Friday, June 30, 2017

This Blog's History: Evolution Misconception #2 - It's Just A Theory

In case you missed my  post on the evolution misconception that evolution is just a theory, I'm re-posting it today for This Friday in This Blog's History.  The theory misconception is one creationists often use to discredit evolution.  Unfortunately for them, the word 'theory' does not mean what they think it means.

Evolution Misconception #2 - It's Just a Theory

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Did Humans and Dinosaurs Co-Exist? NO NO NO NO NO!!!!

Did humans and dinosaurs co-exist?  My mind is blown when I hear people claim this.  My mind is even more blown when seeing this YouGov poll from 2015 that found 41% of Americans believe humans and dinosaurs co-exised.  WOW!  That is insane!!!  How is this even possible?!?!?!  If you're curious about how YouGov did their polling, go here:

Over 40% of Americans believe humans and dinosaurs shared the planet

This just amazes me!  I don't even know what to say other than no, humans and dinosaurs did not co-exist!  The timing of the two was not even close!  There's a separation of about 63 MILLION YEARS between the extinction of the dinosaurs and early humans.  Seriously?  41%?  Is there hope for humanity?  Hard to believe so given this polling.  Sigh.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Evolution Misconception #3: Evolution Explains the Origins of Life

Today is the third is a serious of posts on evolution misconceptions.  Thus far I've posted on the following misconceptions.

1.  If evolution is true, then why are there still monkeys?
2.  Evolution is just a theory.

Today's misconception states:

Evolution explains the origins of life.

No, no it doesn't.  The primary focus of evolution is how life changed after it first appeared on Earth.  Evolution does not describe how life on Earth came to be.  This doesn't, however, mean you can throw in your idea, whether it be a single god, multiple gods, aliens, etc. to explain the origin of life.  Not having an answer does not mean you can fill in this gap with your ideas of what you think happened.  Your ideas lack evidence and observations.  There is nothing wrong with saying "I don't know."

Today's evolution misconception is another that evolution denialists use to try to show that evolutionary biologists are uninformed.  They are not uninformed.  It is the denialist who is uninformed.  It is the denialist making up a straw man argument to try to tear down evolution.  It's a common tactic used by the denialists.  Since they can't debate the merits of evolution, they make up questions and ideas biologists don't claim to be true to tear them down.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

More Doctor Who Fun

My kids and I continue to work our way through the first season of modern Doctor Who (starting with the 9th Doctor).  My wife isn't interested in Doctor Who and that's fine.  What's funny, however, is when my 6 year old suddenly launches into a conversation with:

"Mommy, when we were watching Doctor Who, there was this pig in a space suit..."

Image the look on my wife's face when she hears this?!?!  LOL!  In case you're wondering, here's the pig in a spacesuit my daughter is referring to.

Yep, that's a pig in a spacesuit!  You know you want to learn more now!  To do so, watch Doctor Who!!!  AWESOME TV show!

Monday, June 26, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #7 - Hiking in Chief Logan State Park

The day following our visit to the Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, WV, we slept in and then went hiking in Chief Logan State Park, the location of our lodge on this trip.  We hiked the Rattlesnake Trail, supposedly a loop of 1.8 miles.  We completed this in 25 minutes and that was with a couple of longer stops going down a muddy slope.  In other words, not a 1.8 mile loop.  We then took the Coal Mine trail, a supposedly 1.0 mile loop that took us 1.5 hours, so much longer than a mile!  I think the park map needs an update.  :-)  Here are a few shots of our hike.

There was a light rain for most of the hike, but that was okay.  It kept the temperature cooler and given all of the foliage above us, we really didn't get very wet.  Our feet, however, were a different story!  It was quite muddy and wet from the previous days rains, so all of us had soaked shoes and feet by the end of the hike.  Oh well, the beautiful scenery more than made up for soaked feet!  Along the Coal Mine trail we saw the old site of a coal silo.

Very interesting!  We also saw some wildlife.  A few deer, a few squirrels, and this orange salamander!

To sum it all up, we had a great time hiking on this day in West Virginia!  Beautiful!

Friday, June 23, 2017

This Blog's History: Evolution Misconception #1 - Why Are There Still Monkeys?

In case you missed it the first time, let me point you back to the first post on a series I'm writing on the misconceptions of evolution that float around out there.  One of the most obvious misconceptions is the question that is used as a lame attempt to debunk evolution.  If evolution is real, then why are there still monkeys?  You can read my full, original post by clicking the link below, but to answer it very simply, there are still monkeys because man is not the offspring of monkey.  They both evolved from a common ancestor.

Evolution Misconception #1 - Why Are There Still Monkeys?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #6 - Mine Wars Museum

Following our drive to Blair Mountain (or as close as we could get to it), we next headed to Matewan, West Virginia, the home of the new Mine Wars Museum.  The timing of our trip coincidentally coincided with the annual reenactment of the Battle of Matewan.  The Battle of Matewan took place on May 19, 1920 and was a shoot out between local coal miners and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.  Here are a few shots I took of the reenactment.

Very cool!  After this we took a short walk through the town and visiting the Mine Wars Museum, a small, but very informative museum.

Toward the end of the day we drove to Welch, WV and stopped at the courthouse, the site of the murder of Sid Hatfield a year after the Battle of Matewan.

A very busy, but a very fun and informative day for us!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #5 - Battle of Blair Mountain

On our first full day in West Virginia on a recent high school field trip, we drove as close as we could to Blair Mountain.  Blair Mountain holds historical importance as it was the site of a real battle between union coal miners and the coal mine operators.  It was a time in which coal miners were treated horribly and seeking to unionize and gain greater benefits and rights as employees.  The battle took place in 1921 and over one million rounds were fired before the battle came to an end.  I, however, am far, far from being an expert on this.  As I stated before, this trip to West Virginia was organized by my colleague who is a historian who focuses on the history of coal in West Virginia.  I was just along for the ride.  :-)

Battle for Blair Mountain

More recently there is another battle for Blair Mountain.  The site is owned by a private coal company trying to destroy the mountain through the mountain top removal efforts to extract coal from the ground.  Other groups are fighting to prevent this and declare Blair Mountain an historical site.  On our trip we drove as close as we could to Blair Mountain.  The land is privately owned so getting any closer would be trespassing.

That picture, aside from seeing the mountain off in the distance, is all we were able to see.  The drive to this area is beautiful!  Lots of curvy, winding roads, but beautiful!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Karate Kid II

After recently watching the Karate Kid, we checked out the Karate Kid II from the local library.  It's not as good as the first, but still a good movie.  The focus changes from Daniel (The Karate Kid) to Mr. Miyagi.  Actually, the movie starts immediately after the first movie ends.  Daniel is getting ready in the locker room following his tournament win at the end of the first movie.  That's how immediate in time the two movies are.

Very quickly, however, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi head to Okinawa to take care of some business regarding Mr. Miyagi's father.  Once there, things take a turn for the worst when an old rival of Mr. Miyagi's appears.  Unlike the first movie, I did not remember much of the second movie.  I know I saw it as a kid as a few of the scenes were familiar.  One scene in which I do remember occurs when Daniel is asked to karate chop through several sheets of ice. 

The take away message is that fighting is not always the best option.  Mr. Miyagi and his rival, Mr. Sato, never fight, despite the big build up to it.  They work out their differences without fighting.  It's a good message!  Oh, and this movie ends very abruptly just like the first movie.  Daniel wins his forced fight with his rival, the camera pans to Mr. Miyagi's approving smile, and boom, roll credits!  LOL!  Gotta love 1980s movies!  My kids, especially my 6 year old, loved it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #4 - Chief Logan State Park

On the West Virginia trip I chaperoned last month, we stayed at the Chief Logan State Park Lodge in Logan, WV.  Beautiful location nestled in the mountains of West Virginia!

As I said, beautiful scenery!  Each morning, aside from one in which it was raining, I woke up, showered, grabbed some breakfast and coffee, and sat outside admiring the view and doing a bit of reading.  This was a high school trip, so the kids were all sleeping for several hours after I woke up, so it was very peaceful!  Loved the views!  We also did a bit of hiking in this park, but more on this in future posts.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

This Blog's History: Introducing my Kids to Modern Doctor Who

In case you missed it last month, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post in which I discuss the wonders of watching Doctor Who with my kids.  Amazing show!  Watch it.  Wait, that's not strong enough.  Watch it NOW!!!!  :-)

Doctor Who Introduction

Thursday, June 15, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #3 - West Virginia State Museum

While visiting the West Virginia capitol building last month on a school trip, we stopped at the West Virginia State Museum.  In fact, the desk inside the capitol building was unmanned, so I was unable to get my capitol book stamped.  We had to head over to the State Museum to get the stamp.  It was well worth the detour as the museum is excellent and packed full of West Virginia history.  Much of the museum focuses on the coal industry in West Virginia, but it hits on many other areas of West Virginia history as well, including West Virginia's very own potato chip company, Mister Bee!

I bought bag of these chips later in the trip.  Meh.  They were okay, but not great.  There's also an interesting, and very weird story, about 'dressed fleas'.  Seriously, dressed fleas!  See the image below for the story.

When you make your trip to the West Virginia capitol building, make sure to save a couple of hours to visit the State Museum, just across the sidewalk from the capitol.  If your experience is similar to mine, you'll have to go there to get your capitol book stamped.  Funny story.  The guy at the State Museum argued he was much better at stamping the capitol books than the people in the actual capitol building.  LOL!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #2 - State Capitol

On our way to West Virginia with a school trip last month, after a stop at the Hopewell Culture Historical State Park in Chillicothe, OH, we stopped at the West Virginia state capitol building in Charleston, W.V.  This is the second state capitol building I've visited in my life.  I first visited the Iowa state capitol building as a kid, and then again as an adult a few months ago.  The West Virginia state capitol is just my second.  I'm way behind!  Here are a few pictures from the outside.

It's some very beautiful and interesting architecture.  The inside does not disappoint either!

One of the more interesting aspects of the interior of the building, in my opinion, is the two legislative chambers, the house and the senate, seen below.

It gives me a bit of a chill thinking about these two rooms and the bills that eventually became laws in West Virginia that started right here.  I may not agree with some of these laws, but I hold deep respect for the process behind them.  

Of course the capitol building visit was not complete without getting my capitol book stamped!  It only has two stamps now, but that's two stamps closer than I was 6 months ago!

If you're ever in the area of Charleston, WV, take a few hours to visit the capitol building and surrounding grounds.  There are a few memorials outside the capitol building, as well as a state museum right next door.  More on this tomorrow.  The West Virginia capitol building is quite cool with a ton of history behind it.  It's great experience and best of all, it's free!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #1 - Hopewell

Last month I had the opportunity to take a group of high school students on a 6 day trip to West Virginia.  Most (ok, all!) of the trip organization was done by one of my colleagues and I was simply an adult chaperone.  The next several posts on this blog will detail this trip as it was a wonderful experience.  We learned a great deal about West Virginia history and had a ton of fun.  Today's post, the first, actually isn't about West Virginia, but a stop we made along the way in Ohio to the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.

This historical park is home to several mounds that are burial grounds from the Hopewell culture during the period of 200 BCE and 500 CE.  At the site we walked around and toured the mounds.  Very interesting!

As you can see, the mounds are very well maintained.  There are a few trails in the area as well, including a small museum inside that is free to tour.  In the visitor's center I found a National Parks Passport book.  Being the geek I am I purchased one and got a stamp in it for visiting this site.  :-)  The guy working the visitor's center showed us the example passport book and shared its story.  This book was filled with tons of stamps.  Not sure how many parks were still to be visited, but whoever owned this book had visited most of the national parks in the U.S.  This person left their book at this site, but never returned to pick it up.  No name/address was left in site, so now the center keeps it on hand just in case someone does come looking for it.  Sad story!!!  

For more on this park, go here:

If you ever find yourself in this area (Chillicothe, OH) be sure to stop at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park and tour the mounds and museum inside.  It's a great educational experience.  As I was on a school trip, my own kids were not with me, so hopefully sometime in the future we'll be able to make a return visit so they can experience the mounds and the history of the area.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Does Salt Water Boil Faster?

Does salt water boil faster than fresh water?  The answer is no.  If you pour fresh water from the tap and sprinkle or pour in a bit of salt, then no, the water does not boil any faster.  You just aren't adding enough salt to change the overall saltiness of the water.  You can add salt to the water to flavor whatever you intend to put in the pot, but the added salt will not result in a quicker boiling time.

Don't believe this?  Test it out yourself!  This is a great opportunity to show your kids the power of experimentation.  I haven't done this test with my kids yet, but now I have plans to.  Start out with equal volumes of water from the tap.  Let the water sit for several hours to reach room temperature.  Pour one container of water (either fresh or salted) into a pan.  Turn up the temperature and measure how long it takes to reach a boil.  Repeat for the second container of water.  To keep consistency, use the same stove burner, the same pot, and turn the temperature to the same setting as the first test.  You'll want to make sure the stove burner and pot have completely cooled down before repeating.  If you don't, you've started with different initial conditions and will likely see different results. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

This Blog's History: Skeptic's Guide to the Universe

In case you missed it a few weeks ago when originally posted, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post I wrote on the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast.  It is an AWESOME podcast you should definitely check out!

Skeptic's Guide to the Universe Podcast

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Death of my Dad

On June 4, 2017, early in the morning, my dad died.  This was not a surprise, although still very sad nonetheless.  My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, glioblastoma, in January 2014.  The tumor was inoperable and the prognosis was terminal.  Without treatment he had a 3 month median expected life time.  With treatment, about 15 months.  He went the route of treatment and responded very well.  Ultimately though each treatment only bought time and eventually he ran out of treatment options and the cancer ran its course.  He survived about 40 months, well past the 15 month median expected life time for this cancer.

My dad was always someone who wished me the best in my ventures even when he didn't really understand what those ventures were.  For example, he was very supportive when I chose to major in physics and astronomy in college, even though he (and admittedly me too) had no idea what job opportunities there were in the field.  He was supportive of my choice to go to graduate school even though he had no clue about my field of study.  Granted, very few people in the world do and at times I'm not even sure I do.  :-)  When I moved from Iowa to Minnesota and then to Indiana, he was fully supportive of those moves.

I remember all the times he played catch with me, tossed around the football, and played basketball in the driveway.  Even when he was busy after work with outside chores, he took time to play before dinner.  I also remember him as a hard worker who did what he needed to for his family.  There were times when he was laid off from work.  I don't really remember feeling we lacked money or anything, but I'm sure there were times when it was a lot tougher for us than I ever realized.  He took jobs that required him to be out of state for several weeks to a couple of months at a time.  He did that to provide for his family.

We didn't tell our kids anything until later in the day as this was a big soccer weekend for them.  They each had their own soccer tournaments they were competing in so we wanted their focus on those games until later.  They both knew my dad was very sick and I had talked to them previously about how this was a type of sickness that he wasn't going to get better.  I strongly feel it is important to be honest with your kids on the topic of sickness and death.  When we last visited my dad in March during their Spring Break, we all knew he was very sick and not doing well.  I talked with my kids about this and explained that it probably wasn't going to be much longer before he died.

Death is a part of life.  It's not a happy or joyful part of life, but it is a part of life that we most accept if we are to move forward in our own lives.  After their soccer tournaments I spoke with my kids and explained to them that their grandpa had died earlier today.  We talked for awhile about how death is something that happens to all of us and even when a loved one dies we will always remember the memories we had.  We talked about the Christmas and birthdays we celebrated and the time just two years ago when we bought and launched a bunch of fireworks with him on July 4th.  My kids are young and will lose some of those memories, but there are some memories of my dad they'll always keep with them.

The best advice I can offer to parents in difficult times such as this is to be honest with your kids.  Don't hide what is going on and don't sugar coat it.  Be honest with them.  They can handle it.  And whatever you do, don't lie to them as this will only set them back later in life.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Soccer Championship

This past weekend, my daughter's U8 soccer team that I coached participated in the end of season World Cup tournament.  This team, composed of 6, 7, and 8 year old kids played hard all season long.  It was an absolute joy coaching them this year and watching their soccer skills improve in just a few short weeks.  They all came to each game and practice ready to listen and learn.  The best part is the smiles on their faces when playing soccer.  Each game/practice they'd run on to the field and ask how I was doing or share a story of something they did since the last time we met.

The end of season tournament consisted of 2 games Saturday and another guaranteed game on Sunday.  The top two teams out of twelve would compete in a second, championship game on Sunday.  This team played their hearts out in the first three games, winning all three and making it to the championship game.  Admittedly they breezed through the first three games, but the championship game was a different story.  This game consisted of two very strong teams competing against each other, just as you'd want in a championship game.  Despite their fourth game in two days and relatively warm weather, they continued to hustle throughout the game, running up and down the field to try to score and prevent the other team from scoring.  In the end, they won 5-2.  I was so happy for them and so proud of how hard they played.  

I've coached for 4 years now.  Each year is different as it's a different group of kids each year.  Thus each year is special in its own way.  My 6 year old wants to try new things so it doesn't look like she'll play soccer this fall.  She may play again in the future, but the plan is to try something different this fall.  Thus I don't see myself coaching in the fall, but that doesn't mean I won't coach again in the future.  We shall see.  Let me end by encouraging all parents out there to volunteer as a coach for your kid's team.  It is such an amazing experience and sports leagues at the recreational level are often in dire need of parent volunteers to coach.  Don't worry about lack of coaching experience.  I had ZERO experience coaching when I first started and ZERO experience playing soccer.  I learned on the job and volunteering to coach ranks right up there as one of the best decisions in my life.  It has been such an amazing experience!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Best Gift to Your Soccer Coach

I currently coach youth soccer at the U8 level.  I have twelve 6 and 7 year old kids this season, which just finished up this past weekend.  At times it is quite exhausting and frustrating, but in the end it is a ton of fun.  I started coaching four years ago when my youngest daughter starting playing when she was 3.  A couple of weeks ago I received the best gift a kid could give his/her soccer coach.  I received the note shown below from a kid at the beginning of practice one day.

Ah...I taught this kid 'good'.  LOL!  Love this note on a hotel notepad!  It's these moments that make coaching youth soccer so worth it.  If you ever get the chance, and you likely will, I highly encourage you to volunteer to coach your kid's local recreational sports team.  Leagues are always looking for volunteer parents to coach at the rec level.  In fact, leagues don't happen without volunteer parents.  You don't need coaching experience or really any experience in the sport you are coaching, in particular at the lower age levels.  Most leagues will offer some basic coaching training for free.  When I started, I had no coaching experience and NEVER played organized soccer. So if you have the opportunity, jump at it!  It's a wonderful experience!

Monday, June 5, 2017

This Blog's History: 2016 Scientific Discoveries

In case you missed it, for This Friday (on a Monday) in This Blog's History I point you to the post I wrote on several cool scientific discoveries that happened in 2016.  Some very cool discoveries!

2016 Scientific Discoveries

Thursday, June 1, 2017

U.S. Push for Full Anti-Science

Yesterday the U.S President announced the U.S was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement it entered into in December 2015.  The Paris Climate Agreement was signed by roughly 190 countries all agreeing to make necessary contributions to combat climate change and keeping global temperatures from increasing beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above historical norms.  An increase of 1.5 degrees will still cause sea level rises and result in conflict across the globe (largely due to climate changed caused droughts), as well as hundreds of billions of dollars spent addressing the consequences.  However, it prevents the worst of climate change damage to this planet.

The U.S., the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (behind China) announced it was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, joining only two countries, Nicaragua and Syria, as the only ones not part of the agreement to make this world a healthier place.  Why?  That's a good question and one my two daughters cannot even comprehend.  Making the world a healthier place is common sense to them.  Why wouldn't we work to protect the planet and create new, green jobs, as a result?

It certainly has nothing to do with science as the science of climate change is very clear.  The planet is warming and humans are the direct cause of this warming.  There is no denying this.  The facts are in.  The current administration and the current controlling party of Congress (Republicans) flat out deny the science in favor of big money interests and tax cuts to the rich.

I've always tried to keep politics limited on my blog, but when an entire political party denies science and knowingly puts my kids, and all other kids, at risk, I'm not going to stay quiet.  I will be blunt.  If you support this President and this particular move by this President, you are either a denialist or ill-informed. The Paris Climate Agreement is an easy decision.  The facts are very clear.  The science could not show us a clearer path to the future of this planet if we sit and do nothing.  Yet the Republican President and the Republican Congress are choosing to do just that.  They are anti-science and so are many of their supporters.

You have the right to favor the pull out from the Paris Climate Agreement based on the argument of not believing the science.  But if you do, throw away your phone.  Turn off the AC to your house, stop driving your car, don't go to the doctor, skip brushing your teeth, crush your glasses, turn off the hot water heater, and trade your refrigerator in for an ice box.  Science brought you all of that and much, much more.  Be anti-science if you wish, but if you do, avoid the hypocrisy by avoiding all of the conveniences science has brought you.  

Evolution Misconception #2: It's Just a Theory

;I recently started a series of evolution misconception posts on this blog.  The first evolution misconception was posted last week and focused on the the 'argument' of why are there still monkeys.  I put argument in quotes because it's not really an argument.  It's a misunderstanding on the part of evolution denialists and frankly an intentional misunderstanding.  A small amount of research will show that evolution does not state that humans come from modern monkeys.  Today's misconception is another intentional misunderstanding.  The misconception goes as follows:

Evolutionary theory.  It's just a theory so why should it be accepted?

Ug.  This is a complete lack of understanding on the definition of a scientific theory.  It's also very easy to do a bit of research on the definition.  There's a difference between a lower case 't' theory used in everyday language and a capital 'T' Theory used in science.  A 'theory', with a lower case 't', is often used to describe someone's thoughts or ideas.  For example, I have a theory that my dog could win a race against other dogs.  Do I have any evidence to back that up?  No.  At this point it's not even a hypothesis.

A capital 'T' Theory used in science is far, FAR more than just someone's random idea.  From we have:

"a coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation:"

The key phrase here being 'to explain a group of facts' and 'repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation'.  

In other words, a scientific Theory is a description of the data acquired through multiple experiments and often different experiments coming to the same set of conclusions.  It is NOT a wild guess by any means.

The evolution denialists refuse to make any effort at all to understand the definition of a scientific Theory.  They think they are being witty in their 'arguments' against evolution, but instead they are simply knowingly knowledgeable.  It's okay to lack knowledge in an area.  That is all of us at some point, and likely many points, in our lives.  But when faced with evidence and you still choose to use the same arguing points, well, that's intentionally misleading and not okay.

To sum this up, yes, evolution is a Theory, but so is gravity.  It's all in how you define Theory, and the correct way is the definition posted above.  Data, experiments, and observations.