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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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Revisited - The Chemistry of a Blessing

Five Thanksgivings ago, I posted this blog entry. I pray that all of us will remember the blessings we have received over the years when we take the time this year to be thankful.

A few years back, in 2000, there was a movie out called "Pay It Forward." The premise of the movie was to pass on a blessing to someone, with nothing expected in return. In the movie Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures up the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not by payback to the original person, but with new good deeds done to three new people. As he works on his assignment, it transforms his life and all of the lives of those touched by the ever-growing circle of good deeds.

Thanksgiving is a day to remember all who "Paid It Forward" to and for us. Before 1863 it was being celebrated separately in many states on different dates to commemorate the original Thanksgiving from 1621 when the Pilgrims and Indians gathered for a harvest celebration. The day was established by Abraham Lincoln as a national day for our country to celebrate all of the blessings we have. He set forth a proclamation on October 3rd, 1863 (now a 153 year tradition), in the middle of the Civil War no less, to set apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

Thanksgiving was set apart by Abraham Lincoln
"As a day of Thanksgiving and Praise
To our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens"

Here is the Proclamation:

      "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."

We in America are truly blessed. We have all we need and then some. Even the poorest among us are generally richer than many in other countries. We have much to be thankful for. Recently with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement (or this year, a division over the national election results) and a general sense of entitlements that seems to be growing in our country, we are putting our blessings at risk. Paul states in 2 Corinthians - "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NIV)

Remember today to thank God for all that He has done in your life and in the lives of those around you. He is the giver of the day and the source of our strength. Remember the blessings you have received and "Pay It Forward" to all around you, with no expectation of return.

2 Chronicles 7:14 - "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (NIV)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day -The Chemistry of Freedom - Revisited

I wrote this short blog entry five years ago for Veteran's Day. I wanted to repost it this year. It is still true, we owe our freedoms to the many men and women who dedicated themselves, for a season or a lifetime, to preserving the freedoms we now enjoy in this country. Many made the ultimate sacrifice to protect those freedoms. Remember them all today.

SBDs and Mikuma-crop About a month ago my wife and I visited her Aunt in San Antonio. She had recently moved to a new home and her brother was visiting from Brazil for the first time in about five years. It was a great family reunion. At one point the talk turned to her husband who had passed away a few years back. He had been an Air Force pilot in WWII and had flown 42 missions, many over Germany during a number of fierce air battles. She had a picture that was taken from one of the planes in his squadron showing bombs exploding, sending deadly chunks of metal shooting in all directions, aimed at taking out the low flying planes. He was in one of those planes.

Freedom is Not Free
We Must Fight to Preserve It

My uncle was a rear gunner in the same war, fighting over the Pacific during the battle of Midway. He was only 19 at the time. Both of our uncles survived, living into their 80's. We were lucky they made it home to tell their stories.

Since that war we have had Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few. Before WWII there were numerous wars as well, WWI, the Civil War and of course the Revolutionary War, our original call for freedom. All of these battles, right or wrong, were fought in the name of freedom. A freedom America continues to fight for, all over the world, for all of those oppressed by tyranny.

Today is Veteran's Day. A day we remember those who fought to establish and protect the freedoms we can so easily take for granted. It takes a special kind of individual to risk their life in the defense of another. If you see a soldier, thank them for their service. If you know a family who has a loved one deployed overseas, spend some time with them. If there is a family in your circle who has lost a loved one in the line of duty, comfort them. Most of all say a prayer and thank God for the blessing of these brave men and women. Without their courage and dedication, both past and present soldiers, we might not have the rights and freedoms we now enjoy. We owe a debt of gratitude to them all.

Isaiah 53:12a - "I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. (NLT)"

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Turning Outward Part One - The Sky Above Us

Turning Outward - Proverbs 25:2 (NIV) It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. - Finding God in the world around us.

So now we move from looking at the stars, turning outward and looking at the earth around us.

Endeavour silhouette STS-130PHOTO: The Earth's colorful horizon with a silhouette of the space shuttle Endeavour. The orange layer is the Troposphere, where all of the weather and clouds which we typically watch and experience are generated and contained. This orange layer gives way to the whitish Stratosphere and then into the Mesosphere.

What factors make the Earth uniquely designed to support life as we know it? Why isn't every rocky planet, like Venus, Mars or any number of the 3000+ planets that we have found circling the stars above, suitable for life? Referring to the same Reasons to Believe list of independent, fine tuned, environmental factors that we referenced in the last few blogs, we find some possible answers.

There are numerous factors that relate to the composition of the soil (quantities of specific elements), the oceans, the crust and mantle and the core of the planet but for the discussion today we will limit ourselves to factors related to the characteristics and composition of our atmosphere. To date, no known exoplanets have been found to have an atmosphere with a composition like that of the Earth's atmosphere.

Atmospheric Pressure
Our atmospheric pressure at the surface is roughly 14.7 pounds/sq inch. If that pressure was somewhat smaller, liquid water would evaporate to quickly and then not condense in sufficient quantities. Nor would our lungs function as they do. These factors would decrease or eliminate the chances of advanced life. If the pressure was too high, liquid water would not evaporate easily, leaving the land too moisture rich for land life. The cloud cover would be too thick reducing the sunlight reaching land. The weather would be too consistent to allow for seasons and we would again have difficulty breathing. (probability of 0.01)

Atmospheric Transparency
Life also requires a clear atmosphere too allow for sunlight and the solar radiation to promote photosynthesis and warm the planet. If the air did not allow for solar radiation in a wide range of wavelengths, the planet would be cold and barren of plant life. If too wide a range of radiation were to pass through, adverse effects from that radiation would harm or prohibit life. (probability of 0.01)

Surface Gravity & Escape Velocity
Surface gravity is required to hold on to the atmosphere. Too low and the atmosphere would be stripped away by solar winds. Even if the gravity was enough to retain an atmosphere, too much water could be lost if the escape velocity was still low. If the gravity was too high, toxic compounds heavier than water, such as methane and ammonia, would be retained inhibiting or preventing life. (probability of 0.001)

The Sky Above Us
Makes our World Unique

Oxygen & Nitrogen Balance
To promote life, the atmosphere needs a proper balance and quantity of nitrogen and oxygen. If too much oxygen, advanced life functions tied to respiration would proceed to quickly. The risk and extent of combustion or fire would be higher as well, with organic matter burning too quickly and easily. If the nitrogen was too high, respiration would be insufficient for adequate oxygen intake. Plants would fix nitrogen at too high a level, inhibiting diversity of plant life forms. (probability of 0.1)

Carbon Dioxide & Water Vapor
The levels of carbon dioxide and water vapor are also critical for advanced life. Too much of either of these molecules and we would have runaway global warming. Too little carbon dioxide and photosynthesis would be hindered and too little water vapor and there would be insufficient rainfall for advanced land life forms. (probability of 0.01)

Rainfall & Erosion
Rainfall needs to be sufficient and widespread (cover the earth). Too little rain and there would be inadequate water to support life on land and inadequate erosion to support the cycling of nutrients from the soil to the sea. If too much rainfall, there would be too much erosion with the subsequent flood of excess nutrients into the sea and a resultant extinction of species that help maintain all life. (probability of 0.01). Erosion is also impacted by the slope or relief of the land masses. Too much slope and erosion is too high. Too little slope and erosion is inadequate. (probability of 0.1)

Ozone Levels
The final factor we will consider is atmospheric ozone (O3), discussed previously in The Wizard of Ozone. It is a complex factor in that not only does the overall ozone level impact life but the level in the upper, middle and lower atmosphere have different effects on life.

Overall ozone levels that are too high reduce the surface temperature of the planet, impacting life. Not enough ozone and surface temperatures and UV radiation levels would be too high to sustain life.

Ozone in the Troposphere (0-7 miles above the surface of the earth) inhibits reduction of biochemical smog if levels are too low and causes respiratory failure in animals if too high. Stratospheric ozone (7-31 miles up) blocks too much UV radiation reducing plant growth if levels are too high and allows in too much UV radiation, causing skin cancers and reduced plant growth if levels are too low. When Mesospheric ozone (31-50 miles up) is too high or too low, it disrupts levels of life essential gases in the lower atmospheric levels, affecting an overall decrease in life on the planet. (probability of 0.01)

In the last blog, "Looking Upward Part Three - The Heavens, we identified 17 possible finely tuned parameters that reduced the estimated 25 trillion trillion planets in the universe to just 360 possible habitable ones. Adding in just these eight additional factors (a total of 25 out of over 300 possible) means we would need to search approximately 30 trillion UNIVERSES to have a chance of finding just one planet that met all 25 factors we have examined so far.

Romans 1:20 (NLT) - For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.