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Thursday, April 22, 2021

How many offspring will a maple tree have?

Maple seeds, older Maple seeds/fruit

The maple seeds/fruit (known to botanists as samaras, and, in some cultures, as whirlybirds or helicopters), are usually abundant. There are a couple of dozen of them in this photo, which is of a small part, maybe 2 or 3 percent or less, of the whole tree.

How many of these would you expect to grow to be mature maple trees? And, more broadly, how many new adult trees would you expect this maple tree to have as offspring, during its life?

The answers to these questions may surprise you. They are none, and one. Why? Here's why. If each and every one of just the seeds in this photo grew to maturity, and other maple seeds did the same, and continued to do so for a few generations, the world would be covered in maple trees. It isn't. Unless there is an expansion of maples, each maple, on average, produces one offspring that reaches maturity and makes another generation's worth of maple seeds. On the other hand, if the replacement rate is less than one new maple per maple tree, it wouldn't take long for maples to vanish.

The usual replacement rate for organisms is one adult descendant in the next generation.

There are exceptions, but they must be temporary. Humans have often produced more than enough to replace themselves, and human populations have expanded. But this can't, and won't, go on forever. Other organisms have also had growing populations. Fire ants in the southeast US come to mind. There didn't used to be any, but now many a pasture has lots of nests visible. And, conversely, other types of living things have disappeared, or have nearly done so, such as cougars, because they don't replace their population numbers.

Darwin's concept of natural selection used the ideas of lots of offspring, and that the fittest survive. Although we can see no important differences between the maple seeds in the photo, it is likely that there are some genetic differences, giving some seeds a better chance than others. (Chance also plays a role -- where the seeds land surely would make a difference in their ability to survive.)

Keep growing and multiplying, but don't take over the earth's surface! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Sunspots 829

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: NPR on a book claiming that evangelicals have distorted Biblical teaching on women's roles. For related matters, see my "Female Headship in the Family: Biblical Examples."

Environment: Gizmodo reports on a study that found that the ecology of about 97% of the land areas on earth has been damaged.

Gizmodo also reports on how the Colorado River water flow has been reduced so much that restrictions on water use are being put in place.

Food: (or finance) Gizmodo reports that ketchup packets are selling for premium prices.

Humor: (or something) ListVerse shows and tells us some interesting history of chess.

Politics: Relevant reminds us that we've known about racism in the US, and its consequences, for at least 70 years, and nothing much has changed.

FiveThirtyEight discusses so-called independents in US politics, and finds that there aren't really very many.

Science: Gizmodo reports on a study that indicates that ermine (aka stoats) are not one species, but at least three.

NPR reports on entities made from a combination of monkey and human cells. There are ethical concerns.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 81

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here.  As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues his discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

O my God! I do believe in Thee. I believe in Thee as the Father, Infinite in Thy Love and Power. And as the Son, my Redeemer and my Life. And as the Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide and Strength. Three-One God, I have faith in Thee. I know and am sure that all that Thou art Thou art to me, that all Thou hast promised Thou wilt perform. Lord Jesus! increase this faith. Teach me to take time, and wait and worship in the Holy Presence until my faith takes in all there is in my God for me. Let it see Him as the Fountain of all Life, working with Almighty Strength to accomplish His will on the world and in me.
Let it see Him in His love longing to meet and fulfil my desires. Let it so take possession of my heart and life that through faith God alone may dwell there. Lord Jesus, help me! with my whole heart would I believe in God. Let faith in God each moment fill me. O my Blessed Saviour! how can Thy Church glorify Thee, how can it fulfil that work of intercession through which Thy kingdom must come, unless our whole life be FAITH IN GOD. Blessed Lord! speak Thy Word, ‘HAVE FAITH IN GOD,’ unto the depths of our souls.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Sunspots 828

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Christianity: He Lives on the requirements for being baptized. (Many churches have a lot more than the New Testament church had.)

Relevant reports on a survey that indicates that over 40% of self-identified evangelicals go to church less than twice a year.

Peaceful Science has a good discussion of ways that Adam and Eve could have come to be.

Environment: Gizmodo on a report that methane release was alarmingly high in 2020. (Methane is a greenhouse gas.)

Science: Phys.org reports on greatly enhanced ability to turn genes off. This technique, a variation of the CRISP procedure, when studied further, might, for example, be used to fight Alzheimer's.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 80

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here.  As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues his discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

Precious lessons that Jesus has to teach us this day. We seek God’s gifts: God wants to give us HIMSELF first. We think of prayer as the power to draw down good gifts from heaven; Jesus as the means to draw ourselves up to God. We want to stand at the door and cry; Jesus would have us first enter in and realize that we are friends and children. Let us accept the teaching. Let every experience of the littleness of our faith in prayer urge us first to have and exercise more faith in the living God, and in such faith to yield ourselves to Him. A heart full of God has power for the prayer of faith. Faith in God begets faith in the promise, in the promise too of an answer to prayer.
Therefore, child of God, take time, take time, to bow before
Him, to wait on Him to reveal Himself. Take time, and let thy soul in holy awe and worship exercise and express its faith in the Infinite One, and as He imparts Himself and takes possession of thee, the prayer of faith will crown thy faith in God.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Sunspots 827

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: Gizmo's Freeware describes a search engine that turns up public domain art, from art museums. See graphic, which comes from the New York Public Library: 


Computing: Gizmodo reports that the National Weather Service's computing structure is in danger of failure, at times when we need it most.

Gizmodo links to a tool that lets you see if your phone number was among those acquired in a massive Facebook data leak. (Mine wasn't, thank God!)

Education: More than half of the US states have names coming from Native American languages.

Environment: Former Environmental Protection Agency head, Scott Pruitt, did his best to cripple the agency's science advisory boards, for example by placing people on them that claimed that air pollution is good for us. The Biden administration is working to reverse the damage.

Gizmodo reports that the cherry blossoms in Japan are blooming earlier than they've bloomed within the past 1200 years.

Politics: The Pacific Standard analyzes gun laws, and finds that you are more likely to be shot in states that have less restrictive gun laws.

FiveThirtyEight discusses media distrust among Republicans.

And FiveThirtyEight tells us why, after losing the senate and the white house, Republicans aren't looking to change anything.

The graphic usually used in these posts (below) is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this. 


Thanks for looking! 

Sunday, April 04, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 79

I know. It's Easter! Christ is risen! But I continue a series, on things made possible by the power of the Risen Lord.

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here. As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues his discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

Every special exhibition of the power of faith was the fruit of a special revelation of God. See it in Abraham: ‘And the word of the Lord came unto Abram, saying, Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield. And He brought him forth abroad, and said . . . AND HE BELIEVED THE LORD.’ And later again: ‘The Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, I am God Almighty. And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold my covenant is with thee.’ It was the revelation of God Himself that gave the promise its living power to enter the heart and work the faith. Because they knew God, these men of faith could not do anything but trust His promise. God’s promise will be to us what God Himself is. It is the man who walks before the Lord, and falls upon his face to listen while the living God speaks to him, who will really receive the promise. Though we have God’s promises in the Bible, with full liberty to take them, the spiritual power is wanting, except as God Himself speaks them to us. And He speaks to those who walk and live with Him. Therefore, HAVE FAITH IN GOD: let faith be all eye and ear, the surrender to let God make His full impression, and reveal Himself fully in the soul. Count it one of the chief blessings of prayer to exercise faith in God, as the Living Mighty God who waits to fulfil in us all the good pleasure of His will, and the work of faith with power. See in Him the God of Love, whose delight it is to bless and impart Himself. In such worship of faith in God the power will speedily come to believe the promise too: ‘ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER YE ASK, BELIEVE THAT YE RECEIVE.’ Yes, see that thou dost in faith make God thine own; the promise will be thine too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Sunspots 826

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


The Arts: J.  R. R. Tolkien was not only a writer, he was an artist.

Computing: Relevant lets us know whether we've become an internet troll.

Science: Gizmodo reports on research that indicates that octopi may dream.

Gizmodo reports on how easy it is to make people believe they remember something that never happened.

The Scientist reports on a gene transfer from a plant to an insect. It happened a long time ago.

Sports: FiveThirtyEight discusses the lack of black coaches in major college men's basketball.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"calculated the dust of the earth in a measuring basket..." - God and nature in Isaiah 40

 "calculated the dust of the earth in a measuring basket..." - Isaiah 12:2b. (Scripture from the World English Bible, public domain.)

Isaiah 40 is probably best known for verses 30-31:

30 Even the youths faint and get weary,

    and the young men utterly fall;

31 but those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength.

    They will mount up with wings like eagles.

    They will run, and not be weary.

    They will walk, and not faint.

This passage is partly, or completely, poetic -- it uses figurative language. We don't expect to fly like birds, even if we do wait for Yahweh.

There's more non-literal language in this chapter. Consider the verse which is the source of the title of this post:

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    and marked off the sky with his span,
    and calculated the dust of the earth in a measuring basket,
    and weighed the mountains in scales,
    and the hills in a balance?

Here is more poetic wording:

11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will gather the lambs in his arm,
    and carry them in his bosom.
    He will gently lead those who have their young.

and

22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
    who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in,  

23 who brings princes to nothing,
    who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.

23 They are planted scarcely.
    They are sown scarcely.
    Their stock has scarcely taken root in the ground.
    He merely blows on them, and they wither,
    and the whirlwind takes them away as stubble.

and 

26 Lift up your eyes on high,
    and see who has created these,
    who brings out their army by number.
    He calls them all by name.
    by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is lacking. 

All of these not-literal passages refer to nature. Nature was, and should be, important to believers. In this one chapter, we have more than one section of nature-related material:

putting forth non-human creatures as a goal to aspire to, and/or as divinely designed;

an admonition that God understands the natural world, and we are just not capable of that;

care for animals as an illustration of God's care for His people;

God's sovereignty, even over the heavenly bodies;

God as creator.

Nature is not the main theme of Isaiah. Here's a quotation from the Wikipedia article on the book of Isaiah

The book can be read as an extended meditation on the destiny of Jerusalem into and after the Exile. ... Isaiah speaks out against corrupt leaders and for the disadvantaged, and roots righteousness in God's holiness rather than in Israel's covenant.

But, although it's not part of Isaiah's main message, nature has always been important to God. Here, the emphasis is not on caring for nature, or on nature's beauty and diversity, but on God's greatness, and His sovereignty over nature. The ancient Hebrews could probably distinguish a few thousand stars (more than all too many of us can see with the naked eye, looking directly at the sky) in the heavens that they saw. (They believed that the stars were held by a firmament. We now believe that there isn't any such thing, but God is just as much in charge of spatial objects as if there was. See also this post.) They could not have imagined stars of various colors, sizes, and age, or double stars, or asteroids, or billions of galaxies, and the other entities that we can see today. But God could imagine them, and, as Isaiah says, he brings them out by number, and knows the names of each of them. 

God also understands geology better than the best scientists of our, or any future time. He calculates the very dust -- not a single grain of silt, mud or soil is unseen by God, or not understood by Him.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 78

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here. As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues his discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

It is because very many of God’s children do not understand this connection between the life of faith and the prayer of faith that their experience of the power of prayer is so limited. When they desire earnestly to obtain an answer from God, they fix their whole heart upon the promise, and try their utmost to grasp that promise in faith. When they do not succeed, they are ready to give up hope; the promise is true, but it is beyond their power to take hold of it in faith. Listen to the lesson Jesus teaches us this day: HAVE FAITH IN GOD, the Living God: let faith look to God more than the thing promised: it is His love, His power, His living presence will waken and work the faith. A physician would say to one asking for some means to get more strength in his arms and hands to seize and hold, that his whole constitution must be built up and strengthened. So the cure of a feeble faith is alone to be found in the invigoration of our whole spiritual life by intercourse with God. Learn to believe in God, to take hold of God, to let God take possession of thy life, and it will be easy to take hold of the promise.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sunspots 825

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:




Christianity: Christianity Today has an article exploring the ins and outs of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage.

A Relevant article reminds us that the default position of Christians shouldn't be outrage.

Computing: (and food) Gizmodo reports that Mars candies is testing a device that rolls along the aisles of grocery stores, trying to get you to buy candy. (There's Mars candy as part of the device.)

Education: Grammarphobia discusses o'clock, and other words with apostrophes.

Ethics: NPR reports that scientists have facilitated cell growth from single cells to a structure that resembles a very early embryo. The article brings out some of the ethical questions about the procedure.

The Scientist gives more lab details on this research.

Health: (or something) Gizmodo asks about hair loss, and how to slow it down.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes positions of US House members and candidates, and finds that, for both parties, moderate candidates did very well. But there aren't many of them.

Science: The Scientist reports on a study of the giraffe genome. Giraffes have, for one thing, genes that raise their blood pressure, allowing their brains to receive blood.

NPR reports that bonobos seem to be innately more likely to share, and much less likely to kill each other, than chimpanzees.

Gizmodo shows us face mask details, magnified significantly.

Sports: NPR, and other outlets, on disparities between facilities for the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournament. Guess who has the better facilities?

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

Thanks for looking!

 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 77

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here. As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues a discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

And even so faith is also the ear through which the voice of God is always heard and intercourse with Him kept up. It is through the Holy Spirit the Father speaks to us; the Son is the Word, the substance of what God says; the Spirit is the living voice. This the child of God needs to lead and guide him; the secret voice from heaven must teach him, as it taught Jesus, what to say and what to do. An ear opened towards God, that is, a believing heart waiting on Him, to hear what He says, will hear Him speak. The words of God will not only be the words of a Book, but, proceeding from the mouth of God, they will be spirit and truth, life and power. They will bring in deed and living experience what are otherwise only thoughts. Through this opened ear the soul tarries under the influence of the life and power of God Himself. As the words I hear enter the mind and dwell and work there, so through faith God enters the heart, and dwells and works there.


When faith now is in full exercise as eye and ear, as the faculty of the soul by which we
see and hear God, then it will be able to exercise its full power as hand and mouth, by which we appropriate God and His blessing. The power of reception will depend entirely on the power of spiritual perception. For this reason Jesus said, ere He gave the promise that God would answer believing prayer: ‘HAVE FAITH IN GOD.’ Faith is simply surrender: I yield myself to the impression the tidings I hear make on me. By faith I yield myself to the living God. His glory and love fill my heart, and have the mastery over my life. Faith is fellowship; I give myself up to the influence of the friend who makes me a promise, and become linked to him by it. And it is when we enter into this living fellowship with God Himself, in a faith that always sees and hears Him, that it becomes easy and natural to believe His promise as to prayer. Faith in the promise is the fruit of faith in the promiser: the prayer of faith is rooted in the life of faith. And in this way the faith that prays effectually is indeed a gift of God. Not as something that He bestows or infuses at once, but in a far deeper and truer sense, as the blessed disposition or habit of soul which is wrought and grows up in us in a life of intercourse with Him. Surely for one who knows his Father well, and lives in constant close intercourse with Him, it is a simple thing to believe the promise that He will do the will of His child who lives in union with Himself.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sunspots 824

 Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else: 


It's St. Patricks' Day. See this article from the History Channel.

The Arts: Listverse shows us beautiful, or interesting, photos of abandoned structures.

Christianity: (and politics) an insightful review of a book on Christian nationalism, by Tim Keller.

Christianity Today has an article about Henrietta Mears, who, in many ways, founded the 20th-century evangelical movement, and was a positive force for Christ. Billy Graham probably would never have come to prominence without her influence. (I'd never heard of her.)

Relevant reports on a survey that indicates that pastors are leaving churches because a significant portion of their attendees have become QAnon believers.

Christianity Today has an article urging redress of sentencing guidelines that have been unfair to African-Americans.

Computing: (and Education) Gizmodo reports that lots of children (and adults) still don't have internet access.

Health: Gizmodo reports that diphtheria infections are on the rise, because of mutated bacteria.

NPR reports that the frequency of alcohol-caused liver disease in young women has risen sharply.

Politics: (and Health, and Race) FiveThirtyEight examines the reasons why African-Americans are getting vaccinated against COVID less. It's not because they don't trust the shots, but because many of them lack internet access for signing up, and because distribution centers are less likely to be close to where they live.

Science: Gizmodo reports that some deep-sea bacteria are "invisible" to human immune systems. That is, they are not recognized as foreign, and attacked. This could be dangerous.

Gizmodo also reports that rainbows look different in Hawaii, and tells us why. (The article also explains rainbows, wherever they are.)

A mosquito, which carries human infectious diseases, has entered Florida from elsewhere, according to NPR.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, it is free to use like this.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Comments you have made - Thanks, and an apology

Thanks to all readers and commenters. I discovered, this morning, that whatever system (if any) I was using to keep up with comments on my blog wasn't working.

My apologies for not seeing a number of comments in recent months. I caught up today.

In at least one case, two of you were exchanging comments. I've generally not entered in to such discussions, even on my own blog, but let the individuals engage in discussion. I didn't enter the dialog myself today, either.

With Christ in the school of prayer, by Andrew Murray, 76

This post continues a series of excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this public domain work available. To see their post of the book, go here. The previous post is here. As usual in this blog, long quotations are in this color. Murray continues a discussion, based on Mark 11:22-24:

This connection between faith in God and faith in His promise will become clear to us if we think what faith really is. It is often compared to the hand or the mouth, by which we take and appropriate what is offered to us. But it is of importance that we should understand that faith is also the ear by which I hear what is promised, the eye by which I see what is offered me. On this the power to take depends. I must hear the person who gives me the promise: the very tone of his voice gives me courage to believe. I must see him: in the light of his eye and countenance all fear as to my right to take passes away. The value of the promise depends on the promiser: it is on my knowledge of what the promiser is that faith
in the promise depends.
It is for this reason that Jesus, ere He gives that wonderful prayer-promise, first says, ‘HAVE FAITH IN GOD.’ That is, let thine eye be open to the Living God, and gaze on Him, seeing Him who is Invisible. It is through the eye that I yield myself to the influence of what is before me; I just allow it to enter, to exert its influence, to leave its impression upon my mind. So believing God is just looking to God and what He is, allowing Him to reveal His presence, giving Him time and yielding the whole being to take in the full impression of what He is as God, the soul opened up to receive and rejoice in the overshadowing of His love. Yes, faith is the eye to which God shows what He is and does: through faith the light
of His presence and the workings of His mighty power stream into the soul. As that which I see lives in me, so by faith God lives in me too.