Thursday, February 21, 2013

how does Jesus see you?

**This post is part of the weekly link up over at the Faith Barista. The topic for today is, quite simply, "Jesus."

One of the bloggers I read was talking about being challenged by another fellow blogger to answer one simple yet profound question: How does Jesus see you? Here's her beautiful answer to that question--you should hop over and take a look! The question immediately caught my attention, basically reaching out to grab me, shake me, and say, "I'm meant for you!"

So here I am, my mind rolling over all the crazy thoughts popping up.

What's easy to tell you ("easy" is used a bit loosely here!) is how I would see my if I were sitting in Jesus's seat next to the Father and looking down here. What jumps to my mind first are all the flaws:
my temper
overly sensitive
unforgiving
definitely not Susie Homemaker
impatient
a procrastinator
never exercises
untrusting
...the list could go on, but that's probably enough (I would just as soon not keep listing all the bad traits!).

The thing is, while I was thinking about all those things I read this post that reminded me of something I seem to forget:

I am God's masterpiece. 
I am His beloved, one He chose and promised never to leave. 
I'm a sinner, there's no doubt, but I'm a sinner saved by grace and covered in His blood
I'm a work in progress and may feel like I should be carrying a sign that says "Please excuse the mess," but when Jesus thinks about me I think a smile comes across His face. 
It's probably one of amused exasperation from time to time, but it's still there. He sees His creation, a girl who
~loves (however imperfectly) her family fiercely
~is creative
~gets lost in words on a regular basis
~never quits (though I can tell you, there are definitely times I want to)
~dreams big
~is forgiven, chosen, and deeply loved.

Friday, February 15, 2013

a lesson on charge, work, and energy

So, I'm thinking it's time for another physics lesson...and this time we're going with a bit of electricity.

Electricity and magnetism have never been my favorite--just ask Dr. Hemmati, my professor for that subject in undergrad!
   ~Don't get me wrong; I'm definitely a big fan of all the wonderful things we have because of electricity. I'm just not a big fan of all the crazy things behind it: Maxwell's equations, Poisson's equation, Laplace's equation...the list goes on, but I won't :0)

Honestly, though, I'm one of those rare physicists who would be perfectly content saying, "You flip the switch, magic happens, and the lights come on!"...which doesn't go over so well with professors.

This semester, though, I'm taking Classical Electrodynamics I, my first grad school electricity course. The professor is great and has this novel idea that he should teach us things (sadly a rare thing among way too many teachers...but I digress). And you know what? I think I may even be starting to understand some of this electricity stuff!

So, now for the physics lesson:

If you've ever played with magnets, I'm sure you've noticed that certain magnets push each other away while others pull together. That goes right along with one of the fundamental aspects of electricity--charge.

Everything in our world (and other worlds, but we'll go along with the ancient idea that we are the center of the universe for a moment and ignore everything else) is made up of tiny things. At one point the smallest of these things was thought to be the cell. Biology text books even went along with that for a while, saying the cell was the most simple, basic building block. Then, biologists discovered even tinier things inside cells that they called organelles--"little organs" because they do for the cell what our organs do for our bodies by processing and absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste (among a whole lot of other things).

Even those tiny organelles, though, are made up of an insane number of tinier things: proteins, polymers, lipids, and other molecules. It seems like no matter how small we get, there's always something smaller, something more fundamental.

This isn't supposed to be a biology lesson, though, so here's where the physics comes back in. Those tiny molecules, so small that we can't use light microscopes to see them, aren't the smallest we go. All those molecules are in turn made up of something even more fundamental--atoms. You know, like how a single water molecule is actually H2O, two hydrogens and one oxygen. What makes it even crazier is that those atoms can be broken down even more--into "subatomic particles" )physicists can be so uncreative with that whole naming thing) called neutrons, protons, and electrons.

This is where charge comes back into the picture (you figured I would get back around to it eventually, right?). Neutrons are neutral, hence the name. The ones we're interested in right now, then, are the protons and electrons.

Protons have a positive charge and electrons a negative one. In a way, they can be thought of kinda like tiny magnets. The big difference, though, is that while a single magnet has both a north and south pole (kind of like a positive side and a negative side), these subatomic particles don't. A proton is positive no matter which way you turn it.

So now we have this tiny thing, so small we look at it as a single point. If that point is always negative, that means that if we could break one of those points into tiny pieces all those pieces would have the same positive charge. So, like two north poles of two magnets, they would push each other apart.

If you've ever had the chance to play with any decently strong magnets, you've seen that it can be impossible to make them touch if they don't want to. Even little bitty magnets you can hold in your hand can be strong enough to keep even these guys from forcing them together:

So what in the world does that have to do with our little blown apart proton? Well, let's look at what would happen if we tried to gather all those little pieces back together to reassemble the single point charge. Starting with one piece, it wouldn't be a big deal to move it to where you wanted it. Once you move that second piece, though, things are going to get significantly harder. Now it's like you are pushing two matching poles of magnets together--and that takes some work.

Uh oh--now I've brought another physics concept into the story: work.
     I bet you're not even breaking a sweat yet, so we're still quite a ways from the obligatory physics panic attack, right? Good.

If you're going to do work, it's going to take some energy. For that, we'll go with the physicist's best friend: a big box sitting on the floor. We'll make it empty at first, and push it across the floor. Pretty easy, right? It doesn't take much work, so you don't have to use much energy. As we add a bunch of stuff to that box, though (you know, like all those books that you have stacked on the floor because they don't fit on the bookshelves...don't tell me that's just at my house...oops), it gets a bit harder to move.

You have to work harder, and that means you use up more energy. When you keep adding to the box, eventually it takes all your energy to move the thing.

The same thing is going on with our shattered proton. Moving that second piece in to meet up with the first takes work, therefore energy. When we move a third piece in it takes more because it is being pushed away by both of the others. This goes on for every piece: by the time we're trying to move the 576th tiny piece of that shattered proton in, it has 575 pieces pushing against it. That's going to take a crazy amount of work, which means a crazy amount of energy.

(Look at that! Charge, subatomic particles, work, and energy all without even making you start to hyperventilate!)

In fact, it takes so much energy to push all those pieces of that charge together that we can't count it. One point charge, then, has to use an infinite amount of "self energy" just to hold itself together.

Those atoms we were talking about earlier, like the hydrogen and oxygen ones that make up water? If we look at oxygen on the periodic table we see it has a big number 8 with it. That means it is made of 8 protons and 8 electrons (there are neutrons thrown in there, too, but we're not worried about them for the moment so we'll leave them out. Convenient, huh?) That means 8 tiny positive charges and 8 tiny negative charges, which doesn't seem too bad. Afterall, that just means 8 tiny north pole magnets to attract the 8 tiny south pole magnets.

The thing is, though, the 8 positive charges are essentially all stuck together while the 8 negative charges fly around them. In the nucleus, then, where those 8 positive charges are stuck together, we are dealing with an infinite amount of self energy at least 8 times. More if you think about it, because we're also dealing with the energy it takes to hold those 8 positive charges to each other.

Look around you for a minute. Everything you see (including yourself) and everything you don't see (like the air) is dealing with this right now: infinite amounts of energy, all of it wanting to go back to being relaxed and not doing any work. It's true--in that sense atoms are like people and would rather be relaxing than working.

The crazy thing is, physicists don't really know what keeps everything held together, keeps those tiny charges from releasing the infinite amount of energy it takes to hold them together and simply blowing everything up.
There's a field in physics trying to figure that out right now, studying these things called "quarks" (I guess physicists get creative with naming every once in a while after all) that are thought to be what subatomic particles are made out of...
but you know what?
I'm just glad that that "infinite" amount of energy and the "infinite" power it represents is nothing compared to the power of the One who spoke all of it into existence.

Monday, February 11, 2013

in the silent times

So, apparently it's been quite a while since I wrote here. I would love to be able to say that was because I've just been so incredibly busy
with school
family
laundry
stories
facebook... oops! How did that one slip in there?

The truth is, though, I've been silent because that's where I've found myself lately--living in the silence.

Though that's hard for me to admit, I'm plastering it our there in cyberspace for one simple reason:
I know I can't be the only one.

Your silence may be different from mine, but maybe there's still something in my story that can
speak to where you are...
or remind you of where you've been...
or help you with somewhere you're going to find yourself.

So, here goes...
Lately, I've felt lost. My one word for 2013 is "follow," but I've come to a bit of a hard spot:
How do you follow when you've lost sight of the One leading you?
See, I'm in one of those silent spots right now. I feel like I'm sitting in the dark, straining to see some sign of the path in front of me, to hear some tiny word or reassurance (or even correction!). 

The thing is, I can't see or hear anything.
It's left me with feelings that are hard for me to admit even to myself, let alone that I've wanted to put out there for everybody else to see:
alone
forgotten
abandoned.

It makes me cry out with David:
"Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears." (Psalm 6:2-3, 6)

My heart knows the truth, that I'll be able to also join David in saying,
"The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) And "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me." (Psalm 13:5&6)

The thing is, right now my head is drowning out my heart.

I've found one thing to be true more often than not in my life:
when I have a hard time hearing God, it's not because He's stopped talking. Most of the time it's because I've stopped listening.

It makes me wonder...
When I feel like I'm sitting in the dark, silent parts of life,
does God see me plopped down in the middle of His light, my eyes shut and my hands covering my ears?