Saturday, January 29, 2011

29 January 2011 Walk me through that equation again

Volcanology – Geology 3000 – at ETSU caught my eye and my interest when I was looking for a non-history course to take this semester. The instructor welcomed me into the class despite my lack of physical geology education in my undergrad or post-grad curriculum. He kindly provided me a physical geology text to use in preparation. I waded through the material he suggested.

I have no problem with the physical realities of geology although I must admit it would be interesting to see how it is taught when there is the very real probability that 50% of the students may believe that the planet is less than 6000 years old. That singular lack of contact with reality could prove very amusing.

Bill Maher had a Congressman from Georgia on his program last night. The gentleman from Georgia was forced to admit that he does not believe in evolution. He had the good graces to appear somewhat embarrassed as he revealed that he places more trust in mythology than science. He then called for the nation’s acceptance of and action about global warming to be decided by “putting the science on the table.” He offered the opinion that “some very good science” supports his anti-evolution stance and proves that global warming is a myth. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to have anyone so poorly grounded in science and so firmly based in literal interpretation of Genesis mythology representing our citizens. Even if the citizens are equally poorly educated, they deserve leaders who understand science and who are not in thrall to theocrats and myths.

Today’s newspaper has a large article about a creationism workshop to be held at various churches and bible colleges in the N.E. TN region in the near future. One of the keynote speakers is to be the founder and director of the “Creation Museum” in Kentucky. This is the place that demonstrates the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs in its tableaux. Disneyland for the truly poorly educated. The same place is planning to build a full-scale ark to demonstrate how Noah loaded all the animals and survived the flood. We really need to ramp up the teaching of science in our schools and tell the creationists to go screw their selves when they scream that they are being “persecuted for being Christians.” They’re not being persecuted for being Christians. They may be the objects of ridicule for being so poorly educated by choice.

Back to the volcanoes now. The concepts and the reality offer me no problems. The physics used to describe, to predict, and to define the processes driving volcanism are another matter.

I last studied physics in 1967, 45 years ago. We had no calculators to solve equations. We wrote them out and solved them by using slide rules – something most of my classmates have never seen or used. Physics kicked my butt then because my math preparation was less complete than it should have been. I’ve not spent any free time studying physics, other than that needed to work in clinical medicine and clinical laboratories, since then. The scope of physics has not changed but the tools used to measure and define physics parameters and problems have increased in complexity and ability. The Hubble was still only a dream. GPS’s used to measure deformation and describe/define location were concepts for military purposes in 1967.

I’m keeping up with the reading for the course but I find it a layer of magnitude more difficult than keeping up with reading for history courses. That shouldn’t surprise me at all but I admit to the shock that comes to the surface when I’m faced with fluid dynamics equations. This weekend will be spent in more review than I had hoped. Back to the books and the slide rule!

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