I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

Feel free to comment, to offer your perspective, or to give suggestions for subjects.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Kite, a Key and a Flash of Lightning - The Chemistry of Electricity

published before 1923 and
public domain in the US.
Everyone has heard the story of Ben Franklin and his Kite. In June 1752, as the legend goes, Franklin flew his kite in a thunderstorm with a key tied to a silk string used as the tether. He then waited for lightning to strike! If this is how it really happened, it probably would have been good Ben's last experiment. But it wasn't. He wrote very little of this test, in spite of his prolific library of tomes. One such letter, written on October 19, 1752 to Peter Collinson, a fellow scientist and friend in London, was discussing how he built his kites.

Franklin wrote:
"Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like those made of paper; but this being of silk is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine, next the key may be fastened.

This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunder clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine, will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the phial may be charged: and from electric fire thus obtained, spirits may be kindled, and all the other electric experiments be performed, which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated."
There also is an account written by Joseph Priestley, published fifteen years afterwards but reviewed by Franklin before it was printed. In that account he flew his kite from inside a shed to protect him from the rain. The storm was just moving in and he could see the loose threads of the string standing erect. The he put his knuckle to the key and felt the sharp zap of the gathering static electricity. As the string got wet, more electric fire descended to the key and was collected in a Leyden Jar. Lightning never struck the kite and the experiment was complete before lightning ever appeared.

Benjamin Franklin was a Prolific Writer
A Dynamic Statesman and
An Inquisitive Scientist

Franklin was investigating whether or not lightning was an electric phenomenon. He did not discover electricity, as some believe, as it was already known. However, in Franklin's day, the largest man-made sparks were under an inch long. Lightning was a whole lot bigger and more powerful! Franklin realized that if lightning was electricity, then it must be an awful lot of the stuff, and that it would take a long time to amass in the storm. Therefore he suggested to fly the kite early in the storm before the lightning comes near you. After his famous incident, several other would-be-scientists who performed this same kite experiment did not heed his warning and were electrocuted.

Job 28:26 (NLT) - He made the laws for the rain and laid out a path for the lightning.

Franklin was fascinated with electricity and performed many experiments with lightning rods and Leyden Jars, which he grouped together as a type of battery. He even coined numerous terms to describe his work. Franklin wrote Collinson in another letter saying: "I feel a Want of Terms here and doubt much whether I shall be able to make this intelligible." Not only did Franklin have to postulate his theories, he also had to create a new language to fit them. Some of the electrical terms which Franklin coined during his experiments include:
  • battery
  • charge
  • condenser
  • conductor
  • plus
  • minus
  • positively
  • negatively
  • armature
And they are terms we still use today.

Franklin's work confirmed that the electricity in lightning is static electricity, much like what you feel when you rub your shoes on the carpet. The static generates a current that creates sparks that can jump from clouds to the ground, your shoes to the carpet or will make your hair stand on end.

In most common electrical systems, such as the wiring in our homes or our cars, the electricity doesn't come from lightning and is conducted through a metal wire, not a wet string. Metals conduct electricity because of their structure. If you take a block of any metal, it would be made up of a lattice of atoms surrounded by floating electrons that should have been in the atoms outermost electron shell. The metal atoms are so large that the outer electron shell is very far away from the nucleus. Normally the positive charge in the nucleus pulls the electrons into a cloud around it. But since the distance between the nucleus and the negative electrons is very high, the strength of attraction between them is so weak that the electrons move out of the orbit and into a sea of electrons around all the atoms of the metal. The electrons are said to be de-localized. Thus metals are sometimes referred to as "an array of positive ions in a sea of electrons."

Conducting Metals are sometimes referred to as
"An Array of Positive Ions in a Sea of Electrons."

This sea of electrons carries a negative charge. With no external electric field applied, these electrons move about randomly due to thermal energy but, on average, there is zero net current within the metal. When an electric current is applied to one end of any metallic body, these electrons take the electric charge up and carry it to the other end. That is how metals conduct electricity. The best conductors are the Group 11 elements. Silver is the best conductor, followed by copper then gold. (For more on these metals see "Transition Metals", "The Biblical Metals" and "Are Those Metals Really Precious?")

Job 28:15 (NIV) - It [Wisdom] cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver.

Typically, electric charges in solids flow slowly. For example, in a 20 AWG copper wire, carrying a current of 5 amps, the drift velocity of the electrons is on the order of a millimeter per second. In the near-vacuum inside a cathode ray tube, the electrons travel at about a tenth of the speed of light. In-spite of this slow movement of the electrons, the current is instantaneously established throughout the wire. Think of pedaling a bicycle. The instant you push on the pedal, the chain starts to move the back wheel. Or what about pushing on one end of a long stick, the other end starts to move immediately when you push. The same is true for the electric current. By definition the current flows to the positive so the electrons in the wire are flowing in the opposite direction as the current.

Plasma Lamp - Luc Viatour/ www.Lucnix.be
Electric current is the flow of an electric charge through a carrier. This charge is typically transported by moving electrons in a conductor such as a wire. It can also be carried by positive ions in an electrolyte solution (think batteries), or by both ions and electrons in a plasma. The rate of flow of an electric charge is measured in amperes or amps. An ammeter is used to measure the current.

Several everyday electrical terms we hear in addition to amps are volts, watts and ohms. We use 60 watts bulbs in our lamps, our homes are wired for 120 volts, our cars use 12 volt batteries with 525 cold cranking amps for sure starts and we might have to worry about ohms when we are setting up the speakers in our new home theater system. We will take a closer look at electric current and the relationship of these terms in the next blog.

Psalms 119:105 (NLT) - Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seven Habits of Faithful and Effective People

In the last two blogs (All I Needed to Know I Learned in... Sunday School? and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... Just Rejoice and be Glad! ) we looked at a couple of life directional books All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff....and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson. In this blog entry I will finish off my three part examination of secular books that are considered as guideposts for life, giving direction with suggested traits, thoughts or habits. They help point in the way we should go and do so with ideas that can be found or supported by the Word of God.

The third book is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was first published in 1989 and is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages since its first publication. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless (can you say Biblical?).

Faithful and Effective People
Can be One and the Same

Here are Covey's Seven Habits:
  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Independence or Self-Mastery - The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Related Biblical principles:
  • Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) - Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
  • Psalms 34:14 (NIV) - Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
  • Isaiah 1:17 (NIV) - Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Synopsis: Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life's principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the subsequent consequences that follow.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Related Biblical principles:
  • Luke 14:28 (NKJV) - "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it]."
  • Proverbs 15:22 (NIV) - Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
  • Galatians 6:9 (NIV) - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
  • James 1:4 (NIV) - Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Synopsis: Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Related Biblical principles:
  • Matthew 6:33 (NIV) - But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  • Matthew 6:25 (NIV) - "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
  • Proverbs 21:5 (NIV) - The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
  • Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) - Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Synopsis: Plan, prioritize, and execute your week's tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.

Interdependence - The next three have to do with Interdependence:

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Related Biblical principles:
  • Proverbs 11:25 (NIV) - A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV) - To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
  • Romans 14:19 (NIV) - Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Synopsis: Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Related Biblical principles:
  • Psalms 119:27 (NIV) - Let me understand the teaching of Your precepts; then I will meditate on Your wonders.
  • Matthew 15:10 (NIV) - Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, "Listen and understand."
  • Proverbs 1:5 (NIV) - Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.
  • Proverbs 4:1 (NIV) - Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.
Synopsis: Use empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

Habit 6: Synergize
Related Biblical principles:
  • 1 Corinthians 3:8 (NLT) - The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
  • 3 John 1:8 (NIV) - We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
  • Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) - As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
  • Luke 12:21 (NLT) - "Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God."
Synopsis: Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

Self Renewal - The Last habit relates to self-rejuvenation:

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Related Biblical principles:
Synopsis: Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.

It is possible to be both faithful and effective in the Business World and in Life. We will be more successful overall if we consider and respect others, work for the good of all and not just ourselves, and remember what is truly important - the purpose and meaning of our lives - to love God.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) - Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...
Just Rejoice and be Glad!

Continuing our discussion from the last blog, we will look at the second book that has life lessons that seem to align with the Bible. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff....and it’s all small stuff is a book that shows you how to keep from letting the little things in life drive you crazy. Author Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down and put things in perspective by making small daily changes, such as “Think of your problems as potential teachers”; “Remember that when you die your ‘In’-box won’t be empty”; and “Do one thing at a time.” He suggests you should live in the present moment, let others have the glory at times, soften your tough positions, trust your intuitions, and live each day as if it might be your last.

Dr. Carlson reveals ways to make your actions more peaceful and caring and your life more calm and stress-free. Carlson states: "Often we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren't really that big a deal. We focus on little problems and blow them out of proportion. ... Whether we had to wait in line, listen to unfair criticism, or do the lion's share of the work, it pays enormous dividends if we learn not to worry about little things. So many people spend so much of their life energy 'sweating the small stuff' that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life."

Here are a few of the points Carlson makes in his book:
  • Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
  • Let Others Have the Glory
  • Practice Random Acts of Kindness

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Be anxious for nothing and let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can't be super achievers.
  • Psalms 37:11 (NKJV) - "But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." - Being Meek is having power under control.
  • Proverbs 29:23 (NKJV) - A man's pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
  • Luke 14:11 (NIV) - For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Let Others Have the Glory - Give honor and praise to the work of others.
  • Psalms 37:4 (NIV) - Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.
  • Proverbs 8:30 (NIV) - Then I was the craftsman at His side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence,
  • Romans 13:7 (NIV) - Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  • 1 Peter 2:17 (NIV) - Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness - Do something nice for someone else - and don't tell anyone about it.
  • Proverbs 12:25 (NIV) - An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
  • Proverbs 21:14 (NIV) - A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
  • Matthew 6:3-4 (NIV) - But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Carlson's book tells us "Don't Worry, Be Happy." By not focusing on the small things in life, which is just about everything in the overall scheme of things, letting others take the credit instead of wanting all of the attention ourselves and being kind and gentle without expecting anything in return, we will lead a happier, more fulfilling life. We will look at the final book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, in a future blog.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV) - Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All I Needed to Know I Learned in ... Sunday School?

I know I am going off on a tangent here, away from my destination of a Creationist's view of Chemistry, but I was thinking that there are many books and essays and teachings in the secular world that men use to guide their lives that either contain lessons similar to those in the Word of God or are directly or indirectly based on them. Three such books to me are:

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff....and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Each has several key directives to focus on to make your life more relational, less anxious and guided by a purpose or destiny. Lets take a closer look at some of the directives from each book.

All You Really Need to Know
Can be Learned from the Bible

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a book of short essays by Robert Fulghum, first published in 1988. The title of the book is taken from the first essay in the volume, which lists lessons normally learned in kindergarten classrooms and explains how the world would be better if we all lived by the same rules; sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after ourselves, and living "a balanced life" of work, play, and learning. The book contains fifty short essays, reflecting on topics ranging from surprises, holidays, childhood, death, and the lives of interesting people.

Here are a few of the points Fulghum makes in his opening essay:
  • Live a balanced life
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Play fair
  • Share everything
Here are some Bible verses that direct us to a similar path:

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
  • Isaiah 1:17 (NIV) - Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
  • Philippians 4:8 (NIV) - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
Clean up your own mess - Clean up after yourself. Play fair - Don't hit people. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Proverbs 2:9 (NIV) - Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path.
  • Matthew 22:39 (NIV) - And the second [commandment] is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
  • Romans 12:17 (NIV) - Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
Share everything - Don't take things that aren't yours. Put things back where you found them. In Fulghum's essay the bottom line seems to be live a balanced life and "Obey the Golden Rule,", which the Jesus says sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12 - NIV). So, although this may make you a good person, it will not get you into heaven because Jesus also says: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 - NIV).

In a subsequent blog we will look at the next book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff....and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson and after that the final book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - The Chemistry of Cholesterol

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 classic Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood as "the Good", Lee Van Cleef as "the Bad", and Eli Wallach as "the Ugly." It is the third film in the "Dollars Trilogy" ("A Fistful of Dollars" - 1964 and "For a Few Dollars More" - 1965). The trilogy revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of gunfights, hangings, American Civil War battles and prison camps.

Cholesterol is like that, it can be "Good", "Bad" or "Ugly" depending on how it battles its way through the chaos of arteries, intestines, liver and bile ducts of our circulatory system. It is an essential structural component of cell membranes and an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones, and vitamin D. Cholesterol is the principal sterol synthesized by animals, an organic chemical substance classified as a waxy steroid of fat.

The Good:
The good part of cholesterol is its importance for human health: it modulates membrane permeability, functions in intracellular transport and in neurons it is a key component of the myelin sheath, which provides insulation for more efficient conduction of nerve impulses. Within cells, cholesterol is the precursor molecule in several biochemical pathways. In the liver, cholesterol is converted to bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder. It is excreted via the bile duct into the digestive tract. Bile contains bile salts, which solubilize fats in the digestive tract and aid in fat absorption as well as that of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Cholesterol is an important precursor molecule for the synthesis of vitamin D and the steroid hormones, including the adrenal hormones cortisol and aldosterone, as well as the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. About 20–25% of total daily cholesterol production occurs in the liver.

The Bad:
High levels of cholesterol in the blood have been linked to damage to the arteries and to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Depending on how Cholesterol is transported within lipoproteins and the relative density of the liposome, the adverse effects can vary. Cholesterol is also found in solid form in gallstones. All foods containing animal fat contain cholesterol in varying amounts. The main dietary sources of cholesterol include cheese, egg yolks, beef, pork, poultry, fish, and shrimp. Plant products do not contain Cholesterol but some, such as flax seeds and peanuts, contain cholesterol-like compounds called phytosterols, which compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestines. Phytosterols are widely recognized as having LDL cholesterol, "the Bad" Cholesterol, lowering efficacy.

The Ugly:
Fat. Total fat intake plays a role in blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats increase LDL levels. Unsaturated fats increase both LDL and HDL cholesterol, "the Good" cholesterol, levels. Health authorities advocate reducing LDL cholesterol through diet and other lifestyle modifications. For a 150 pound person, typical daily total body cholesterol synthesis is about 1,000mg, and total body content is about 35g. Typical daily additional dietary intake should be 200 – 300mg. Americans consume twice that.

The USDA recommends to reduce cholesterol through diet, eating less than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg of cholesterol. However, a reduction in dietary cholesterol could be offset by your bodily production to keep blood cholesterol levels constant.

Increase HDL, the "Good" Cholesterol
and decrease LDL, the "Bad" Cholesterol
with Diet and Exercise

Biosynthesis of cholesterol is directly regulated by the cholesterol levels present in your system. A higher intake from food leads to a net decrease in endogenous production, whereas lower intake from food has the opposite effect. Cholesterol synthesis can even be turned off when cholesterol levels are very high.

Since cholesterol is insoluble in blood, it is transported in the circulatory system within lipoproteins, complex particles composed of proteins and lipids whose outward-facing surfaces are water-soluble and inward-facing surfaces are lipid-soluble; triglycerides and cholesterol esters are carried inside these liposomes.

There are several types of lipoproteins, listed in order of increasing density; chylomicrons, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The more lipid the less dense the lipoprotein. The cholesterol within all lipoproteins is identical.

  • Chylomicrons carry fats from the intestine to muscle and other tissues that need fatty acids for energy or fat production.
  • VLDL molecules are produced by the liver and contain excess cholesterol that is not required for synthesis of bile acids.
  • LDL molecules are the major carriers of cholesterol in the blood. The LDL are absorbed by the cell and the Cholesterol is used for membrane biosynthesis or stored within the cell.
  • HDL particles transport cholesterol back to the liver for excretion or to other tissues that use cholesterol to synthesize hormones.

When there is abundant cholesterol, many LDL molecules appear in the blood and are taken up by macrophages. These cells can then become trapped in the walls of blood vessels and contribute to artherosclerotic plaque formation. Such plaques are a significant causes of heart attacks, strokes, and other serious medical problems. Having high numbers of large HDL particles correlates with better health outcomes. The balance of LDL and HDL is mostly genetically determined, but can be changed by exercise, medications, food choices, and other factors. Elevated cholesterol levels are treated with a strict diet containing limited saturated fats, no trans fat and low cholesterol foods. Often one of the many hypolipidemic agents, such as statins, fibrates, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, nicotinic acid derivatives or bile acid sequestrants are added to supplement the dietary improvements.

Understanding Cholesterol Numbers:
Today's testing methods determine LDL ("bad") and HDL ("good") cholesterol separately. The desirable LDL level is considered to be less than 100 mg/dL (below 70 is best). A ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, another useful measure, of far less than 5:1 is thought to be healthier. Total cholesterol is the sum of the HDL, LDL, and VLDL concentrations. Usually, only the total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides are measured. For cost reasons, the VLDL is usually estimated as one-fifth of the triglycerides. Triglycerides are the fats carried in the blood from the food we eat.

Total CholesterolCategory
Less than 200Desirable level corresponding to lower risk for heart disease
200–240Borderline high risk
Over 240High risk

LDL CholesterolCategory
Less than 100Optimal
100 - 129Near optimal/above optimal
130 - 159Borderline high
160 - 189High
190 and aboveVery high

HDL CholesterolCategory
60 and aboveHigh; Optimal; associated with lower risk
Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in womenLow; considered a risk factor for heart disease

Less than 150Normal
150 - 199Mildly High
200 - 499High
500 or higherVery high

It's easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. The reverse is also true - you can eat right to lower your cholesterol and improve the types of fats floating through your bloodstream. Doing this requires a two-pronged strategy: Add foods that lower LDL and cut back on foods that boost LDL.

In with the Good:
Different foods lower cholesterol in different ways. Some bind cholesterol in the digestive system and drag it out before it gets into circulation. Some directly lower LDL. And some block the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are a few to add to your diet:
  • Oats: Adding a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast will help lower your cholesterol by adding soluble fiber. Current nutritional guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams as soluble fiber.

  • Whole grains: Barley and other whole grains deliver soluble fiber.

  • Beans: Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. There are many choices — navy beans, kidney beans, lentils, garbanzos, and beyond. Beans are a very flavorful and versatile food.

  • Eggplant and Okra: These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.

  • Nuts: Eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Nuts can slightly lower LDL and have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.

  • Vegetable oils: Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening helps lower LDL.

  • Apples, Grapes, Strawberries, Citrus fruits: These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

  • Soy: Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.

  • Fatty fish: Eating fish several times a week lowers LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, thus reducing saturated fats, and by providing omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and protect the heart.

Out with the Bad:
Harmful LDL increases and protective HDL drops largely because of diet and other lifestyle choices. Some people are also genetically programmed to respond more readily to what they eat. You can not control your genes but you can control these:
  • Saturated fats: Saturated fats found in red meat, milk and dairy products directly boost LDL, so cut back on saturated fats by using a vegetable oil in place of butter and eating baked fish or chicken instead of fried.
  • Trans fats: Trans fats are a byproduct of turning liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening. They boost LDL as much as saturated fats but also lower protective HDL and increase the tendency for blood clots.

Off with the Ugly:
Take off the fat and increase your activity to lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Weight and Activity: Being overweight and not exercising affect the fat levels circulating in your bloodstream. Excess weight boosts harmful LDL, while inactivity depresses protective HDL. Diet and exercise can reverse these trends.

Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily pill. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your mouth and adding new tastes to your diet. But it's a "natural" way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of side effects that plague some people on medication. Plus, a diet heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in so many other ways. It controls blood pressure, is good for bones and digestion and for vision and mental clarity. It is well worth the effort.

1 Samuel 25:6 (NIV) - 'Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

3 John 1:2 (NIV) - Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter - The Chemistry of Salvation

Seeing lots of chocolate bunnies, colored eggs and jelly beans; frilly bonnets and Sunday best. Children running with baskets to find the hidden treasures left by the Easter bunny. That is the celebration which will be evident come Sunday morning but will we remember the event that is the real reason for the celebration?

God came to Earth embodied in a man to save us from our sins and Easter Sunday is the remembrance of the events that did just that. This past week has seen His steps from king to blasphemer, through undeserved punishment and death and finally to the Glorious Resurrection!

The Son of God
Died and Rose Again
To Save Us from Our Sins
Because He Loved Us

Our lives are like that of Peter on these last days of Jesus' life, we deny Him repeatedly:

Matthew 26:69-74 (NIV) - Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." 74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.

And then when we come to realize who He is, we weep bitterly over how we treated Him:

Matthew 26:75 (NIV) - Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

But Jesus forgets the transgression and only asks: "do you love Me?"

John 21:15-17 (NIV) - When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

His suffering, death and Resurrection served as full atonement for the sins of all men - bringing us into the light of His Salvation. And we just need to love Him, as He first loved us.

Psalm 118:1 (NIV) - Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ripening Fruit - Its a Gas!

I am sure you have heard the saying; “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch!” Well it is true. Fruits and vegetables emit an odorless, colorless gas called Ethylene. The detection of Ethylene by the plant triggers the ripening process and the production of more Ethylene. A rotten apple will emit a lot of Ethylene gas, which will cause the other apples to start emitting the gas, and soon all the apples will be ripe, and then before long rotting!

Ethylene is a small hydrocarbon compound with the formula C2H4 or H2C=CH2. It is a colorless, flammable gas with a faint "sweet and musky" odor and is the simplest alkene (a hydrocarbon with carbon-carbon double bonds). It is widely used in the chemical industry, and its worldwide production exceeds that of any other organic compound. Ethylene is also an important natural plant hormone, and is used in agriculture to force the ripening of fruits. It acts at trace levels throughout the life of the plant by stimulating or regulating the ripening of fruit, the opening of flowers, the loss of chlorophyll (changing the color of the leaves), and the shedding or dropping of leaves.

Ripening is a process in fruits that causes them to become more palatable. In general, a fruit becomes sweeter, less green, and softer as it ripens. Ethylene is responsible for the changes, acting as the aging hormone in plants. It is synthesized from the amino acid methionine in essentially all plant tissues. Even after harvest, fruits, vegetables and flowers are still alive, continuing their biochemical processes, including ripening and the generation of Ethylene gas. It is a natural product all fruits produce to stimulate their ripening process. The problem is, once started, it never turns off and eventually aids in the over ripening of fruit too.

As is often the case, the role of Ethylene and its effects on produce was discovered accidentally. Lemon growers stored green, newly harvested lemons in sheds warmed by kerosene heaters until the lemons turned yellow and ripened enough to ship to market. When new more modern heating systems were introduced, the lemons no longer turned yellow as quickly. Researchers soon determined that the small amount of Ethylene gas given off by the burning kerosene was a key factor in the ripening process.

If You Can Control the Ethylene Gas
You Will Preserve the Freshness

Ethylene gas is used commercially to ripen tomatoes, bananas, avocados, and a few other fruits postharvest. Ethylene gas turns bananas yellow, tomatoes red and makes avocados soft and ready to eat. Controlling Ethylene gas is essential in giving the consumer the best possible product.

If you can control Ethylene gas levels, you will preserve freshness.

Climacteric fruits are able to continue ripening after being picked. Non-climacteric fruits can ripen only on the plant. During the ripening process of climacteric fruits, the production of Ethylene dramatically increases as much as 1000 times that of the basal Ethylene levels. Climacteric fruits include apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, figs, guavas, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, and tomatoes. Many of these fruits are picked prior to full ripening, which is beneficial, since ripened fruits do not ship well. A bunch of bananas will stay green for a long time unless the Ethylene concentration in the air around them becomes high enough. Just before delivery, the fruit is gassed with Ethylene to kick-start the ripening process. This helps make sure none of the fruit will ripen too early, which would be problematic at the grocery store.
Credit: Steve Hopson, www.stevehopson.com

To extend the shelf life of your produce you should not store ripe fruit in plastic bags. Your produce can deteriorate as much as 50% faster. Of course, if you need to speed up the ripening process, putting the fruit into two plastic bags (one inside the other) and adding an apple will accelerate the ripening because apples produces an extremely high amount of Ethylene gas. Check the bag daily and once the fruit has ripened remove it from the plastic bags. The plastic bags need to be removed at the right stage or they will reduce the shelf life or hamper the ripening process. Punching a few pencil-sized holes in your veggie bags too will help your produce last longer in the fridge.

Additional externally applied Ethylene (gassing) merely accelerates the normal ripening process. Numerous studies have shown that there are no important biochemical, chemical, or physiological differences between fruit that has ripened naturally and mature but unripe fruit that has been triggered to ripen with externally applied Ethylene. For example, tomatoes are not and cannot be "artificially reddened" by Ethylene. The normal tomato ripening process, which includes pigment changes - the loss of green chlorophyll and conversion of carotenoids into red lycopene pigments - can be accelerated and brought about earlier by gassing with Ethylene, but this still happens via natural ripening.

Different kinds of plants react to ethylene differently. Ethylene producing items (such as apples, avocados, bananas, melons, peaches, pears, and tomatoes) should be stored separately from ethylene-sensitive ones (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens and lettuce). Most sensitive to Ethylene gas are the leafy vegetables, even if the gas is present in very low quantities. Lettuce begins to wilt quickly when exposed to Ethylene gas at low temperatures —even in your refrigerator. Put spinach or kale in the same crisper bin as peaches or apples and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a few days. Other foods that are sensitive to Ethylene gas, such as fresh peas and bananas, will spoil quickly if they are stored in the same area as avocados, peaches, or apples, which are prolific ethylene producers. The following table shows the relative production and sensitivity of certain fruits and vegetables to Ethylene.

Fruits &

Brussel Sprouts
Lemons, Limes
Lettuce (*2)
Melons (*3)
Onions, Garlic
Pears (*5)
Plums, Prunes
Potatoes (*6)
Rate of

Level of

Reaction to
Ethylene Gas

Scald (*1)
Brown Spots
Russet spotting
Odor, sprouting
Mold (*4)
Shrink, decay
Lose firmness
VL = Very low, L = Low, M = Moderate, H = High, VH = Very High
*1. Loose crunch
*2. Leafy greens
*3. Crenshaw, Honeydew, Persian
*4. Rind breakdown
*5. Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc
*6. Processing, Seed
Source: Fresh Produce Manual for 1997 from the Produce Marketing Association and the 1991 Sea Land Shipping Guide for Perishables.

If you take care to store your fruits and vegetables to regulate the effects of Ethylene gas, you can keep your produce fresher longer and have it ripe and ready when you need it.

Psalm 92:14-15 (NIV) - They [the righteous] will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools Day - The Chemistry of Foolishness

Well today is April Fools Day, the day that many of us take license to play a trick on our co-workers, friends or family. The trick can be just a simple practical joke (isn't that an oxymoron?) or an elaborate scheme akin to being Punk'd. In any event the trick usually has endearing qualities only for the foolish trickster.

Although it is not clearly known how the day was established, the earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales published in 1392. In the "Nun's Priest's Tale", the stage is set on "Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two" or 32 days after April, which is May 2. That date is the anniversary of King Richard II of England's engagement to Anne of Bohemia, but readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "March 32", or April 1. In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

God's Word has numerous lessons for the foolish. Lets take a look at a few:

A fool is someone who thinks he knows it all and does not need the help of others:

A fool is someone who does not learn from his mistakes but repeats them over and over:

A fool is someone who sees no benefit in responsibility but blames others for his problems:

A fool, by his actions, makes life difficult for those around him:
  • Proverbs 13:20 (NIV) - He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
  • Proverbs 17:21 (NIV) - To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool.

And a fool just might be a Business Executive or a Politician!

The Saying:
"A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted"
is not found in the Bible

Finally, there is a saying that we all know and many attribute to the bible but it is not found there. "A fool and his money are soon parted" is not in the bible, however, there are two Proverbs that hint at the same meaning. The first is the saying in reverse - that a fool would not know what to do with his money if he had any, and the second is that a fool does not save for the future:
  • Proverbs 5:17 (NIV) - Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?
  • Proverbs 21:20 (NIV) - In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.

"A fool and his money are soon parted" is a proverb interpreted from the poem "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry" by Thomas Tusser, published in 1557. Thomas Tusser was an English poet and farmer, best known for this instructional poem. It contains the lines:

"A foole and his monie be soone at debate,
which after with sorrow repents him too late."

Ephesians 5:17 (NIV) - "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is" [for your life].