### Isn't it amazing and wonderful to be here?

In the still hours of the morning after returning from a night of observing at the telescope, I found myself standing over our bed looking at Marcus, curled up next to Erin. As parents often do, I stood there watching him rest, basking in the rare silence. He was doing his erratic breathing thing, every so often pausing just long enough for me to wonder if he'd start again. And then he'd start again.

As I stood there watching him, I was overcome by a feeling that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It was a mixture of love and awe and thankfulness. I felt grateful because it was so astoundingly improbable for me to be there right at that moment.

I thought about all the experiments with civilization humans have done over the past 5-10 thousand years that gave rise to the (semi) stable, and mostly safe world we live in. A world where it was okay for me to marry who I did, and where I can provide for my family by doing something so luxurious as using fancy telescopes to study distant planets. I thought about all the experimental gene combinations that didn't work out, and the important few that did that led to my parents, to me, and eventually to Marcus. I envisioned all of the mass extinctions millions of years ago that were big enough to pave the way for the hairy little creatures, but just small enough to not wipe out all life on Earth. I then thought of all of the collisions in the early Solar System that built up the Earth through a snow-ball-like process, with our tiny little planet positioned in the Goldilocks zone of our solar system: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. And all of the stars that had to be born to fuse the heavy elements that make up the Earth, the moon, and us. And then how those stars lived and died and lived and died over billions of years in order to seed our corner of the Galaxy with those vital raw materials.

I just had to shake my head with a genuine sense of wonder that all of those events somehow lead to me standing there looking at my little son, sleeping peacefully next to my wife.

I reached down and picked him up to transfer him to his crib. But before I set him down, I held his sleeping body high above my head and smiled up at him. Marcus, ruler of my corner of the Universe and my hope for the future! Marcus, descended from a long line of winners, a born survivor, destined for great things, my boy! Marcus, my everyth--

--and then he puked on my forehead...

blissful_e said…
As always, love your sense of humor! Or I guess, in this case, Marcus'. :)

In my opinion it is simpler to believe in a Creator God who knows exactly what's up than to think that the universe and everything in it is an accident.
JohnJohn said…
Yes, I envy Marcus' sense of comedic timing :)
Anonymous said…
Talk of the Nation: Science Friday (NPR or PRI) this past week has a section on the new game from the maker of the 'Sims' called 'Spore.' You start out as a single cell organism and get to make choices about what genetic mutations to pick to keep in each generation. It's a really simplified stripped down version of 'natural' selection.
JohnJohn said…
Yeah, I saw that new game. It looks like a lot of fun, and it bodes well for the future of gaming. I hope Owen and Marcus develop more of an interest in these nerd games (Myst, anyone?) than the nausea-inducing first person shooters the kids like so much these days. In my day, we had the text-based King's Quest and we liked it that way!

And get off my lawn!
Anonymous said…
and Oregon Trail, damnit!
mama mia said…
just into chapter 3 of Sagan's "Cosmos" and, prior to this morning's 12:30a.m. miracle of power back on after Ike, had been noticing little wonders around me in the natural world... sounds I never hear because of air conditioning; sitting outside where it is cooler this week looking up at the oak tree and seeing knots on it I never knew were there; sleeping without a t.v. waking me up...I like science and it's quest for truth... this life on earth...just love the pattern, growth, and quest for improvement aspect of it all. Nothing like the wee hours for waxing philosophically....hey, where did the gibbous moon phase get its name? a porch discussion with the neighbors this week with no light in Oak Forest other than the full moon

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…