Posts Tagged ‘physics’

Physics and Chai Tea

I was reading my own Facebook profile last night, and laughed when I saw my list of activities and interests.  Like this blog, it’s a bit eclectic.  I like etymology and prayer, baking and ecclesiology, physics and family.


Just now, mixing myself a cup of Vanilla Chai, I was thinking of reviewing the drink.  (Because I know all my readers would try and like something just because I said it was good.)  Since a friend introduced me to chai, I have tried various mixes.  King Soopers brand was the best for a while, but only comes in very small containers.  Other brand powders tended to have a grainy taste or that bitter mixture settling to the bottom that wouldn’t dissolve.  I can brew and mix my own from a tea bag, and then add first honey and then milk (and sometimes vanilla or mint extracts).  That tends to taste bitter.  But I feel very cozy and British making hot tea.  Oregon Chai makes single-serving packets, which are convenient but expensive.  There is the concentrate, to which you add milk.  The concentrate must be refrigerated after opening.  It’s basically just a lot of work.  Costco sells a big can of chai mix, which doesn’t taste all that great.  (I suppose I should mention that I like my chai a little weak, and usually reduce the mix to water ratio.)  Most recently I found a 32 ounce can, produced by Caffe D’Amore, of Vanilla Chai.  It has no hydrogenated oils, though it is not all natural.


I have purchased Chai lattes from several stores, including Starbucks, Caribou, some little tea shop in the Cherry Creek Shopping District, a shop run by Somalis near my work, and Panera.  Of those, I prefer the independent tea shop and Starbucks – though their prices are pretty outrageous!


I like the strong, spicy flavor of a good Chai.  The cinnamon and cloves and ginger and other spices keep me warm hours after I have enjoyed the last sip.  With milk in it, a Chai latte makes a satisfying snack or morning kick.  It pairs well with cookies or sandwiches or a lot of fruits.  My favorite is the gentling silkiness of vanilla mixed in.  There are all kinds of Chai, including vanilla and mint and mango and chocolate.  The first two, and plain Chai, are my favorites.


When I put the mix in my mug today, I poured the hot water over it and watched before stirring.  The water took over the clumps of floating powder in a way that made it look like a volcano.  As the grains of mix soaked and dissolved, those from underneath floated up and then they got soaked, causing this rolling surfacing that was fascinating to watch.


That’s physics.  Physics is way more than number-crunching or astronomical calculations.  You don’t have to study physics to appreciate it.  To me so much of my love of physics is awe at how things work.  That they work.  How beautiful they are while they’re working.  Look at clouds.  And ripples of water.  How trees bend in the wind.  The way powder dissolves into hot water.  Falling things.  Pushing things.  Flight.  Floating.  Sinking.  Magnets.  Aren’t they marvelous?


To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn



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Lately I’ve been in a state of mind that can soak up information, and comes up with really good questions – well I think they’re interesting, leading me to more and more questions (and occasionally to comprehension).  One field that’s been appealing this week is physics.  I’m reading a book, Reinventing Gravity, that has me thinking about the basics of physics – and marvelling at how much of our universe we humans don’t understand. 
So I would be ok with exhaustive comments answering the following questions, or referrals to books or websites that could help me understand these things.  I took physics in high school, no problem, and have given a great deal of skeptical thought to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.  This is because I’m fairly convinced the speed of light is not constant.  So if you mention the speed of light in your answer, I’ll probably enjoy it more.  I understand that I’m missing a few levels of knowledge between high school physics and the edges of theoretical physics I’m trying to reach.  Give me your best shot. 
You can also use the comment section to add your own questions.  The compilation of questions is great food for thought and theory. 
Some physics questions:
Are forces energy? 
What is light? 
     Does it have a constant velocity? 
     Is its speed constant? 
     If the velocity of light is not constant, what force acts on it? 
          What is the equal and opposite reaction? (Whence is the energy subtracted?)
What is electricity? 
What is magnetism?
What is heat? 
     Is it motion in and of molecules,
     or that which causes motion in and of molecules,
     or the output of motion in and of molecules?
What is gravity? 
How is gravity related to attraction and acceleration (gravitational mass and inertial mass)?     
     What is the significance of the relationship? 
     Does the resistance or escape of an object from gravity take any energy away from the gravity-exerting objects? 
     Does gravity curve space, or is it the effect of curved space? 
If gravity is the effect of curved space, what makes space curved? 
     Matter and energy? 
     Is anything else (such as time) curved by these things as well? 
     If spacetime can be curved, what else can be done to it? 
Can spacetime be stretched? 
     If spacetime can be stretched, what stretches it? 
     Are opposing forces of gravity like Curling brooms, creating a smooth path for matter and energy? 
How do permittivity and permeability relate energy, electricity, gravity, and matter? 
     What does density have to do with them? 
     What force causes nature to abhor a vacuum?  
(To quote The Little Mermaid), What is fire and how does it burn? 
     Must fire produce light? 
     Can light be produced without fire/burning? 
     Must fire produce heat? 
     Are there other ways to convert matter to energy? 
Oh my goodness, does time have to come into this? 
     How is time related to the measurement of time? 
          Must there be a direct correlation?
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Over the past decade or so, several scientists, authors, and speakers have joined forces to promote their observations that indicate life originated with a designer. Cells are just too complicated, they say, to have arisen by chance. Spontaneous generation, disproven centuries ago, remains the naturalist’s only option for the origin of biological life. Yet the odds against even a simple single-celled organism arising by chance are astronomical. The molecules have to line up all at once to form proteins, which have to line up quickly into the cells. DNA is a complex code for building life: made up of simple proteins, the series communicates a baffling level of information. Intelligent Design usually rests their case for an original designer at this point, picking back up after life has begun to debate Darwinism’s explanation for the variety of life we witness on earth.

But they could take the matter farther. Even if the remotest of far-fetched chances (this is before mutation or natural selection or heredity can have any impact on the process) came true and all the chemicals and molecules lined up, the language DNA writes still had to come from somewhere. It has no meaning without an Author. That age-old question, “Why?” asked by every two year old since humanity began, remains: both inside science and in the realm of philosophy.

According to the theory of evolution, mutations and natural selection account for increasing complexity and increasing variety among living creatures. (Evolutionists have precious little to explain the acquisition of new information in the DNA; all observable speciation, mutation, and variation consists of loss of information, reduced parameters for variety in future generations.) Evolutionists usually posit that all life arose from a single simple organism (which found sufficient nourishment, reproduced, and gave us the definition of life as we know it). Intelligent Design scientists point out that among the known species, there are many examples of features too complex, too perfectly adapted to be attributed to chance. The advent of each of these mechanisms would have been almost as miraculous as the first life, according to the mathematics. Take vision, wings, migration instinct, sex. Some creatures demonstrate irreducible complexity: all the new parts have to be present and perfect immediately to be functional. In some cases, the slightest difference means death for the creature in whom the feature was derived, and we know that dead creatures don’t pass their genes to future generations.

Complexity, information, and observed natural processes and their limitations are the data. Statistical probabilities are the analyses. Impossible is a logical conclusion. But life exists whether we can explain it or not. So some, purely on scientific grounds, conclude that there may be a designer. If we include this intelligence in the list of natural phenomenon; in other words, accept it as an observable* part of our world, humans can keep studying this marvelous, orderly world, drawing conclusions allowing for design and occasional if not constant intervention by a creative and powerful force.

*Scientists observe evidence for design in other fields (outside of ‘natural science’) all the time. Forensic science, for example, searches for clues that will tell an investigator whether a crime was committed. We not only judge whether there was intelligence, but degrees of intelligence using science. Consider archaeology. We may find a rustic clay pot, or a ziggurat aligned with constellations. Both represent intelligence, but of varying degrees.

Nor does it take a scientist to observe evidence for design. You are walking on the beach. Lying in the sand is a watch. With its gears and correspondence to what you call and measure as time, you conclude that the watch was designed, intelligently. Here most people explain our conclusions using a contrast with something “obviously” not designed, like the sand on the beach. The casual observer can see nothing about the form of the sand that stands out, that indicates someone intentionally smoothed it out and drew in ripples. In fact, we can even explain the tiny size of the particles, their smoothness, and the ripples by natural, consistent, observable events.

Here’s where I differ. Just as we have no explanation (using forces exclusive of a designer) for life, so science cannot explain the origin or structure of these tiny rocks. Under a microscope these crystals and substances reveal a mastery of molecular architecture. Each different rock is functional and unique from other kinds of rock. We’re taught that everything is composed of atoms, those busy bits whirling and attracting and repulsing with a reliability that we need every moment. What keeps the atoms together? What gives them weight? Why are there so many different substances? Even if “naturalists” are right, and the universe began with a big bang, what exploded, why and how? Where did the “what” come from, or the energy for the explosion? Why are there laws, and why are they repeatable? Taking our illustration of the sand, how did it get in the sea to be beaten into fragments, smoothed along a beach, and shaped by the waves breaking on the shore? Why do waves break, and how?

I argue that there is no such thing as naturalism without a designer, because every bit of nature is inexplicable without a designer. The laws of the universe represent order and harmony and intelligence. A cell may be more complex than a grain of sand, but only as the ziggurat is to a clay pot. Both are designed. And everything “natural” is so elegantly structured that its aesthetic far outweighs the clumsy pot made by man.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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