An Apt Analogy for Varieties of Creationist

I don’t know if any of you read Paul Braterman’s blog, Eat Your Brains Out. No, it’s not a blog about zombies, although occasionally Jesus is mentioned. It’s actually a blog about science and creationism, and I’ve now read it in its entirety. Great stuff within.

And, sometimes, a very funny and apt bit. Paul took on the arguments of mathematician and theologian John Lennox, who rejects this god-of-the-gaps nonsense, yet apparently associates with Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute (part of the Discovery Institute; and Norman Nevin, a biblical literalist and Chairman of the Centre for Intelligent Design. Lennox took Lawrence Krauss to task for words about the Higgs boson being more important than God with a bit of a Ford analogy:

That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”,  he is God of the whole show.

And Paul took that analogy and ran with it to places where I’m sure Lennox would have preferred he not gone:

To pursue the Ford analogy further, Lennox believes that the car works because it is well designed, Axe believes that it works because there is a miracle-working mechanic inside the gearbox, and Nevin believes that it was sabotaged by the drivers’ grandparents.

Precisely. I don’t think anyone’s ever summed up the differences between old-school science-accepting theologian/scientists, intelligent design proponents, and Biblical literalists more succinctly. I laughed.

Image shows a blueprint for a Model T engine with God photoshopped in.

“The Engine of God” Original images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photoshopped poorly by moi.

Chillin’

Summer’s coming to a close. We’re taking advantage of every hot day. Gotta keep an eye on all the goings-on.

Image shows Misha lying at the edge of the porch, watching the lawn below.

Watchin’ the world

 

And then stretch out for a good relaxin’.

Misha's in the same spot, but has turned a bit and stretched out her front paws.

Chillaxin’

 

She surely loves her sunbeams. She especially loves them when she can get the in-your-face sunbeam action going. I was working my arse off in the chair beside her, while she blissed out very pointedly. Yes, Misha, you’re right. I do sometimes wish I was a cat.

The days get hot, but the nights cool fast, and the sun goes down earlier. Soon, the leaves will begin turning their glorious colors. The air will be crisp with a hint of smoke. And another summer will be past. She’s had a good one. With luck, we’ll get one or a few more.

She’ll probably manage to make it to 25 just to keep me from fostering kittens.

A Whole Lotta Shaking: Some Thoughts on Magnitude

So Sunday was a big day for earthquakes. In the wee hours of the ay-em, we had the West Napa Fault Zone (probably) cutting loose, and then, a bit later in the day, Peru got hit big-time. Thankfully, Peru’s quake was in a sparsely-populated area, and California’s was – well, California. They’ve been dealing with this stuff for half of forever. So while Sunday was dramatic for earthquake happenings, it wasn’t so bad as far as death and destruction.

But Cali got lucky – their quake was pretty small compared to Peru’s. Like, way smaller. The South Napa quake was a mere 6.0 – big, but not unimaginably huge. Peru’s was 6.9, same size as Loma Prieta (and we all know how awful that was).

Okay, you may think. 6.9. That’s not that bad.

Except that’s not how the scale works.

At magnitude 6.0, this quake is classed as a strong quake, but one of the unfortunate diagrams I’m seeing in media reports is that anything between a 6.0 and a 6.9 like the Loma Prieta quake are being lumped together on a bar graph as “strong”. The difference between a 6.0 and 6.9 is profound, and is a reason that we are not hearing about dozens or hundreds of people killed in the event. On the magnitude scale, the amount of energy released increases by about 30 times with each whole number. In other words, a magnitude 7.0 quake is just over 30 times more powerful than a magnitude 6.0, and a magnitude 8.0 is just over 30 times more powerful than a 7.0 (this make an 8.0 around a 1,000 times more powerful than a 6.0).

Yeow.

Those numbers can be hard to picture. So I came up with a bit of an analogy that may help. Picture yourself in a car, headed toward a solid wall (in this scenario, you’re a crash test dummy. Sorry). For the first run, you’re going Magnitude 6. We’ll say that’s 25 miles per hour.

Image shows a gray car with it's slightly-crumpled nose against a wall. The poor dummy has its face planted in the airbag.

Still from the video 2013 Dodge Dart / Fiat Viaggio | 25mph/40kph Frontal Crash Test by NHTSA | CrashNet1.

Okay, not so bad.

Now, Wikipedia tells me that a 7 is roughly 32 times larger, so we’ll go with Garry’s 30 figure and see where we end up. Hmmm, math… 25 x 32 … carry the ZOMG it’s 750 mph. We’re headed for a wall at 750 mph! We don’t have a crash test at 750 mph! Here’s the Mythbuster’s doing a 100 mph test and being appalled by the result.

Image shows a yellow car with its front half pretty much gone and its back half off the ground.

Mythbusters 100 MPH test. ZOMG WTF etc.

I love how their marker dealios look like earthquake focal mechanism symbols. Very apropos. And if this is what 100 mph can do to a car, you can image 750 mph would leave it, the wall, and half the neighborhood beyond in fragments. No wonder the Bay area was in such bad shape after the Loma Preita quake.

Okay. I hate to look, but we’ve gotta do it. Our next victim car is going to hit the wall at 1,000 times the speed of our first test. So we’ve leapt from 25 mph and a little mild damage to something that could wipe out the entire metro area. It’s certainly a much larger impact than the fastest crash test ever, which was only a paltry 120 mph.

Image shows a cloud of debris and one sadly intact wheel.

Crash test of a Ford Focus. Well, former Ford Focus.

Maybe we should’ve switched to planes, but even then…

So those are some pretty intense differences. It’s why we go from this:

Image shows a kitchen, with open cabinets and a lot of wine bottles scattered on the floor.

South Napa earthquake, 6.0. Photo courtesy Eiko’s Restaurant in Napa, used with permission.

To this:

Image shows a collapsed double-decker freeway.

Loma Prieta, 6.9. Image courtesy USGS.

To this:

Images shows downtown San Francisco, high-rises in ruins. It looks like Dresdan, Germany after the Allied bombing.

San Francisco Earthquake, est. 7.8. Image courtesy National Archives.

Now that we’ve had this little visualization exercise, I’m going to go crawl into bed and whimper, because I live in a place that expecting a 9.

Image shows a gray and white kitten on a pink blanket, on its back and looking terrified. Caption says, "Iz scared. mommy."

Sunset from My Office

This was my background as I researched the South Napa quake:

Image shows a streak of orange and pink cloud diving into fir tree silhouettes.

Sunset over the trees.

Yes, you’re allowed to be jealous. Especially when I tell you what we had for dinner.

Image shows Misha licking a bit of chicken.

Yay chicken!

Yes, that is a bit of Ezell’s Famous Chicken. I was too busy to cook and had to get supplies for an upcoming trip, so I splurged. It doesn’t take a lot of persuasion – this is the best chicken in Seattle, as far as I’m concerned.

Misha loves it, too.

Misha has finished her chicken and is staring at the spot where it used to be as if she can't believe there's no more.

Noooo where are the chicken?!

I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d started chewing on that wee white paw, thinking it was some delicious chicken, but she figured out she’d eaten all hers and purred vigorously at me in hopes of getting more. She’s not much of a people-food cat, but she will take a bit of Ezell’s with the breading off. Oh, and never take your attention away from your cereal bowl when she’s around, especially if it’s got soy milk in it. She will climb right in so she can get to the milk.

Anyway, pretty sunset and cute kitteh by way of apologies. No, I didn’t get the follow-up earthquake post done as quickly as I expected. They kept finding out moar things, and so I kept reading, and also, I had to go get Ezell’s. And eat it. A lot. When you come to Seattle, and if you’re not a vegetarian, you also may eat Ezell’s, and then you’ll understand.

I’m making myself hungry again…

New at Rosetta Stones: Earthquake Safety Tips

Funny thing is, I’d been looking up real safety tips for surviving earthquakes when I was fact-checking our Christianists texts on the subject. And I learned that I had a lot of wrong-headed ideas. In light of the Napa earthquake that went on today, I figured I’d share those tips so that folks in seismically active areas can polish up on their earthquake survival.

Here’s the takeaway lesson, although you should read the whole thing so you know what to do before, during, and after:

Image shows the three steps essential to staying safe in an earthquake: drop, get under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on until the shaking's over.

Excellent advice from the Great California ShakeOut. Click the image to visit their page and sign up for the drill.

The Cataclysm: “Stripped from the Proximal Forest”

A rather extensive forest became part of a directed blast deposit: that’s the summary. One moment, you’re a green and pleasant home for much of the local wildlife; the next, you’ve been rudely ripped apart and incorporated within a bunch of rock and ash by a volcano having a bad turn. So it goes.

When Rick Waitt traced the fate of Mount St. Helens’s magnificent forests, he found they’d had quite the adventure (aside from being knocked flat, bruised, battered, buried, and burnt).

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250.

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Within the down-timber zone, it was clear some rather spectacular force had been applied. It wasn’t piddly little wood fragments and needles that became deposits, but entire tree trunks. Whole limbs had been ripped off, splintered, and subsequently dumped. The heavier bits, as heavy bits tend to do, remained close to the ground as the blast carried them along. As the flow lost energy, the heavy bits of layer A1, including its compliment of ex-trees, settled out first, fining upward as the deposit accumulated. Mind you, when I say “fined upward,” I don’t mean they got all demure and small, even close to the volcano. No, the ex-tree bits in subsequent layers within layer A2 and the pieces that landed atop layer A3 were as mind-blowingly large as 75 centimeters (29.5 inches). Not only that, but the way they landed show they were first torn loose by that erosive front of the blast, then heaved high in the air by the following phase, held airborne by convection, then unceremoniously dumped moments later.

Warner Bros., I think, could have animated that sequence in the tradition of Wiley E. Coyote to fine effect.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Other branches, pine cones, and bits ripped from the unfortunate forest were light enough to continue traveling. They sailed the volcanic winds even beyond the boundary of layer A2, past the devastated area, and came to rest in a bed of silty layer A3, then were covered with a blanket of the following air-fall deposits left by the central eruption column. Some of those fragments were as long as 15 centimeters (6 inches). Imagine how much force it requires to take pieces of wood half the length of a school ruler and keep them in the air for twenty minutes or more.

Yeah.

Mixed up in all that were smaller remains, a mulch of fir needles, splinters, and twigs. In most areas, they can be found in all three layers, but to the north the energy of the blast was so ferocious it wouldn’t let them settle out until layer A3 did. Almost everything was burnt black, no matter where it landed, showing it all got seared before coming to rest. Only the needles and branches flying through the southern edge of the east side of the blast managed to come out without a thorough scorching, showing the blast cloud wasn’t so hot there. Still fast and furious enough to rip trees apart and turn them from biology into geology, though.

Thus ends the story of The Forest that Was. From here on, our relationship with the blast deposits will get decidedly rocky.

Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250.

Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

 

Previous: The Cataclysm:”Fully Down and Buried”

References:

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

 Previously published at Rosetta Stones.

 

Nefarious Whisker

Misha’s plotting something evil. I have absolute proof of this. I mean, beside the fact she’s a cat.

Image shows Misha's face. One of her white whiskers is cocked upward, looking like the beginning of a cartoon villain's moustache.

Nefarious Whisker

See it? SEE IT??? She’s trying to grow a supervillain ‘stache!

She now has her head turned to the side in a very villainy pose.

Villainy is afoot!

My gods, she’ll be twirling it next!

Anyway. You’re getting Misha because we didn’t get sea mammals today – B wasn’t feeling well. So I stayed home and caught up on some reading and housework. Sea mammals will hopefully be in the near future.

IF SHE DOESN’T DESTROY THE WORLD FIRST. Damn cat.

Ha Ha Ha Whoops. Also: Help Me Keep an Eye on Creationists

I’ve had myself so buried in Christianist textbooks, frantically trying to get this talk pulled together, when I wasn’t compulsively reading about the awful things police in Ferguson are up to now, I haven’t thought to keep an eye on my email… and it turns out that due to unforeseen circumstances, FtBCon’s postponed anyway. We’ll be trying again in a few months. So what does this mean? It means you’ll still get a talk on Why Geology Matters – To Creationists, only it will be a much better talk, because I’ll actually have gotten through these books. Well, at least through all the geology bits of the books. Ye gods, it takes ages to fact-check and debunk this stuff now that we’re in to the portions of Earth science Christianists love to hate.

Image shows an orange kitten sitting in a terra cotta pot, with one paw over an eye. Caption says, "Whew! Close Call!"

Thank you, all of you who helped me calculate mammoth populations! You’re amazing. You’ll also love the resulting post, although it’ll take a while before it comes up in the queue – trying to do this stuff in order.

Now I’m going to ask you all now to do me another favor: over the next few months, would you keep an eye out for any news about creationists and geology? It can be things like creationists infiltrating the American Geophysical Union or Geological Society of America meetings (again), creationists trying to sneak “Flood geology” in or fighting earth science standards, creationists trying to pull the wool over journal editors’ eyes and attempting to slip religion in to science publications, anything like that. You can send tips to dhunterauthor at gmail.

Some of you who are interested may want to join me for a private dry-run of said talk when it’s finished – if you’d like to help me not suck in public, and be one of the elite, exclusive ETEVers who gets to hear it first, let me know. We’ll set up a Google Hangout and do the thing when I’ve got it all written. And, if there’s room on the schedule and you’d be interested in joining me for a panel on Women in the Geosciences, also let me know that.

But wait! There’s More!

For the next few days, I’m preparing the Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series relaunch, and also hating my uterus, and going to go photograph All The Sea Mammals for your squees and enjoyment. I’ll also have a social justice post up on our fucked-up police state and ways you can help soon. And there’ll be a little something over at Rosetta Stones eventually this week. I have a super-awesome geology comic book I was sent that I’m going to review for you, probably early next week. People, you have no idea how excited I am about it! But you will know. I’ll also be reviewing a book I read the other morning that will give you a whole other look at the Christianist homeschool life. It’s called Homeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years. And yes, it’s as whacked as it sounds.

Also, YES I AM WRITING A BOOK ON MOUNT ST. HELENS I PROMISE. I know you won’t stop asking, and it makes me happy you don’t, but I figured I’d better reassure you. I’ll be jumping back into that series shortly as well. And yes, finishing the Seattle Seahawks rings. SO MANY THINGS TO DO.

There will also be a post coming soon on that awesome bird at Mount Rainier, and muchmuch more. Good times ahead! Now if you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to lose the last of my hair to the geology chapters in ES4 and continue arguing with my uterus over paying attention to the pain relievers I’m feeding it…