Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 42)

Seven things from my first week at school:

1. Post-its. Seriously, I can’t stay organized without them.

2. Why do all my Econ classes want to have ice breakers and get students to know one another? I wasn’t aware that Economics was so touchy-feely. I don’t want to form study groups or make friends; I just want to come to class.

3. On related note, group projects? Ew. I know “you have to work with people in the business world,” but I still think group projects are unproductive. I already proved I can work well with others; I passed kindergarten.

4. My introversion is really showing on those last two posts. Which is weird, because I normally keep it so hidden…

5. Why the heck are there night classes that go until 10pm? I should be in my jammies curled up in bed way before 10 pm. Besides, after September, I’ll be missing The Big Bang Theory every Thursday night. The sacrifices I make for education.

6. Just because I get in my jammies by 7pm every night (except when I have night class), doesn’t mean I’m getting to sleep anytime reasonable. I’ve fallen into a wack-a-doodle sleep pattern of 3 am-6:30am, and then 4pm-8pm. But geniuses such as Jefferson and Franklin apparently did that too, so instead of seeing how unhealthy I am, I’m just pretending I’m a productive smartypants.

7. Seriously, stop complaining about parking. When I was editorial editor at my alma mater, I would toss 90% of the letters about parking problems, because (at least on the campuses I’ve experienced) getting here 15 minutes early or being willing to walk across campus eliminates any parking “problem.” Just stop it. I’d rather talk about the weather, because at least the complaints change seasonally. 

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Chuck Norris of Canon

It can be mathematically proven that the Catholic canon, with its 73 books, is superior to Orthodox or Protestant canons. Seven and three are both divine numbers, and 73 is the perfect number, according to Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

73 is the 21st prime number.
Its mirror, 37, is the 12th.
Its mirror, 21, is the product of 7 and 3.
73 is a palindrome in binary.

See? Math is both fun and theologically educational.

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 41)

I’ve been all about astronomy lately (thanks, Curiosity). And while I’ve talked about it before, it still baffles me that people think Christianity and science don’t go together. I don’t know who bothers me more, secularists who dismiss all believers as illogical idiots or the ignorant believers who perpetuate that stereotype (actually, I do know; it’s the latter). So my quick takes are about some religious men that made big contributions to math and science:

1. St. Albert the Great is the patron saint of scientists, philosophers,  the natural sciences, and medical technicians. He entered into the priesthood after a vision from Blessed Virgin Mary. He studied Aristotle and Muslim academics and wrote on reconciling philosophy with the natural sciences. He set up personal laboratories where he experimented in chemistry and physics and collected insects and plants. He believed knowledge of nature pointed to knowledge of God. (St. Thomas Aquinas studied under Albert.)

2. Georges Lemaitre was a Belgian priest and astronomer. He was the first person to propose the theory of the expanding universe and the Big Bang, which contrasted with Einstein’s static universe model of the time. Lemaitre’s conclusions suggested that there was a finite point, “a day without yesterday,” from which the universe began and continues to expand. He kept his research and religious life separate, believing there was neither confirmation nor conflict between the two.

3. Gregor Mendel was an Augustan friar who is often credited as the father of the study of genetics. His work included beekeeping and plant breeding. He tested around 29,000 pea plants; his studies showed the presence of recessive and dominant traits. His theories were carried over to his beekeeping. At the time (mid-nineteenth century), most scientists believed traits were a blend of the parents in animals, but Mendel’s work demonstrated the theory of recessive and dominant genes that was later accepted and became known as Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance.

4. Roger Boscovich was a Jesuit from what is now Croatia who studied physics and astronomy. He developed the first geometric procedure for determining the circumference of a rotating planet. For example, he found a way of determining the Sun’s equator and the period of its rotation by observing spots on its surface. His ideas on explaining physical behavior in terms of force rather than static matter are credited as the foundation for nineteenth century atomic theory. In 1753, he was the first to note the absence of an atmosphere on the moon. He travelled often, and also served as an engineering consultant. One of these consulting projects was repairs to St. Peter’s Dome, where he also served as a confessor.

5. Landell de Moura was a Brazilian priest and inventor who studied sound wave transmissions after being introduced to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone while in Europe. In 1904, he received U.S. patents for his wireless telephone (which used a combination of three earlier telephone systems) and wireless telegraph. He worked to increase Brazil’s technical knowledge and demonstrate that scientific study was compatible with Church doctrines.

6. Francesco Faa di Bruno was a nineteenth century mathematics professor from Sardina. He was heavily involved in creating refuges for the elderly, poor, and prostitutes. He joined the priesthood late in life, hoping Holy Orders would help him continue his service. In his career, he studied algorithmic approaches to eliminating between polynomials of variables in algebraic geometry. A formula, which generalizes the chain rule to higher derivatives, is named after him. Faa di Bruno was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

7. A note on Galileo Galilei: the house arrest of Galileo is probably the most common event thrown around when someone is trying to say the Church is anti-science. The reality is that the Church had supported Galileo’s astronomy studies. However, an inquisition found that his heliocentric theory lacked the credentials of the day to be considered absolute fact and would be considered only a scientific possibility. In 1632, Galileo wrote a defense of his theories in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. It was written with permission from Pope Urban VII, however, after it was published, Galileo was found guilty of heresies. It was believed that Pope Urban’s arguments were unjustly presented in the book by the buffoonish character Simplicio and that Galileo had tried to tell the Church how to interpret the Bible. Galileo’s trial had more to do with the political atmosphere of the time than any Church position on astronomy. 

To be fair, fear of the theological ramifications of a moving Earth did play some role. Books on heliocentric theory were banned by the Church from 1615 to 1757. (Isaac Newton’s works helped in lifting the ban.) So, I’m not saying the Church has always been on the forefront of science, but I really wish people would stop using the Galileo as the go-to example of religion v. science. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Selfish Worship

I was talking with some friends on a Saturday not too long ago, and I realized that as we approached midnight, the group split into two camps: those needing to leave because we had church early in the morning and those who hadn’t attended church regularly since we graduated high school. The split didn’t surprise me; I knew who was involved in church and who wasn’t, but the issue doesn’t come up much. Someone merely commented, “I have to get up for church early in the morning.” Then someone else commented, “I don’t think Jesus minds if I pray to him from my pillow.” For some reason, it really irked me. It seemed light-hearted enough, but something about it felt wrong.

I realized what it was as I was in church the next morning. My friend had made the assumption that early morning church attendance was some sort of obligation, perhaps something we did out of habit or guilt or commitment (like making an 8:00 a.m. class in college). Our views were coming from different extremes. My understanding of going to church is completely the opposite. It’s not about clocking in. It’s not about obligation. And even if it should be, it’s not about giving my time and praise to God.

No, my Sunday routine is one of selfishness. I go because I get something out of it. I get to feel calm. I get to feel loved. I get grace washing over me. I get Christ’s presence. I get to take part in a ritual that has connected humanity to God for over a thousand years. I go to feel closer, higher, immortal. Why on earth would that seem like an obligation?

I realize it’s not supposed to be about me. It’s supposed to be about God, about offering up what I can while acknowledging that I don’t deserve all these good graces, and about asking for mercy anyway. But I can’t help but make it about me. I can’t help but think that I get way more from God than God gets from me. My worship is mostly selfish, focused on what all I get from God. It’s hard not to get spoiled when you receive something so undeserved in such abundance. 

While I know I need to work on changing my focus from me to God, I hope I never start to view Sunday morning as an obligation where I hand over an hour of my time just because that's the social requirement.I hope I'm always selfish enough to recognize how much I receive from Mass.

I wish I could show those who don't go to church what they're missing. It doesn't seem fair that I get it more than others. I don't know why I get all these positive things from church while others just get frustrated or bored. I don't know why God pokes me and pulls me in while letting others feel nothing or seek and find nothing. Selfishly, I just want to accept the blessings and hope it doesn't mean He has some grand plan for me.

But He probably does. He does things like that, demanding action from us. I hope I'm not too selfish to ignore Him.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 40)

1. I didn’t write any last week. Finals, even for summer session, took over. I’m pretty disappointed in my grades (not that they are bad; they just aren’t a 4.0), and that’s making me nervous for the fall. If I can’t do well when I’m taking two classes, how am I going to do taking five?

2. I’ve been thinking about ending lines to books recently. A good ending line can make or break my opinion of the book. I consider F. Scott Fitzgerald one of my favorite authors, but I didn’t like The Great Gatsby or This Side of Paradise until after I finished them. I think that is because Fitzgerald is just that awesome at distilling the whole story in a great ending. I don’t think it is a coincidence that three of my favorite books have three amazing last lines:


"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."



"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."


  "He loved Big Brother."

3. Speaking of The Great Gatsby, the new movie was supposed to come out this Christmas, but it got moved to summer 2013. I already have to wait that long for the next Star Trek. Basically, the delay means I’m cinematically done with 2012.

4. I’ve really enjoyed the news being about good things, like the Olympics and the Curiosity landing. Yes, I went to an opening ceremony viewing party. Yes, I stayed up late to watch Curiosity land. I love when humanity gets all unified and awesome.

5. And then awful stuff like two mass shootings in two weeks happens. I saw this making the rounds on some blogs and Facebook, which pretty much sums up all I want to say about that:

 6. I’m getting ready to head on a 6 hour trip to see some college friends this weekend. I’ve downloaded lots of podcasts for the 12 hours of driving. So if you’re on I-81 or I-40 in Tennessee this weekend, yes, I’m that weirdo you see laughing and talking to herself in the car. I get really involved in talking back to people on podcasts.

7. As I was typing #6, Word tried to correct “I-81 or I-40” to “me-81 or me-40.” So now I’m calling it the menterstate system, which sounds like a system for mentors. I need sleep.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quid est Veritas?

I haven’t seen this movie, "Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings:' A Catholic Worldview", but I found this clip, and I love it. I’ve been a C.S. Lewis fan since I was about 14, and I love the story of his friendship with Tolkien and his conversion.

“Myths are not lies. In fact, they’re the very opposite of a lie. Myths convey the simple truth, the primal reality of life itself.”

What I particularly like about this clip is the discussion of myths, materialism, and reality. The reason science and myth need not be treated as enemies is because it isn’t an “either/or” but a “both/and.” Science is our understanding of the material; myth is our understanding of what is beyond the material. We’ve been duped to believe that which can only been detected through the five senses is the only reality. If we try to measure the supernatural by natural means, of course it will seem beyond belief. But the fault is in the method.

“The first real lie of materialism [is] that hideous claim that there is no supernatural order to the universe.”

I also like how Tolkien describes history as God’s story. I’ve always pictured God as an author (maybe because I’m writer). And why can’t reality have a theme, plot points, and symbolism? And why can’t little myths which lack in facts still point to a true archetype, the big picture?

“Myths show us a fleeting glimpse of truth itself.”

I believe the clip takes a lot of its points from Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories.” I actually haven’t read much Tolkien, but stuff like this definitely makes me want to read more.