That’s So Second Millennium
Episode 040 - Kirby Runyon: Christian planetary scientist

Episode 040 - Kirby Runyon: Christian planetary scientist

December 31, 2018

I had the chance to have an unofficial interview with Kirby Runyon. (Planetary science is a very publicity-heavy field, and planetary scientists often labor under certain constraints regarding their contact with the media. We avoided mentioning his institutional affiliation to emphasize the point that this interview in no way characterizes any official position by his institution. You can find out where he works, and get access to some of his work, via web search if you are curious, and there's a clue around 13:00 as well.)

We opened the interview with a discussion of Kirby's research on surface processes on planets. He works on data returned from the Moon, Mars, and Saturn's moon Titan to evaluate how winds, asteroid impacts, and other forces shape the surfaces of those bodies.

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Why Do Westerners Really Think Science and Faith Are Opposed?

Why Do Westerners Really Think Science and Faith Are Opposed?

December 29, 2018

This is Paul. Welcome to the first regular blog post for That's So Second Millennium. For 2019 I'm going to be supplementing the podcast with a series of weekend blog posts.

Let's start out with this question: Can we hope to get a broad enough picture of why so many people in Western cultures think religion and science are unavoidably opposed to do justice to the reality?

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Episode 039 - Star of Bethlehem

Episode 039 - Star of Bethlehem

December 24, 2018

In this episode we try to give a little workshop on thinking for yourself about a thorny passage in the Bible, specifically what we are to make of this star that supposedly influenced the Magi (wizards? astrologers?) from "the east" to come to Jerusalem looking for Jesus.

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Website Changes

Website Changes

December 22, 2018

We are changing some things for the new year. Bill and I have really enjoyed doing the podcast so far, and have gotten the chance to talk to some fascinating people. On January 7, we will have a new year's episode where we discuss new directions for the content of the podcast in the coming year.

In the meantime, enjoy the updated website format here at I think it looks a lot cleaner and better, and it gave me the excuse to put a photo of Kilauea Iki on the front page.

Finally, be on the lookout for our special episode on the Star of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve!


Episode 038 - Jill Pasteris: Uncertainty and Faith

Episode 038 - Jill Pasteris: Uncertainty and Faith

December 17, 2018

0:00 Experience as a Christian scientist

1:00 The billion year contact; awe

2:00 Awe and the vast scale of Earth science

3:00 Discoveries never shake faith

4:00 Evolution, randomness, the shortage of provable things

6:00 The bureaucratic mindset: certainty and judgment

7:00 Yucca Mountain, studtite, and uranyl peroxides (Peter Burns, Karrie-Ann Hughes)

8:00 Uranyl chemistry

9:00 Guy Consolmagno's thought experiment on planetary atmospheres

10:00 Uranyl peroxide buckyballs...

11:00 NOT in the initial fate and transport model for Yucca Mountain

12:00 Real life is lack of certainty

13:00 Where we'd put uranium if we had to...

14:00 Hanford, Washington and uranium migration

15:00 Phosphates as immobilizers

16:00 Humans and squirrels: digging stuff up to bury it again

17:00 Kirby Runyon

18:00 Difficult conversations

20:00 The Bible

21:00 Cyclic nature of human history, scriptural history

22:00 The second millennium history of reaction, after reaction, after reaction against hypocrisy

23:00 Secularism and the irreligious right

24:00 Progressive movement as a para-Christian critique of society

26:00 Modern psychology and spirituality:

Fulton Sheen's image of the psychologist pulling Christian truths out of the garbage can

and passing them off as discoveries

29:00 The need for God

30:00 Companions on the way

31:00 Providence

Episode 037 - Jill Pasteris: Christian scientist

Episode 037 - Jill Pasteris: Christian scientist

December 10, 2018

3:00 Jill's career
5:00 Finding companionship as Christian scientists (not Christian Scientists...that's different...)
7:00 "Spiritual beings having a human experience"
8:00 Bioapatite; clearing up "loose ends" making a 20 year career arc
9:00 Apatite and phosphate: environment
13:00 Flint, Michigan: lead and protective minerals
14:00 Raman spectroscopy
16:00 Raman on the Mars 2020 rover; Alian Wang
17:00 Laser pointers, cat videos [the brave new world we live in]
18:00 The physics of Raman
19:00 Why lasers and Raman went hand in hand
20:00 Rayleigh vs. Raman scattering
21:00 Raman spectra
22:00 Raman: a (usually) nondestructive technique
23:00 The lecture example and the ease of sample prep for Raman
25:00 Raman peak heights and thermodynamics
26:00 Fingerprinting vs. understanding

Bonus Episode - Nicolaus Steno

Bonus Episode - Nicolaus Steno

December 5, 2018
We talked about Steno quite a bit over the past several months. Briefly, he was a brilliant observational scientist. Brought up in Lutheran Denmark amid the violence of the seventeenth century, he wandered Europe and won fame as possibly the foremost observational scientist of his day, first in anatomy as a tremendously skilled dissectionist and then, via the bridge of biological fossils, as one of the most important precursor figures of what would become geology in the following two centuries. He laid down, if one can forgive the pun, the laws of geological chronology or stratigraphy (superposition, original horizontality, and inclusion) and even the most basic law of crystallography, the law of constant interfacial angles.
But Steno placed more importance on his faith. He spent time in both Catholic and Protestant countries and eventually decided to become Catholic. By the end of his life he had forsaken science for the Catholic priesthood, been ordained a bishop, and spent a long lonely time attempting to convince Protestants in Northern Europe to return to the Catholic faith of their ancestors. He lived an austere life that probably killed him relatively young, much as is said of Fr. Michael McGivney of the Knights of Columbus or the African American priest of the same era, Augustus Tolton.
I was listening to Bishop Barron's Word on Fire podcast last night about Cardinal Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua, and I remarked on the similarities between Steno, Newman, Tolton, and other figures of the last few centuries like Isaac Hecker of the Paulists and for that matter even GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. These were intelligent men whose virtue and love for others could not be denied, and yet it is easy to look at the aftermath of their lives and conclude that they failed. Was there something they should have done differently? Perhaps it was just that too few people joined them. Perhaps their contributions are still waiting to be gathered up into a new synthesis of faith. There is a great deal more I'd like to say on that subject, but it will have to wait to another day.
Episode 036 - Anne Hofmeister on Galactic Rotation, Math, and Glass

Episode 036 - Anne Hofmeister on Galactic Rotation, Math, and Glass

December 3, 2018

The times below are continuations from the last episode. My opening is about 1:30, and then we start with galaxy motions at "26:00".

26:00 Galaxy motions

27:00 Galaxy rotation curves: do not match Keplerian orbits

28:00 Galaxies spin more like records (laggy soft records); mass distribution is nothing like the Solar System

29:00 Hurricanes as a better analogy for galaxies

30:00 Stars in a galaxy move in local organization

32:00 Nebulas

34:00 The opposite extreme: rigid body rotation

35:00 Gravitational attraction between stars creating coherence

36:00 Curiosity that gravity and electrical forces are both inverse square laws

37:00 Poisson's equation

38:00 Summing densities in Poisson's inhomogeneous term is physically meaningless; intensive quantities can't be summed that way

40:00 Gauss' theorem: flux through a surface and quantity within a volume

41:00 Summing is for extensive variables

42:00 Pressure an ambiguous variable

43:00 Future work

44:00 Thermal expansivity: Giauque

45:00 Problems with the glass transition measurements done in the past: need to completely drive out water from the experimental charges

48:00 Wrapup