Saturday, March 10, 2018

Perfectly Balanced Universe

Another reminder from Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry:

  "Since both mass and energy cause space-time to warp, or curve, omega tells us the shape of the cosmos. If omega is less than one, the actual mass-energy falls below the critical value, and the universe expands forever in every direction for all of time, taking on the shape of a saddle, in which initially parallel lines diverge. If omega equals one, the universe expands forever, but only barely so. In that case the shape is flat, preserving all the geometric rules we learned in high school about parallel lines. If omega exceeds one, parallel lines converge, and the universe curves back on itself, ultimately recollapsing into the fireball whence it came."

What a perfectly balanced universe in which we live!

Graphics: Wikipedia, Northern Arizona University

Our Unique Vantage Point

Earlier this year I listened to Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and I've been slowly re-reading the ebook. One of many fascinating observations Tyson makes regarding our unique position in the universe is as follows:

"Earth’s Moon is about 1/400th the diameter of the Sun, but it is also 1/400th as far from us, making the Sun and the Moon the same size on the sky—a coincidence not shared by any other planet–moon combination in the solar system, allowing for uniquely photogenic total solar eclipses. Earth has also tidally locked the Moon, leaving it with identical periods of rotation on its axis and revolution around Earth. Wherever and whenever this happens, the locked moon shows only one face to its host planet." --Astrophysics for People in a Hurry"

What an amazing universe in which we live!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

2017 Reading

Wow... almost a year has passed since my last blog entry! Time again for my year in books review.

As I look back over the list of 48+ books I listened to or read this past year, my first observation is that I read several more novels than I usually do. I loved the humor of The Throwback Special, and the gritty earthiness of Bull Mountain and The North Water. The Atonement wasn’t bad, but The Girl on the Train was awesome! I liked Thomas McGuane’s Crow Fair: Stories so much that he's near the top of my reading list for 2018. However, my favorite novel for the year was by far Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov!

In  the history and biography genre, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. I can also recommend Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton as well as his Washington: A Life. Jon Meacham’s Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush kept my attention from start to finish, although the author seemed at times a little biased, perhaps due to being a little too close to his subject material. My favorite for the year in the biography genre was by far George Whitefield: America's Spiritual Founding Father. Highly recommend this title!

I only read three science-related books this year, but all three were eye-opening: The Gene: An Intimate History, A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals, and Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. I highly recommend all three.

One area I wanted to learn more about this past year was the issue of justice and the command for us to prioritize it instead of looking the other way. I heartily recommend both Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis, and The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance. Other non-fiction which I found challenging and edifying included Conversations with Walker Percy, and Tim Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.

An important personal goal for me the past year was to re-acquire the Greek and Hebrew I studied years ago in graduate school which I for the most part neglected for 20 years as I moved on to other languages. To accomplish this, I read Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar and its companion Basics of Biblical Greek as well as worked through portions of their accompanying workbooks. I’ve still got a long way to go to get to the next level. But that’s a goal for next year.

The book formats I read this year were as follows:
27 audiobooks (ever thankful to take advantage of commuting time!)
16 eBooks (7 along with same audiobook)
10 physical books

There are always a few books I forget to input, but that’s it for the most part. How about you? Did you read any of these or have other favorites to recommend? Please let me know!

If you're interested in checking out my reviews (or those of others) for any of these books, you can click here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Reading

Time for my annual summary of books I read this past year! As usual my favorite genre was history. I highly recommend The Kingdom of Ice,  Rebel Yell, The Wright Brothers  and Empire of the Summer Moon (probably in that order). Listening to the former in our cold January weather left a particularly deep impression!

I would also highly recommend Stuff Matters as an excellent and easily navigable read related to materials science. The World Without Us is a thought-provoking semi-scientific look at what the future could have been like.

I typically find Bill Bryson's books insightful, relaxing, and downright hilarious in places as I let my mind travel through time or around the world. This year was no exception. In addition to the books I recorded as having read, I listened to the audio version of Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I had already read a decade or so ago. Just as good the second time around!

The Things of Earth is an excellent read helping us to orient our lives to appreciate all God has created and freely given us to enjoy. I look forward to reading future books by this author!

How about you? Did you read any of these or have other favorites to recommend? Please leave a comment below!

As for the format of books I read this year:
  • 20 were audiobooks (most were free loans from the Maryland Digital Public Library; I'm so thankful for the availability of this service overseas!)
  • 6 ebooks (all but one of which were also library loans)
  • 5 hardbacks (2 of which were from the library)
  • 8 paperbacks

According to, I am currently reading 16 other books but these will all have to wait for next year!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Absorbing God is like Drinking from Niagara Falls

Three weeks ago while we were enjoying the view above from our hotel across from the American and Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls, I mused about how absorbing God’s nature might be like drinking from Niagara Falls. 三個禮拜以前我們在飯店欣賞尼加拉瀑布的景觀時,我一邊看一邊想著吸收上帝的本質就如喝尼加拉瀑布的水一樣。

Jesus said: “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:38) 耶穌說:「人要是渴了,就該到我這裏來喝。聖經上說:『那信我的人有活水的河流要從他心中湧流出來。』」約翰7:38

Elsewhere the psalmist writes: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”  (Psalm 42:7)  在別的地方,詩者寫著:你的瀑布發聲,深淵就與深淵響應;你的波浪洪濤漫過我身。詩篇42:7

In yet another place God announces: “The leaders of Judah have become like thieves. So I will pour my anger on them like a waterfall. Hosea 5:10 在另外一個地方,上主宣告:「我要向猶大的領袖發怒,像洪水沖擊一樣地懲罰他們,因為他們侵佔以色列的領土。何西阿書 5:10

In Waterfall, singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin sings:

  Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall你的愛就像一個瀑布,瀑布
  Running wild and free狂野且自由的流動
  You hear my heart when I call, when I call 當我呼求你時,你聽到了我的心
  Deep calls to deep 深淵就與深淵響應
  Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall 你的愛就像一個瀑布,瀑布
  Raining down on me 如雨點般落在我身上
  It's coming like a flood 這就像潮水般涌来
  I'm dancing in the rain 我在雨中跳舞
  Everything I've done  一切我所做的
  Is covered in rivers of grace, amazing  都被恩典的河流淹沒,多麼奇妙啊

Indeed, appropriating different aspects of God’s character (His love, holiness, justice, etc.) can be like drinking from a waterfall. The water will of course hydrate you, but too fast and too much and it will certainly crush and kill you! Thanks be to God for His mercy and His grace in dispensing what we are able to handle as we live out our lives each and every day. May He increase our inner capacity for more of Him.