator + webmaster + computer repairman + help desk + security expert + Exchange administrator + infrastructure guru.” Yes, I am a one-man shop — pretty typical for a small private school. I was one of the go-to guys ...
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