That’s So Second Millennium
Episode 104 - Scraping Facts Online: If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Datum

Episode 104 - Scraping Facts Online: If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Datum

June 22, 2020
  1. At the time of this taping, Paul was in the middle of the Metis “bootcamp” program learning the capabilities, tools, and insights of data science. This conversation ranged widely in the realm of data analysis and management, examining its relevance to Paul’s field of geology but also exploring the world’s immersion in what Bill would call a data ecology: It seems every datum is connected, or connectable, to every other datum That word is the original singular form of the plural word “data.”
  2. The growing plethora of data has to be tracked and organized, even though today’s computer hardware doesn’t allow all the world’s data—or even relatively large slices of that data—to be stored and analyzed in one place at one time. Realizing that words are data, too, Paul pointed out that geology encountered a data explosion crisis a few decades ago as science developed enough new names for various rocks to make the new information less useful. That was until geologists produced a plan for sorting out and categorizing rock names according to rocks’ bulk chemistry instead of their constituent minerals (example here). Paul came to see the value of advanced organization in obtaining, thinking, and acting upon  geological data—hence, his pursuit of this certificate in data science.
  3. Discussion of this specific field of science led to the use of various other terms, with various meanings, none of them fully understood by Bill. The terms included informatics, data scraping, the analysis of data clustering, “big data,” and “machine-learning algorithms.” These terms can be anticipated to be influential in nearly all fields, so it behooves the layperson to develop some familiarity with them. It is quite possible to become skeptical of such a body of knowledge and skills that can be used for benevolent or malevolent purposes, like everything. But Paul said the hopeful side of his personality recognizes what data scientists already recognize—namely, that this amazingly powerful field also has its limitation.
  4. He recalled there is an author who currently is writing books with a robust skepticism about machine-learning. Separately, one can get a laugh from the current results seen in the hybrid field of machine-learning poetry. Bill guessed the author was Julia Evans, but it was likely Janelle Shane, the author of You Look Like a Thing and I Love You.
  5. The bottom line is that, as with all science, its tools and results cannot provide their own guidance on how to use wisely the fruits they bear. The guidance must come from external forces driven by human virtue and values.

Liner notes by Bill. Audio editing by Morgan. Cover art for this epsiode was produced by Paul... in conjunction with the Landsat 8 mission, the scikit-learn and seaborn libraries, and Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes. (See his final project slides here.)

Episode 093 - The Great Divorce between Philosophy and Science

Episode 093 - The Great Divorce between Philosophy and Science

January 27, 2020

Bill and Paul are both losing their minds with stress this week, so we're glad to just get the episode out. It takes in a bit of philosophy and Paul manages to use some illustrative points from the history of geometry and geology if that's your thing.

I didn't get her credited in the outro, but Morgan Burkart produced the audio for this episode. Like her style? Let us know in a review and look her up at Ball State University.

Episode 073 – Jonathan Lunine

Episode 073 – Jonathan Lunine

August 19, 2019

In this episode we have Jonathan Lunine on the podcast, this time talking to him about his own spiritual journey from Judaism to Catholic Christianity, and from the secular surface of life as a scientist to a deeper life where the beauty of science is one prominent part of a larger whole of human experience. We also get the chance to discuss some of his work in studying the planets during the era when they changed from objects seen through a telescope to worlds we can map and even sample and bring back to our laboratories.

  1. Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, is a member of the board of the Society of Catholic Scientists. He spoke of the influence of reading Carl Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection and receiving Sagan’s advice for pursuing a career in astronomy.
  2. Dr. Lunine has been on the scientific teams leading several missions of space exploration, including Cassini and, now, the James Webb Space Telescope.
  3. He described his early spiritual journey, seeing how science and religion could be intertwined. The journey took him from Jewish family roots to a Methodist church and then to Catholicism. He spoke of being impressed by the connection between the Catholic faith and its Jewish roots.
  4. Astronomers have been excited to learn of the abundance of planets to be found in our galaxy. As Dr. Lunine pointed out, thanks to initiatives like the New Horizons spacecraft, we have turned our “cosmic backyard” into a place where we can study an enormous variety of geology “and even, potentially, biology.”
  5. He expressed gratitude for astronomers and others who became role models embracing the compatibility between science and faith. A key figure, about whom he has made presentations, is the Belgian priest Georges LeMaitre, known as the father of the big bang theory.

This was one of our most enjoyable conversations, and we definitely hope to have Dr. Lunine back on the podcast again.

Bonus Episode - Patricia Bellm: Bible interpretation

Bonus Episode - Patricia Bellm: Bible interpretation

March 21, 2019

The Bible as an instrument of getting to tell people what to do

Flood geology and cramming one's ideas into a "literal" reading

Adam and the Genome

Episode 040 - Kirby Runyon: Christian planetary scientist

Episode 040 - Kirby Runyon: Christian planetary scientist

December 31, 2018

I had the chance to have an unofficial interview with Kirby Runyon. (Planetary science is a very publicity-heavy field, and planetary scientists often labor under certain constraints regarding their contact with the media. We avoided mentioning his institutional affiliation to emphasize the point that this interview in no way characterizes any official position by his institution. You can find out where he works, and get access to some of his work, via web search if you are curious, and there's a clue around 13:00 as well.)

We opened the interview with a discussion of Kirby's research on surface processes on planets. He works on data returned from the Moon, Mars, and Saturn's moon Titan to evaluate how winds, asteroid impacts, and other forces shape the surfaces of those bodies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Episode 038 - Jill Pasteris: Uncertainty and Faith

Episode 038 - Jill Pasteris: Uncertainty and Faith

December 17, 2018

0:00 Experience as a Christian scientist

1:00 The billion year contact; awe

2:00 Awe and the vast scale of Earth science

3:00 Discoveries never shake faith

4:00 Evolution, randomness, the shortage of provable things

6:00 The bureaucratic mindset: certainty and judgment

7:00 Yucca Mountain, studtite, and uranyl peroxides (Peter Burns, Karrie-Ann Hughes)

8:00 Uranyl chemistry

9:00 Guy Consolmagno's thought experiment on planetary atmospheres

10:00 Uranyl peroxide buckyballs...

11:00 NOT in the initial fate and transport model for Yucca Mountain

12:00 Real life is lack of certainty

13:00 Where we'd put uranium if we had to...

14:00 Hanford, Washington and uranium migration

15:00 Phosphates as immobilizers

16:00 Humans and squirrels: digging stuff up to bury it again

17:00 Kirby Runyon

18:00 Difficult conversations

20:00 The Bible

21:00 Cyclic nature of human history, scriptural history

22:00 The second millennium history of reaction, after reaction, after reaction against hypocrisy

23:00 Secularism and the irreligious right

24:00 Progressive movement as a para-Christian critique of society

26:00 Modern psychology and spirituality:

Fulton Sheen's image of the psychologist pulling Christian truths out of the garbage can

and passing them off as discoveries

29:00 The need for God

30:00 Companions on the way

31:00 Providence

Episode 037 - Jill Pasteris: Christian scientist

Episode 037 - Jill Pasteris: Christian scientist

December 10, 2018

3:00 Jill's career
5:00 Finding companionship as Christian scientists (not Christian Scientists...that's different...)
7:00 "Spiritual beings having a human experience"
8:00 Bioapatite; clearing up "loose ends" making a 20 year career arc
9:00 Apatite and phosphate: environment
13:00 Flint, Michigan: lead and protective minerals
14:00 Raman spectroscopy
16:00 Raman on the Mars 2020 rover; Alian Wang
17:00 Laser pointers, cat videos [the brave new world we live in]
18:00 The physics of Raman
19:00 Why lasers and Raman went hand in hand
20:00 Rayleigh vs. Raman scattering
21:00 Raman spectra
22:00 Raman: a (usually) nondestructive technique
23:00 The lecture example and the ease of sample prep for Raman
25:00 Raman peak heights and thermodynamics
26:00 Fingerprinting vs. understanding

Bonus Episode - Nicolaus Steno

Bonus Episode - Nicolaus Steno

December 5, 2018
We talked about Steno quite a bit over the past several months. Briefly, he was a brilliant observational scientist. Brought up in Lutheran Denmark amid the violence of the seventeenth century, he wandered Europe and won fame as possibly the foremost observational scientist of his day, first in anatomy as a tremendously skilled dissectionist and then, via the bridge of biological fossils, as one of the most important precursor figures of what would become geology in the following two centuries. He laid down, if one can forgive the pun, the laws of geological chronology or stratigraphy (superposition, original horizontality, and inclusion) and even the most basic law of crystallography, the law of constant interfacial angles.
 
But Steno placed more importance on his faith. He spent time in both Catholic and Protestant countries and eventually decided to become Catholic. By the end of his life he had forsaken science for the Catholic priesthood, been ordained a bishop, and spent a long lonely time attempting to convince Protestants in Northern Europe to return to the Catholic faith of their ancestors. He lived an austere life that probably killed him relatively young, much as is said of Fr. Michael McGivney of the Knights of Columbus or the African American priest of the same era, Augustus Tolton.
 
I was listening to Bishop Barron's Word on Fire podcast last night about Cardinal Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua, and I remarked on the similarities between Steno, Newman, Tolton, and other figures of the last few centuries like Isaac Hecker of the Paulists and for that matter even GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. These were intelligent men whose virtue and love for others could not be denied, and yet it is easy to look at the aftermath of their lives and conclude that they failed. Was there something they should have done differently? Perhaps it was just that too few people joined them. Perhaps their contributions are still waiting to be gathered up into a new synthesis of faith. There is a great deal more I'd like to say on that subject, but it will have to wait to another day.
Episode 036 - Anne Hofmeister on Galactic Rotation, Math, and Glass

Episode 036 - Anne Hofmeister on Galactic Rotation, Math, and Glass

December 3, 2018

The times below are continuations from the last episode. My opening is about 1:30, and then we start with galaxy motions at "26:00".

26:00 Galaxy motions

27:00 Galaxy rotation curves: do not match Keplerian orbits

28:00 Galaxies spin more like records (laggy soft records); mass distribution is nothing like the Solar System

29:00 Hurricanes as a better analogy for galaxies

30:00 Stars in a galaxy move in local organization

32:00 Nebulas

34:00 The opposite extreme: rigid body rotation

35:00 Gravitational attraction between stars creating coherence

36:00 Curiosity that gravity and electrical forces are both inverse square laws

37:00 Poisson's equation

38:00 Summing densities in Poisson's inhomogeneous term is physically meaningless; intensive quantities can't be summed that way

40:00 Gauss' theorem: flux through a surface and quantity within a volume

41:00 Summing is for extensive variables

42:00 Pressure an ambiguous variable

43:00 Future work

44:00 Thermal expansivity: Giauque

45:00 Problems with the glass transition measurements done in the past: need to completely drive out water from the experimental charges

48:00 Wrapup

Episode 035 - Anne Hofmeister Shakes Up Earth Science

Episode 035 - Anne Hofmeister Shakes Up Earth Science

November 26, 2018

TSSM goes heavy: hard-hitting journalism from one of science's great controversialists, Anne Hofmeister. Intrigued? Disagree? Write me an email (giesting@alumni.nd.edu) or look her up at Washington University in St. Louis' EPS department website.

The times below are keyed to the start of the interview and ignore my opening (just over 2 min).

0:00 Introduction

1:00 Anne's background (sorry, this part Anne was talking so quietly that I can't seem to fix it with Audacity, but bear with us; we moved the microphone and figured some things out and it gets better)

2:00 Spectroscopy and heat transfer

3:00 Thermal conductivity experiments and their pitfalls

5:00 Criticism of the history of thermodynamics and heat transfer; identification of light and heat

6:00 Problems with equilibrium and elastic collisions in theories of thermodynamics

8:00 Criticism of phonon theory

10:00 Electron and vibrational transfer of heat decoupled; metals and heat transfer

13:00 Garnet

14:00 Earth's interior: convection, the Rayleigh number

15:00 Viscosity

16:00 The Earth's mantle: nearly all solid

17:00 Plate tectonics without mantle convection

18:00 An even more radical idea: heat is being trapped inside the solid Earth

19:00 [there was a distortion I had to cut]

20:00 Implications: heat generation is in the crust (this part is widely known!)

21:00 Implications: the core is melting, not solidifying?

22:00 The geodynamo and magnetic field

23:00 The core: buffered at the temperature of melting high pressure iron

24:00 Magnetic modes diagram for the planets: spin and magnetic field

 

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