Posts Tagged ‘Physics’

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TRUSTING AN ENGINEER – Dec.28

December 28, 2015

“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you.”  Jeremiah 44:16

Not every problem requires an engineer.

Many problems can be solved by substituting calculations with trial and error.  Most people have experimented with trial and error problem solving.  You try one solution, then check to see if it worked.  If it didn’t, you try again, making a small adjustment in the variables.  By this method, one iterates their way into an approximate solution.  We have all trialed and errored our way into the perfect cookie recipe or a parking slot.

While trial and error may work for some problems, it is frowned upon in the design of buildings, bridges, refinery plants, etc.  Therefore, engineers are called upon to calculate solutions for these problems whose failure poses too great a risk to lives and pocketbooks.

Engineers are the ones who have the task of applying the current theories and laws of science to the problems of our everyday lives while keeping everyone safe.  Every day, people drink water from faucets, drive across bridges, fly in airplanes, and enter elevators.  Every day people trust their lives to the calculations of engineers.  Engineers who are placing 100% of their trust in the science of cause and effect.

This is my world.

I am an engineer by profession.  My education has been in engineering.  My work experience has been in engineering.  Over half of my life has been spent learning and practicing the art of engineering – cause / effect.  I am a firm believer in the laws of physics.  It is how I see the world.  I am more aware than most of how often we trust our lives to engineered solutions.  However, I know the limitations of our knowledge.  I have never completed a design with perfect knowledge of all the variables.  Engineers are just really good at buffering our lack of knowledge with factors of safety.

Yet, engineered solutions require at least a fundamental knowledge of causation.  If one does not know the cause, then we are left with mere trial and error solutions; very risky.

The following passage from Jeremiah reminded me of the importance of correctly identifying causation.

But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour drink offerings to her…(f)or then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster.  But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.  ~ Jeremiah 44:17-18

The Israelites incorrectly identified the cause of their prosperity.  They arrogantly thought that they knew the source of the food, prosperity, and safety they had experienced while worshiping the queen of heaven.  Having lost those blessings, they logically inferred that the cause of their desperate condition was an abandonment of the queen of heaven.  They got the cause wrong.

The Israelites proved that you will never get the desired effect by starting with the wrong causation.

Their knowledge was limited.

Today, many will arrogantly criticize the Israelites lack of knowledge by substituting science into the “queen of heaven” role.  However, we know that our knowledge of the physical universe is limited.  We also know that our knowledge of the spiritual world is limited, if one will admit that it even exists.

The limited knowledge of science does not rescue us from inferred causation.  Therefore, we don’t escape the risky world of trial and error by putting all of our trust in science.

The Israelites got themselves in trouble when they went outside the revealed knowledge of God.  They entered a world of trial and error with deadly consequences.  Their error is still a temptation today; maybe even more in these days dominated by science.

It is the temptation in every undergraduate science class;
It is the basis of most philosophical urges;
It is in the desire behind “what does this passage mean to me” question;
It is the allurement in religious “gray area” discussions;
It is the error lurking in every comparative religions class;
It is the comforting scratch to that troubling “meaning of life” itch.

We want to think that we have all the answers.
Knowledge is a comfort.
Intelligent decision making is empowering.

The reality is that most of our elegantly engineered solutions are merely an iteration toward a solution whose consequence has yet to be revealed.  However, no one knows the number of iterations that they will get, if any.

As Christians, we believe that there is only One who has complete knowledge; there is only One who knows all causation.  We believe that our eternity is dependent upon the right solution to the problem of our lives – sin.  We believe that the risk is too high to place our trust in limited knowledge and trial and error solutions.  We believe that God has given us the perfectly engineered solution in His son, Jesus Christ.  We believe that all the knowledge that we need to live in His engineered solution has been shown to us in His revealed word, the Bible.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks of mankind is intellectual arrogance; that refusal to acknowledge our limited knowledge and the resultant implications.

Intellectual humility is a gift that keeps us from wandering down the path of false causation.  It does not mean that we cease to study or investigate.  However, it means that we study from a basis of faith and not doubt.  It means that we investigate the mysteries of God in order to increase the treasures of belief, rather than balance the scales of unbelief.  Intellectual humility enables us to receive the perfect engineered solution.  It is the basis of faith.

There are limits to every mind.
We have to trust an engineer.
The risks are too great.

The engineer you trust will be either yourself or God.

Just remember, we will live with the consequences
of the solution  we choose to follow.
I am not going to trust that to iterations.

I choose Jesus Christ.

“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”  ~ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving us an engineered solution.   Thank you for not leaving us in our limited knowledge.  Thank you for saving us from our trial and error solutions.  Lord, keep me from sliding back into intellectual arrogance.  Keep me from the temptation of modifying your revealed Word based on my limited understanding.  Humble my intellect so that I will trust you in all things.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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ELISHA EQUATION – Dec 7

December 7, 2014

“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots and fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17

mr finchIn a recent episode of Person of Interest, Mr. Finch was inquired as to his favorite equation. “What a fascinating question”, I thought. I don’t even remember his answer as I became lost in the consideration of whether I had favorite equation.

I really wanted to have a favorite equation. It seems such an intelligent thing to have. However, the opportunity for pride was quickly dispelled when I finally concluded that I know only a few equations worthy of being a favorite and those lacked the obscurity that pride necessitates in making others feel inferior. Nevertheless, I pursued the question of equation preferment.

As an engineer by education and profession, I have taken a lot of math classes. I survived mathematics not through any special abilities but through sheer determination. “Math for math’s sake” never intrigued me. It was only when I began to understand the beauty of its utility in physics that I began to enjoy it, which is probably why I am an engineer rather than a mathematician.

I have always been enticed by the ability of mathematics to describe the world we live in. The fact that we can use very simple and elegant equations to calculate the path of projectiles still fascinates me. The magnificent utility of a simple right triangle’s mathematics is fabulous.

I love mathematics that I can visualize in my mind; this mathematics makes sense with the physical world that I know.

We live in a 3-dimensional world. It is natural for us to visualize a 3-dimensional world. I even can understand the 4th dimension as space-time. It is the world of mathematics and physics beyond the 4th dimension where I become shaky.

The dimensions beyond the 4th are of an existence beyond our senses and the mathematics looses most of the simplistic elegance of Newton’s laws in my opinion. I guess that is why, beyond the 4th dimension, my ability to visualize the language of mathematics falls apart.

I really wanted my favorite equation to be one of quantum mechanics. As much as I long for the Schrödinger equation or Heisenberg equation to be my favorite, they are not. I don’t really understand them or the physics that they are calculating, no matter how much visualizing I attempt.

However, my lack of understanding does not diminish my belief in the existence of a 5th dimension. We are told that physicists are close to proving the existence of a 5th dimension. I have only to read my Bible to see that it exists.

What is it that you believe Elisha and his servant
saw along the horizon of Dothan? (2 Kings 6:8-19)

space horizon

Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be open to see what existed but was beyond his ability to see. We know they could see their physical 3-dimensional world. We know that what they saw within the 4th dimension – time. They were looking into a world that existed beyond our physical world yet parallel with it.

Sort of sounds like the 5th dimension to me.

I believe that Elisha and his servant were given the ability to split the fabric of our dimension and peer into another to see its inhabitants – the servants of God. My guess is that there is some mathematics that describes the physical phenomenon that allowed Elisha and his servants to see this other dimension. I wonder if it has a name. I think I will call it the Elisha equation until I know its true name.

I sit at my desk and gaze out my window into the white fog. I can imagine it parting like a curtain to allow me to see what I know by faith is there. Unfortunately, I don’t know the Elisha equation and God is not doing it for me, so I will continue to live by faith.

However, I do find great comfort in the existence of the Elisha equation. I find great comfort in the reality that God and His servants are truly with me even though I do not see them. They know the Elisha equation and can aid me in any manner that is in accordance to God’s will. Therefore, Elisha’s words to his servant still ring true to us:

Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. (2 Kings 6:16)

My favorite equation is the Elisha equation.

It is an equation that I don’t understand, cannot derive, nor even describe but I believe to be true. It is an equation that describes a condition in a world created by my God in such a way for Him to send His own Son from one dimension into another to condemn the sin of my flesh in order that the righteous requirement of His law might be fulfilled in me.

That is a pretty glorious equation and an incredibly glorious God.

star-trails-from-space-01

PRAYER: Father, thank you for creating the world as you did.  Thank you for being near.  Help me to remember that I am never alone and that even interstellar dimensions cannot separate me from You.  Thank for making me a child of God.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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QUOTE (Isaac Newton) – Mar. 31

March 31, 2014

Isaac Newton in old age in 1712, portrait by S...

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
~ Isaac Newton

In honor of Isaac Newton, an English physicist and mathematician who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, who died on this day in 1727.

Resources:
This Day in History for 31st March
Isaac Newton>Quotes

 

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QUOTE (Richard Baxter) – Dec 8

December 8, 2013

Richard Baxter, Puritan Theologian

“Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense. He who overlooketh him who is the ‘Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,’ and seeth not him in all who is the All of all, doth see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God. Were they separated actually, they would cease to be, and the separation would be annhiliation; and when we separate them in our fancies, we make nothing of them to ourselves. It is one thing to know the creatures as Aristotle, and another thing to know them as a Christian. None but a Christian can read one line of his Physics so as to understand it rightly. It is a high and excellent study, and of greater use than many apprehend; but it is the smallest part of it that Aristotle can teach us.”
~ Richard Baxter

In honor of Richard Baxter, an English Puritan, who died on this day in 1691.

Resources:
Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
Today in History – December 8
Richard Baxter > Quotes

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