Saturday, April 21, 2007

The root cause of today's Islamic fanaticism

Read it. Read it now.

A Lesson in Hate by David Von Drehle

It is a sad demonstration of the power of the pen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My own personal supercomputer

Ah, let us remember the days of yore, when we had to spend millions of dollars to get the power that we can get now for less than $25,000. Go back through history with me:

  1. The Cray-1, from 1976

    • Cost: $8.8 million dollars

    • Speed: 16 megaflops (that is, 16 times one million floating-point operations per second)

    • Source:

  2. The Cray Y-MP, from 1988

    • Cost: $40 million in 1991

    • Speed: 4.3 gigaflops (that is, 4.3 times one billion floating-point operations per second)

    • Source:

  3. The new MacPro with eight cores

    • Cost: maxed out, no more than $25,000

    • Speed: estimated, but we'll guess 41 gigaflops (41 times 1 billion floating-point operations per second)

    • Source:

You gotta love the advance of technology.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The science of Genesis 1

What, you say? You thought the Creation story was just faith and had nothing to do with pure, unadulterated, hard-core science? Alas, bloghopper, you have not stopped to think.

I don't want my blog to simply parrot other people's words, and lifting stuff completely is rude to the extreme. But I want to give Bryan a huge amount of credit for this piece. It just rocks.

Bryan at Hot Air linked to this page which talked about Dr. Francis Collins and how God showed up in the Human Genome Project. Then Bryan wrote:

Eight years at the Hubble Space Telescope project had a similar effect on me. I was never an atheist as Dr. Collins was, and I didn’t head up anything on the scale of the Human Genome Project, but examining the universe in detail through Hubble’s eye at first challenged, and then strengthened, my faith. For me, it was a supernova — Supernova 1987A, to be exact, and how its position 168,000 light-years from us makes it a TiVO writ large that we can use to figure out how large and old the universe is by yardsticking distances to it and other supernovas, eventually all the way out as far as we can see, and then rewinding back to the Big Bang. Genesis 1 turned out to be one of the most interesting and profound documents ever written, once you start to get the science of it all. The God of the Bible is the God of the genome is the God of the distant dying star. If you’re interested in the how and why of that, here’s an article I wrote a while back that attempts to explain some of it.

Now, you have to go read Bryan's article. I'm serious. You must read it in its entirety.

I'll wait.

[whistles to self]

Okay, if you haven't read the article(s), then the following may not make a lot of sense. But I'm going to assume that you were honorable and read the article.

One of the reasons why science works so well is that scientists who use the scientific method are critical thinkers and don't take things for granted. They probe, they test, they re-test, they gather data first, analyze it, and from that data they produce hypotheses that they go and test with brand new data. When it works right, knowledge builds from knowledge and has a stable footing underneath that can support new information, new insights, new theories. The facts dictate the theories. Kepler's idea was completely radical, but it worked because it was based on facts.

One of the problems with scientists (who are human, and not Vulcans, despite the great need for Vulcans in this area) is the tendency to assume that they have completely answered the questions in an area of research, that they have proven things beyond a shadow of a doubt and that the current model for this corner of the universe is the best there is. Perhaps it's intentional, but it can't be for all scientists. I can't say that it's laziness, or ego, or tenure, but it happens to all humans who like to call themselves "intellectuals": We know what we know.

So this applies to the lay person who believes science trumps faith as well as the scientist who can barely keep up with the research in his own field. (It's a side effect of the growth of knowledge in the modern era.) Part of it may be a type of modernist ego as well: only the knowledge of today is true and accurate. Only the science performed today is really meaningful. Those folks that lived before the Enlightenment couldn't possibly have a clue. Well, Socrates was okay, Plato had some points, and Pythagoras had a nifty idea, but really, they were the exception.

Why do we think this? We are we so ego-centric about the day and age we live in? In some ways, it is unfounded. We can only stand on the giants who came before us, so if there are no giants, we cannot stand.

So we first suffer from modern science egoism. But the thing I love so much about Bryan's article is how it points out how non-mythic Genesis 1 is. How many times have I heard that Genesis 1 is a great metaphor, a myth, a story? Far too many to keep track. And yet, how poorly it stands as a mythic story when compared to the other societies and creation stories that Bryan lists! Really, he's right: Genesis 1 is boring from the standpoint of a story teller.

But what really makes Bryan's article stand out for me is the application of Einstein's theory of relativity to Genesis 1. If Hugh Ross wanted to impress me, why didn't he do this? (Maybe he did, and I just missed it. If so, my fault. I'll update this page accordingly.) My position on the creation story has changed throughout my lifetime, but this explains several things wonderfully.

The beauty of this solution where time expands:

Take your Genesis clock off the earth and set it for the whole universe. An hour to the universe, due to the mass and velocity difference, is an epoch to the tiny earth. A day to the universe, an era to the earth.
Is it cheating? You bet. Was Moses talking about "universe" days and not "earth days" when he wrote about the creation story? Well, if you look strictly at the Hebrew (which I have, although I don't have that analysis handy), it says "day", as in 24-hour period day. But because Moses writes from the perspective of God looking down at the earth--and God is omnipotent, omnipowerful, and omnipresent--then it makes sense that the "day" is referring to a day as seen from God, and potentially from the entire universe. So relativity could have played into this.

Now, this doesn't address Robert Gentry's research, but then he's already been evaluated for problems in his research and methodology. I have no problem with certain universal constants not being constant when the earth was formed. I have heard of some research that indicates this is true, but cannot locate it easily at this time.

I will say this: Once Adam and Eve were created, I think (not sure, but assume at this point) that time ran at its usual speed for the frame of reference of the earth. I don't see enough reason to believe that after Man populated the earth that it took millions of years for us to get where we are. How long ago was creation, then? I'd like to split the difference. I think the young-earth creationists might be closer to the truth than we realize when you consider time since the fall; but maybe there is room for an older earth, especially when we consider that the creation story starts at the formation of earth, and not of the entire universe. (I reserve the right to revisit this topic after I've learned more Hebrew. Of course.)

Does this mean I won't associate with young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and purely evolutionary scientists? Not at all. How long the creation took is not as important to me as the fact that creation happened. In order for salvation to be necessary, there has to be a perfect order from which man fell. A reason for which Christ came to die for sin.