Category Archives: Christianity

December 24, 2012, 3:34 pm

Merry Christmas

It’s not Thanksgiving, but during this season I’m very thankful:

  • For all of you who check in on this blog from time to time, who have it in your RSS feeds, and who add your comments.
  • For the Chronicle, for having the momentary lapse in judgment that led to me being part of the blog network since last fall.
  • For the Chronicle web development team, working behind the scenes to keep all these sites up and running.
  • For my online friends from Twitter and Google+ who interact with me these and give me a tiny slice of a tight budget of attention.

Being able to write about math, education, and technology here at Casting Out Nines is a great privilege. I’m humbled to be able to do it, and I’m looking forward to good conversations in 2013.

I’m taking the rest of this week off to hang out with my wife and kids and friends. In the meanwhile, enjoy Christmas. In my Christian faith…

Read More

February 18, 2012, 12:00 pm

Random reality

In this month’s online issue of Books & Culture magazine, I have a short article called Random Reality, Part 3. This is (wait for it…) the third part of a series of articles written by science people focusing on the book The Matchbox that Ate a Forty-Ton Truck by Marcus Chown. This series itself is part of a larger series that B&C magazine is running called “Science in Focus” where a single book on science is examined from different points of view by people in the sciences. The first article in my series was written by a geologist, the second by a neuroscientist.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Bible describes the early universe as “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). This is certainly true, according to Marcus Chown, in terms of how much information was in the universe then. Expanding on the ideas of physicist Stephen Hsu, Chown argues that, just after the Big Bang, the universe…

Read More

April 27, 2011, 6:37 am

Four lessons from my Lenten social media fast

Free twitter badge

Image via Wikipedia

This past Sunday was Easter, of course. Easter marks the endpoint of Lent, and therefore it was the end of my 40-day fast from Facebook and Twitter. I do admit that I broke cover once to announce my upcoming job change, and will also admit that I lurked a lot on both services during the last 10 days or so, reading but not commenting. Otherwise, though, I did manage to stay off both Facebook and Twitter for the duration (auto-posted tweets didn’t count).

I’ll have to say my first real tweet after breaking the fast felt awkward — like I’d been out in the wilderness for 40 days and had stepped back into a once-familiar place with people who had never left. I’m gradually getting back into the swing of it, but I also feel like I have a much different perspective on my social media involvement after…

Read More

December 24, 2008, 1:28 pm

Merry Christmas

German painting, 1457
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be taking a break from posting and commenting here at CO9′s until the beginning of next week. Tonight we have Christmas services at my church, and in-laws visiting all day tomorrow, and I’ll probably just want to rest for the remainder of the week!

Until then, have an enjoyable and blessed Christmas, even to those patient readers of this blog out there who don’t share my religious point of view. For those who have the late morning free tomorrow (or after 10 PM this evening), I would second the advice given by Dr. Gene Veith: go to church. Catholic and (many) Lutheran churches still hold Christmas morning masses, and if you’ve never experienced one, then you should try it and see what the “Christ Mass” was really intended to be.

I’ll leave you with this short poem by G. K. Chesterton, also via Gene Veith’s blog, called “A Christmas Carol”:

The Christ-child…

Read More

December 10, 2008, 7:38 am

Leibniz on 1+1=2

From Kuo & Joe, here’s an interesting article on different philosophers’ views on what it means for 1+1 to equal 2 and how their concept of divinity plays into their ideas. Leibniz’ view seems the most compelling:

When Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, an inventor of the calculus, was asked by one of his students, “Why is one and one always two, and how do we know this?” Leibnitz replied, “One and one equals two is an eternal, immutable truth that would be so whether or not there were things to count or people to count them.” Numbers, numerical relationships, and mathematical laws (such as the law of addition) exist in this abstract realm and are independent of any physical existence. In Leibnitz’s view, numbers are real things that exist in a dimension outside of the physical realm and would exist even if no human existed to recognize them.

I don’t know if the exchange between Leibniz and…

Read More

November 1, 2008, 6:20 am

Yo, Happy Reformation Day

For us Lutherans, yesterday was not only Halloween, it was Reformation Day, when we commemorate Luther‘s nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, which touched off the Protestant Reformation. Some people celebrate this occasion in ways which are, well, a little different.

Lyrics are here, and yes, that’s a parody of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”. In my view, any rap that can successfully make a rhyme to the name of Ulrich Zwingli is a success.

October 25, 2008, 8:35 pm

Billy Graham’s TEDtalk

The annual TED conference (TED = Technology, Entertainment, Design) bills itself as “bring[ing] together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).” You see presenters at TED along the lines of Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Freeman Dyson, Marvin Minsky, and on and on. Many of the best TED talks are available for free as video podcasts at the iTunes store or from TED’s website. I was quite surprised to find, among these “best of TED” talks, a 27-minute lecture from 1998 by Billy Graham. His talk was on “Technology, Faith, and Human Shortcomings”. Here it is, in its entirety. You should really watch the whole thing.

I think it takes a lot of guts for an evangelical Christian — to say nothing of a then-80-year old with Parkinson’s Disease — to walk into TED, into a crowd of people who by and large have precious…

Read More

June 12, 2008, 11:51 am

The Nicene Creed in word cloud form

Here’s a view of an ancient creed you might not have ever gotten:

I made this word cloud using wordle.net by just pasting in the text and letting the applet do all the rest. I rather like the outcome here with the Nicene Creed. That might be worthy of a nice color printout and a frame to go on my office wall. Full-size version is housed here.

June 9, 2008, 7:16 am

Rapture 2.0

We’ve all wondered from time to time, “Suppose the Rapture happened tomorrow, and some of my loved ones got left behind. How could I be sure I could send them Gospel tracts and personal information after I’ve been taken up to Heaven?” Well, wonder no longer: for just $40 per year, you can use this new web service to upload up to 250 MB of documents and 62 individual email addresses to send them to in case of the Rapture. (Or rather, in case you get Raptured and your friends — or at least the people you think are your friends — don’t.)

Here’s how it works:

We have set up a system to send documents by the email [sic], to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the “Rapture” of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe [sic] any false triggering of the system.

We give you 150mb …

Read More

June 2, 2008, 1:16 pm

Simul kids et adults

I’m working on updating some of my professional documents, including my curriculum vitae and my Statement of Teaching Philosophy (SOTP). Both of these are badly out of date; I don’t think I’ve touched either one since I was up for tenure in 2005. That’s too bad, especially the SOTP; it seems like professors ought to be constantly re-examining their core philosophies behind teaching and having a critical look at what really characterizes what they do in the classroom.

The new SOTP is absorbing some flavor of recent developments in my personal life on the faith front. Since joining the Lutheran church, I’ve become more exposed to — and more appreciative of — the concept of holding paradoxical pairs of ideas in tension with each other and having a real truth emerge out of the dialectic between the two. In Lutheran theology, for example, we have the idea of simul justus et peccator — the…

Read More