Typewriter and quote of the moment: David McCullough

December 17, 2007

I bought my Royal Standard typewriter in 1965. It was secondhand. I have written everything I’ve ever had published on it, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Giambarba photo of historian David McCullough and his typewriter

  • Pulitzer-winner David McCullough, defending his refusal to write on a computer during a Dallas book-signing.

(Found in Dallas Morning News, Alan Peppard, “Salutations, Year in Review, Local Celebrities,” December 17, 2007, page 1E, in graphic on page 4E)

More from McCullough on typing, and on writing, reading and understanding history, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bending science to keep religion rigid

December 17, 2007

Texas A&M University will be home to an institute to train students for careers in nuclear power. This is a logical and welcome extension for one of Texas’s, and one of the nation’s premiere engineering schools. Nuclear power offers opportunities for the nation made more urgent by continuing, inherent problems with carbon-based fossil fuels.

Radioactivity symbol

Texas is the nation’s second largest state. The institute will provide another source for Texas kids to get career training.

The Nuclear Power Institute will help train staff needed to operate new reactors and generating plants. It will also revamp curriculum for junior high, high school and college students who are interested in pursuing careers in the field, according to officials with Texas A&M Engineering.

The institute was established in a joint effort by the Dwight Look College of Engineering and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). The Look College is one of the largest engineering colleges in the nation, with nearly 9,000 students and 12 departments.

“The Texas A&M University System is uniquely configured with the ideal combination of education, research and service agencies and universities to lead this effort,” Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering Kem Bennett said in a statement released last week. “The institute will make a significant impact upon the work force and economy of the state and nation.”

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents signed off on the formal creation of the Nuclear Power Institute earlier this month.

There is a high degree of irony in this announcement at this time. While Texas A&M looks to the future with nuclear power, the state weighs whether to allow a Dallas religious school to train teachers that management of nuclear power is based on flawed theory. A&M will train people to manage nuclear power; the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wants to train high school teachers to teach Texas’s high school kids that nuclear power is mysterious and cannot work.

Does Texas contradict itself? Walt Whitman might have asked. Texas is large. It contains multitudes.

But should it contain a school that teaches much of basic science is just wrong?

It might be nice if a higher percentage of the multitudes had the reasoning power to see what’s wrong with this picture, and why the question is important.

This may be too subtle for people unfamiliar with atomic theory to realize the full impact. Zeno at Halfway There explains the wacky part of ICR’s misunderstanding, or wishful thinking about atomic theory. Simply put, ICR claims to have discovered that God interferes with nuclear reactions, making it difficult to predict that a nuclear reactor won’t suddenly increase its output by ten times, cooking the nuclear power plant and a couple of nearby towns in the doing.

Texas A&M is working to prepare people to live in the late 21st and 22nd centuries. ICR is fighting to take us back to the 16th or 17th century.

If ICR is successful, from what pool will A&M draw its candidates for nuclear engineering and nuclear power management? Against its will, Texas A&M could become one of the largest graduate institutions for all of India and China.

Please see the update, December 18, here:  Texas’s face should be creationism red.

December 17, written in the wind

December 17, 2007

Wright Bros. flyer at Kittyhawk, first flight

Photo from Treasures of the Library of Congress; “First Flight” by John T. Daniels (d. 1948); this is a modern gelatin print from the glass negative.

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:

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