That’s So Second Millennium
Ep 139 - Pondering Big Issues Powered by Uranium

Ep 139 - Pondering Big Issues Powered by Uranium

April 30, 2022
  1. In this episode, Paul and Bill situate themselves geographically, updating each other on their latest activities and changes in locale. Paul is on a medical mission to Billings, Montana, at the moment. Bill has moved from South Bend, where he was an adjunct professor at Holy Cross College, to Troy, NY, the hometown of his wife.

  2. Uranium mining is on Paul’s mind during his brief departure from Wyoming Catholic College in the small town of Lander. As a PhD geologist, Paul will make a presentation on the modern-day considerations of uranium mining and nuclear power at the 2022 conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists. The conference will be held on the first weekend of June at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. (Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, a consecrated brother in the Jesuits and a distinguished astronomer, will be honored by the SCS this year with its St. Albert the Great Award.)

  3. The inconveniences of uranium, says Paul, who has studied it since his graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, stem from its undeniable value for power generation—and some characteristics he described as compellingly “weird.” He takes us on a professor’s tour of the periodic table and the uranium mining regions near his campus.

  4. Kazakhstan and Russia are key sources of uranium. In-situ leaching is a growing source for uranium elsewhere in the world, including in the US.

  5. Every state regulates uranium and any mining activities. For example, Texas has a Commission on Environmental Quality. There is a complex history of regulation of uranium and nuclear energy at both the state and federal levels.

  6. Paul referred to Bill’s membership in the international Secular Franciscan Order.

  7. Paul offers a survey of opinions and alternatives in energy policy for the Earth. For a very recent and well-informed video treatment of sustainable energy choices for the future, see “Can We Cool the Planet?” at PBS’s NOVA series website.

  8. India is probing possibilities for thorium as a source of nuclear energy. China is staking much of its energy future on nuclear power. In the US and elsewhere, politicians must get more serious about addressing crucial, conflict-ridden challenges, such as the storage and reprocessing of uranium.

  9. A note: Paul recommends the episodes on Nietzsche and Epicurean philosophy from the “Food 4 Thought” podcast, presented by Jonathan Kutz, which covers philosophy and science from Christian perspective. It’s a natural for fans of “That’s So Second Millennium.” You can access “Food 4 Thought” on several platforms, including Anchor and Audible.

  10. Cover photo: Yellow needle-like crystals of studtite ([(UO2)(O2)(H2O)2] · H2O) on flat orange crystals of becquerelite (Ca(UO2)6O4(OH)6 · 8H2O). Ex Gilbert Gauthier, via Adriana & Renato Pagano. Collection and photo by Gianfranco Ciccolini, as seen at mindat.org.

Ep 138 - Darcia Narvaez, Insights About Humanity for a Suffering World

Ep 138 - Darcia Narvaez, Insights About Humanity for a Suffering World

March 28, 2022

 

  1. Darcia Narvaez, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota, is a prolific public intellectual who uses many tools of multimedia communication to do research and to address needs of everyday people. Her work enhances and taps deeply rooted wisdom about human nature so that it can be applied in everday tasks, such as parenting.
  2. She is a Professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Notre Dame. Links to much of her work can be found at her personal website, as well as her Notre Dame faculty site.
  3. A capstone of Prof. Narvaez’s interdisciplinary scholarship is her 2014 book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom. See her summary of the book.
  4. She received the Expanded Reason Award, a distinctive salute to innovative research in the spirit of Pope Benedict XVI, in 2017. The honor is bestowed by the Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation.
  5. In recent years, she has invested much research in a source of useful insights for families drawn from the concept of a nest for children that humans have inherited from their ancestors. Learn more about this work at org and evolvednest.org.
  6. Also see her blogs, including one she writes for Psychology Today.

Paul and Bill have interviewed Darcia Narvaez previously in episodes 55-56 and 96.

Ep 137 - Francis Bacon and the New Organon

Ep 137 - Francis Bacon and the New Organon

February 28, 2022

As the emcee noted at a concert here in Lander, a Musical History Tour, the Renaissance--the period when Europe revived its intellectual life by re-evaluating the writings of the Hellenistic past--ends around the year 1600, give or take. By that time, the focus had shifted toward going beyond the ancients instead of merely revisiting their achievements. This shift in focus happened on a different schedule in different fields, to be certain. Music may have been well ahead of the ancients already in the high medieval period. The Scholastics, and indeed their Arabian predecessors, while firmly rooted in Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, were already progressing beyond those foundations in the thirteenth century. On the other hand, painting and sculpture may not have outstripped the Greeks and Romans until the nineteenth century.

In any case, the seventeenth century would be the one in which Greek mathematics and Aristotelian natural philosophy gave way precipitously to new approaches. Algebra, lurking in the background of Greek thought and poking its head above the canopy in Arabian and Italian mathematics, would finally spawn analytic geometry and calculus. The focus and methods of natural philosophy would shift in many ways, including the use of mathematics and a great increase in the number of people collecting observations and conducting experiments and discussing their results with others. The existing sciences of astronomy, mechanics, botany, and zoology would be transformed, and chemistry and geology would be born outright. Inventions like the telescope and microscope would begin to reveal unsuspected layers of richness in the universe.

-Bacon: bio and politics
-The Reformation had to attack Scholastic *theology* but the universities continued to be heavily Aristotelian
-Aristotle and the distinction between philosophy and science that would be inverted by the 19th century
-Aristotle's focus on deduction and Bacon's polemical critique of the syllogism: "The New Organon"
-The role of induction and statistical reasoning; Bacon's blind spot for mathematics and his tables

Image: Francis Bacon by Paul van Somer, courtesy Wikimedia (By Paul van Somer I - pl.pinterest.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19958108)

Ep 136 - Deacon Harold: Life Rich in Reality, Reality Rich in Life

Ep 136 - Deacon Harold: Life Rich in Reality, Reality Rich in Life

January 31, 2022

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (deaconharold.com) is a Catholic deacon and public speaker. Bill and I had the privilege of interviewing him earlier this month.

  1. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is one of the most incisive and authentic Catholic speakers and authors who have arisen to serve the New Evangelization, including an outreach to the younger generations who hunger to combine secular reality and meaningful Church values.

  2. Paul and Bill know Deacon Harold through our connections to the University of Notre Dame. But the Deacon’s reputation has spread internationally; as a scholar and a presenter nicknamed “the Dynamic Deacon,” he offers large groups from many backgrounds fresh resources for spiritual renewal, including the refreshment of male spirituality. This topic is masterfully addressed in his book, Behold the Man.

  3. Deacon Harold has appeared frequently on the EWTN Catholic radio and television networks. Recently, he took part in a discussion on racism and Catholic responses in an episode of the “Franciscan University Presents” program.

  4. A number of other books authored by Deacon Burke-Sivers over the years can be found here.

Ep 135 - A Visit to the Universe of Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ

Ep 135 - A Visit to the Universe of Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ

December 20, 2021
  1. Paul and Bill were privileged to talk with Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, the founding director of the Magis Center in Orange County, California.
  2. Father Spitzer’s biography includes service as the president of Gonzaga University and the authorship of numerous books about various aspects of theology, philosophy, spirituality, apologetics, happiness and the meaning of life, and much more.
  3. He has produced a huge collection of materials for online use. His main websites are the Magis Center site, com, and PurposefulUniverse.com. In this interview, he describes the sites and how our listeners can select and use materials that may be particularly helpful.
  4. We discuss the four levels of happiness, which represent an insightful roadmap for spiritual growth and movement toward a culture of life. His excellent book, Healing the Culture, gives a good grounding in this approach.
  5. Another area of special interest for Father Spitzer is the compatibility of appeals to science and faith—which is also a basis for this TSSM podcast series. In this interview he notes that younger scientists are statistically more likely to believe in God than scientists over age 40.
  6. Young people don’t know what’s going on in current science, in studies of near death experiences, scrutiny of the Shroud of Turin, and many other areas of research that contribute to religious faith. A good grounding for his work connecting science and faith in Jesus Christ is New Proofs for the Existence of God .
  7. Yet another area of deep interest for Fr. Spitzer is the need for a full appreciation of, and deep personal engagement with the summit of the Catholic faith, the Holy Eucharist. In this interview, he refers to the John 6:30-52 as a portion of Scripture that powerfully asserts the Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament as the body and blood of Christ.
  8. You can see Fr. Spitzer on EWTN in his weekly series, “Father Spitzer’s Universe.”
Ep 134 - Bill on Journalism and Truth with Franciscan Dave

Ep 134 - Bill on Journalism and Truth with Franciscan Dave

November 22, 2021

David Seitz, OFS, is a long-time professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order who holds an M.A. in theology from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He has written a book, available on line, called Come Let Us Worship: Reflections on the Words and Prayers of the Mass. He produces podcasts, videos, blogs, and speaks publicly, offering reflection for spiritual growth based on the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. Find him at tauministries.com and, on YouTube, look for his nickname, Franciscan Dave.

Bill, also a Secular Franciscan, recently appeared on Dave's podcast, and I spoke with Bill about that conversation regarding journalism and virtuous communication. We discuss whether missionaries and scientists are also journalists and the spiritual value of seeking and spreading truth. Be sure to find their original conversation at Dave's site.

Cybersecurity Bonus Episode with Matthew Cloud

Cybersecurity Bonus Episode with Matthew Cloud

October 28, 2021

Here's our pre-conversation with Matthew Cloud prior to the full interview. In this segment we talk a little bit about the Ubuntu distro, the ubuntu philosophy of computer science, and 4th and 5th generation tools for generating working code to solve computer science problems in the context of Matthew's role connected to a grant for cybersecurity education through Ivy Tech and other schools in several states.

Episode 133 - Cybersecurity Education as a Vocation with Matthew Cloud

Episode 133 - Cybersecurity Education as a Vocation with Matthew Cloud

October 5, 2021
  1. Paul and Bill discussed computer education and cyber-security with Matthew Cloud, professor of the practice in the computer science program at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, IN.
  2. Cloud has extensive experience in education, not only through classroom teaching at schools including Indiana’s Ivy Tech network of community colleges, but also through project management, curriculum development, and strategic collaborations with other a range of colleges and universities. Cloud holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering granted jointly by the University of Texas and the UT Southwestern Medical Center.
  3. He is working within the Holy Cross College science department to grow a distinctive undergraduate program in computer science. Through a different understanding of essential skills and characteristics, such a program could increase access to meaningful information technology careers among students with more diverse backgrounds of knowledge, training, interests, socio-economic resources, etc. Increasing the access to such positions offers advantages to the students, to companies with growing IT and cybersecurity needs, and to the safety and sustainability of societies. You can go to cyberseek.org and get the latest estimates of how many US cybersecurity jobs are currently open, waiting for applicants. Prof. Cloud says that number has been hovering around 500,000.
  4. One of the multi-school projects he is helping to lead is funded by a grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. His focus on a win-win balance between the demand for tomorrow’s computing/AI/cybersecurity/data science professionals and the supply of motivated, well-trained students pursuing these fields takes the form of several partnerships funded by prestigious grants.
  5. The goal of attracting more US students, of all backgrounds, into computer-related studies, whether they be focused on engineering or on different fields of study (including the liberal arts, philosophy, and more), is being pursued by many institutions. You can visit http://code.org to see one approach for encouraging young people to consider a computer-related career.
Ep 132 – The Long Road to Mathematical Physics

Ep 132 – The Long Road to Mathematical Physics

September 13, 2021

A solo episode from Paul today inspired by the content of Wyoming Catholic College’s Deductive Reasoning in Science course (SCI 301).

  1. Greek arithmetic and the Pythagoreans
  2. The crisis of incommensurables (irrational numbers)
  3. The triumph of geometry over arithmetic
  4. Emphasis on axiomatic systems and proofs: Euclid
  5. Archimedes: physics within the Euclidean paradigm
  6. Aristotle and the medieval: qualitative and categorical accounts of motion
  7. The long reach of ancient methods and paradigms
  8. Galileo and his big ideas, shaky proofs, and tedious Euclidean methodology
  9. 16th century algebra and the need for negative numbers to simplify the cubic equation
  10. Galileo’s multiple cases of proportions of times, spaces, speeds in the Euclidean paradigm
  11. Overturns in algebraic notation and the advent of analytical geometry in the 17th century
  12. The looming role of calculus in Galileo’s attempts to argue by means of infinite parallels
  13. Imaginary and complex numbers in the solution of cubic equations with real roots, real physical problems
Ep 131 - Jordan Wales and the Moral Theology of AI

Ep 131 - Jordan Wales and the Moral Theology of AI

August 23, 2021
  1. Jordan Wales, PhD, who teaches theology at Hillsdale College in Michigan, spoke with Paul and Bill about his research at the intersection of robotics and religion.
  2. He discussed a compelling concern in the future relationship between human beings and technology. In particular, the concern, about which he spoke at the 2021 conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists, dealt with the interaction between individuals and the entities Wales calls “apparently personal artificial intelligence” (APAI).
  3. APAI products are already becoming commonplace in the world of commerce, as this BBC article discusses. People will be increasingly able to purchase, and interact with, virtual friends or babysitters or therapists, for example, Dr. Wales pointed out.
  4. This raises moral questions related to personhood, covering both the APAI product and the user of that product. The product will not have an inner life representative of what we think of as a person, although the definition of person has an interesting history influenced by scholars such as Saint Augustine. Human beings can express and influence their own understandings of personhood through their interactions with APAI. These understandings may lead to various types of interaction, ranging from pride and manipulation to excessive empathy, and one middle ground would consist of appreciation for the humanity that underlies the production and information/formation of the APAI product, Dr. Wales pointed out.
  5. As the use of APAI grows, there are also concerns about how the aggregated human “input” into the experience of APAI personalities may cause a flattening-out of human perspectives on the unique qualities of each person. One current example of the trajectory for these concerns comes from the use of the auto-correct feature by Google for writing. Long-term possibilities include such features of interactions not only affecting our choices of words and expressions, but also influencing what subjects we think about and how we think about them. This highlights the moral principle that ultimately we must retain our unique personal identities and wisely discern how to exercise our responsibility and restraint in allowing some possible applications of APAI to influence us, Dr. Wales said.
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