Stronger Than Steel

Steel is the symbol and embodiment of strength. An alloy made by adding carbon to iron and some other metallic elements in minor percentage. The strength of steel doesn’t come from the strength of iron or the strength of carbon, it come from the binding strength between iron and carbon; it is a great example of how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Those elements that like titanium can be added as trace will also transform the alloy into a substance with properties that non of the individual elements have. These are the powers of unity.

and Watching this video from NOVA http://www.pbs.org/video/1701025927/

Today we are experiencing in our society dislodging forces that are working against unity, politically, socially, economically, and pedagogically. In this post I want to address the pedagogical implications of unity as they relate to the other aspects of our lives.

Over the years teaching has been designed in a way that subjects are taught individually and separate from other subjects, even though this seems impossible when dealing with areas like math and physical science. It sounds impossible to separate math from physical sciences but it is not about the use of it, it is about the learning of it. It is normally understood that when some one is using math, say algebra, in physical science the student is supposed to know the principles of algebra and not learn them as s/he learns the principles of the physical science. The problem is that when students learn something in a class, they find it extremely difficult to cross the line to another course and apply those ideas from the other class. This semester (Spring 2018) I am teaching an introductory college chemistry course, and finding out that basic mathematical operations have to be taught together with the chemical principles. Things like equality operations, where multiplying both sides of an equation by a constant doesn’t change the equation. Concepts that students learned while in middle school and are supposed to understand but when it comes to the time of applying these concepts have difficulty.

There is another aspect about the separation of learning about a topic and learning about how to deal with problems related to that topic. Let me explain.

The basic idea in stoichiometry is that there is conservation of mass in a chemical reaction, the amount (in mass) of reactants must be conserved and therefore the amount (in mass) of the products should be the same. If, for example, there are 5 carbon atoms as reactants yielding products, there must be 5 carbon atoms in the products!

Similarly with our society where the union has different properties than the individuals that conform it. A situation where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. In science we have system theory where one can analyze the behavior and characteristics of the whole independent of the characteristics of the individual components without forgetting there are individual components with their own characteristics and properties. The main problem we have in our dualistic thinking is that you can study them separately without having in mind both. Having both in mind is critical for the solution of the problems now affecting society.

 

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Dear Democrats: We Really Need to Up Our Game

John Hawthorne clearly signals a way forward in this post. Enjoy!

Source: Dear Democrats: We Really Need to Up Our Game

The Need For Semantics

If we say that words matter is because words have meaning, but if words lose their meaning then what?

Not a trivial question in today’s political discurse, as politicians are talking and spinning the words as they please. For instance the word conservative is now used to describe the politics of extreme right wing ideologies based on a selfish policies that benefit the richest members of our society. Some would argue of course that it is not that what we mean by conservative. Who is right? Does it matter, who is right? Does it matter what the significance of the word conservative is?

Does it matter what is the meaning of any word?

For educated citizens the answer is unequivocally and a resounding YES! But then what is the meaning of educated? Who would these educated citizens are? Where are they? Looking at the (so called Fake by President Chump) news there are lots of intelligent and educated people on TV. We might look at this media to find meaning on words that are now used by the commons.

I’d like to talk about the word “humiliation” because it will be the front page tomorrow (6/30/17) of the New York Daily News

Humiliation

US citizens are now in a state of mind that is difficult to describe so the Daily News is using this word, humiliation to try to communicate it. But being humiliated that according to the dictionary is the feeling of shame, ashamed by injury. In a way it describes how many Americans feel but doesn’t cover the whole feeling, some like me are also angry, fired up, and ready to action. There is some one, some thing in the White House, something that it is called president, something that doesn’t represent me. It doesn’t represent most Americans that are decent, respectful and not deplorable. Because the White House occupant is behaving deplorably. The damage it is inflicting in the future of the USA is immense and will last for years to come.

Our youth and our future generations deserve better. It is shameful that an important country like the USA is behaving in such an indecent way. (Finding it difficult to express using written language the anger and shame that I feel.) But this is the only language we have, and we must articulate as best we can, with the words we have, how stupid and idiotic this president is. But there is much more shame than this. There is also the humiliation inflicted by those who support it and enable it. Where are the decent republicans? Where are the (so called) Christian republicans that are always vociferating their religion and using it (like the hypocrites they are) for political gains?

 

Bright Spots: STEM Week

Source: Bright Spots: STEM Week

Looking at a continuously changing world we can’t miss what is happening in education. Not only we are teaching different subject matter in our schools but we are doing it in a different way too. Great Britain is leading the way with these innovative programs.

Is It Changing Again?

Nothing stays the same, the only constant in life is change. How we cope with change is a reflection of our intelligence. Be it analytical intelligence or emotional intelligence. Developing skill and competencies for change is what for me is developing intelligence. The aptitude for adaptation.

As we live in a world that is continually changing we get anxious and afraid. We want to be in control, and we believe that the easiest way to control is to keep things as they are, to keep them stationary without change. An impossible task.

Going to the circus is a great experience because we see change first hand. We experience the moment when jugglers, trampolinists, trapeze artists, and everyone on scene are moving. Life is in a way like participating in a circus, many times it has been used as a metaphor. Planning is necessary but being ready for the unexpected is also part of the experience. Being prepared is more than having a program for the show in our hands. It requires an attitude.

As we experience a dynamic world today, with socio-economic-political forces many times out of our control, we need to be prepared. Prepared with a plan, and with the right attitude for experiencing the unexpected. This is where having core values that lead and enlighten our way is crucial, values that reinforce our humanity and by doing that reinforce the relationships we have. Relationships at a diverse level of interaction, work related, family, friends, and neighborhood. Technology is as has always been part of that interaction. From direct to indirect communication, now of course with the use of cyber-space that is changing the dimension of size, things are now closer and get here sooner. Distances are shorter and times are smaller.

If there is one thing I have learned is that as times are changing there is not effort capable of stopping the change so there is only one thing left, the intelligence for adaptation.

 

Place in Time

This last Friday we had a conversation about the realities that surround Warner Pacific College-WPC at our monthly Faculty meeting. Our small group was given the task to analyze what is the reality related to place. As a context for our conversation we were given some ideas developed by CREDO a consulting firm specializing in higher education.

WPC is located in SE Portland. If we use a radius of about 100 miles for our impact we see that there is diversity involved, so our conversation converged in the analysis of how we at WPC are and can be prepared for this diversity. How the academic programs that we offer can target this diverse population. How can we develop new academic programs that better suit the needs of this diverse population.

One of the members in our small group mention the metaphor of having a discussion or a rolling train. The train is already moving and we are forced to adapt to the fact that it is already moving. This comment about the metaphor allowed me to mention a physical fact about reality: We live in a Space-Time four-dimensional reality. Time has to be part of our conversation.

Even though I mention the need to include time it felt to me that my colleagues didn’t get it. They omitted to share to the whole meeting this need to include time in our analysis. This is what I think about including time in our conversation.

Life is ever changing. WPC mission statement (Warner Pacific College is a Christ-centered, urban, liberal arts college dedicated to providing students from a diverse background an education that prepares them to engage actively in a constantly changing world) clearly articulates the need to prepare students not only to be ready for change but also to be part, to engage in this change.

What is then the context related to time that we have to analyze? What are the circumstances that surround us and our students that are changing? What kind of convictions, knowledge, competencies, skills, and tools are now modeling and constructing the pedagogical reality relative to how we now engage in the world?

These are questions among others that should be analyzed and answered. These answers will help WPC looks at the needed changes relative to academic programs. Academic programs that will produce capable professionals. Ethical professionals with a strong liberal arts foundation that will enhance our society, as students become positive and ethical agents of change.

Miracles

I was asked to speak today at our Quaker meeting as many religious organization celebrate “Evolution Sunday”. This day (a Sunday close to the anniversary of the birth date of Charles Darwin) we celebrate science as a human endeavor within our spiritual life. As I was thinking about the dichotomy between science and religion the idea of miracles came to mind, so I talked about miracles. This is what I share this morning 2-12-2017.

It seems to me that when one thinks about the difficulties of bringing science and religion together we immediately think about the difficulties of bringing the supernatural and the natural together. And the impossibility of having both at the same time. Some times that is the case because by definition we want to keep the natural world separate from the supernatural, but it is not necessary that we do it. The main problem I find is the limiting shackles of language. There are many instances in the Bible where certain stories are enhanced by metaphorical descriptions of unbelievable events that we called miracles, let me start with one found in the book of Exodus, it describes the event when after crossing the Red Sea the Israelites are complaining about getting to a place in the desert where they couldn’t drink the water. This is the passage called “The Waters of Marah and Elim (Exodus 15:22 -27)”

“22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.[f])24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

In this passage we clearly see the miracle of Moses turning bitter (alkaline/basic) water into drinkable potable water, neutral water in chemical terms. We read also that in order to fix these bitter waters Moses had to throw a piece of old wood that has been for long sitting on the sun, could it be that the cellulose and other wood materials were affected by the sun and maybe transformed into some kind of acidic solid alcohol? If so casting this piece of acidic wood into the basic water would indeed neutralized it, therefore making it drinkable.

Now let me be clear, understanding this phenomenon doesn’t take the miraculous nature away, on the contrary it makes it even better because we now have the miracle of our understanding, the miracle of humans being able to think and to develop  theories like evolution that help us live better lives.

After talking about Marah I performed a demonstration, using phenolphthalein as a color indicator. I used a diluted solutions of sodium hydroxide (a base) where the phenolphthalein becomes bright rose color and hydrochloric acid where the phenolphthalein is completely clear. Mixing these we can have an acid-base neutralization reaction to show how we could change the color of water (making the joke that it was wine) from clear to “rose” and to clear again.

Finally I said something about water and how I believe in miracles.

First let’s look at how Galileo around 1600 being a devout Catholic got in trouble with the church because he didn’t believe that the earth was at the center of the universe, he was trying to prove that the world was moving. [Of course everybody knows the earth is not moving! Just look out of the window, the earth is not moving, it is just common sense!] So if nobody can see that earth is moving how can we explain why we can’t see it moving if it is moving. Galileo thought that the movement of the ocean tides was proof of the earth’s motion but he was mistaken, when people said that there was a correlation between the tides and the faces of the moon he could not believe it as he thought that was kind of supernatural or occult. It was of course about one hundred years later that Isaac Newton came with the idea the theory of gravitation that connected the motion of the moon with the tides of the oceans. So Galileo develop a thought experiment and came with the explanation that if we couldn’t see the earth moving it was because we were moving with it! Of course today this principle of relativity is obvious as we have been traveling inside vehicles for a long time.

The birth of a baby is a miracle. We experience a deep sense of awe when a new being is born, we sense deep harmony as the newborn is suddenly functioning as an independent individual, breathing by itself.

Water is a miracle. Water is not a normal substance, its molecular structure allows water to have properties that are not common, for example: when material cool they normally contract becoming more dense, water doesn’t do that when it freezes for example it expands, that is why ice floats on water. As a liquid water conducts heat but as a solid ice is a thermal isolator,

So when there is cold weather in a lake, say in Minnesota, water freezes on the top and the ice keeps the water below warmer than the air above the surface of the lake. Fish can survive the harsh winter thanks to the “behavior” (properties) of water, Wouldn’t you say that water is a miraculous substance?