Keep Pushing Forward

I’ve been attending my city’s community college (Lansing CC) since the spring of 2014, and am planning to transfer to Michigan State University in a year or less. There, I plan to study physics and engineering. I’ve yet to decide which fields specifically, but I’ll admit my thoughts as of late reside in Astrophysics/Cosmology and Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering. Either way, this past week has been a week of great news for me as an individual, and as a student. I’ve been honored with an invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa (The National Honors Society) through LCC, as well as assured that my educational performance is building a very strong case for my admission into MSU’s Physics & Engineering programs. It seems that what I thought of as somewhat of a pipe dream is steadily becoming a reality. I’ve also begun working out again, and am on day four of quitting smoking! I suppose reflecting on progress is my way of stopping to smell the roses. This is another reason to always expand your mind.

I finished my first year of college

Woooohooo!!! As of 20 minutes ago, I finished my very first year of college! That’s one year closer to beginning my career in science. This was by far the most challenging 4 months of education I have ever gone through, and I am so proud to be standing on this side of it. Also, I could definitely not be doing this without the help from my wife, Ivy, in holding down the business and helping to keep me motivated. She is the best!

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Jesus, Homosexuals, and Cornbread

Six years ago, I was traveling the west coast of America while on tour with my band. On a welcomed day off in sunny Anaheim, CA, I found myself at a small diner off of a dirty state highway advertised to cook traditional southern cuisine. Alongside of the buttery grits, bacon, hash browns, and fried eggs I ordered, was one of the tastiest pieces of cornbread I have ever eaten. Crunchy on the edges, soft and moist in the middle, the way cornbread is meant to be. As a native of North Carolina, I found this meal was home on a plate. While eating, I received a phone call from my dad. I was a little surprised as it was quite late back on the east coast, but I answered the call anyways. So it began.

This was the time in my life I watched as my father traversed a path of genuine solitude. Keith Jenkins, an American Christian pastor of 22 years and husband for 26, came out as a homosexual. The news really didn’t bother me, but the treatment he received from other Christians was appalling. Over the days following his announcement, the national Assemblies of God council stripped my father of his pastoral credentials. Decades-long friendships with those from several churches instantly crumbled before him. Religious family members, immediate and extended, completely disowned him. When he reached out for love and comfort, they simply turned their backs and shut their doors. He was on his own.

Additionally, he was made out by many to be an immoral, unnatural man. Sadly, this is common, as many homosexuals today struggle to feel welcome in many environments, religious communities being the main culprit. In a Gallup poll in 2010, for the first time a majority of Americans, 52%, called homosexuality morally acceptable, while 43% said it is immoral. It’s pleasing to learn that the outlook of this nation is slowly changing, but the amount of time it has taken to do so is mesmerizing. The American Christian community should reevaluate its views of homosexuals and focus on projecting the love and acceptance on which it claims to be founded.

The truth of the matter is we are all judged from the time we are born until the moment we die. This is an inescapable aspect of human nature. However, judgment can breed division, and, in some cases, transcend opinion to become hostile and even hateful. Sadly, homosexuals often receive this hostility from many individuals who self-identify as religious or spiritual. They are told their sexual lifestyle is submerged in sin, and they are therefore destined for eternal torment. This message is generally grounded in the biblical interpretation of Bible verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28, and Leviticus 18:22 which reads, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (The Holy). Many religious individuals think this means God does not approve of the sexual lifestyle of homosexuals, and consequently, they begin to oppose the homosexual individual. However, as a projected symbol of love and compassion, I don’t conclude God is not meant to represent such a message of intolerance. Christianity preaches that for one to be holy one must operate with Christ-like behavior. That’s to say, Christians are to exemplify a person who was kind to murderers, beggars, prostitutes and even rapists. If people such as these were deemed worthy of the compassion of Christ then I’m challenged to find reason in ostracizing homosexuals on the grounds of sexual lifestyle.

In addition, I often hear the argument from religious individuals such as world-renowned Christian Evangelist, Billy Graham, that homosexuality weakens the traditional family structure of father, mother, and children. Recently quoted in USA Today, Graham states, “The Bible is clear that God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.” (“Billy”). This is believed by many religious individuals to be the most sacred and beneficial form of a family. However, I find this concept to be false. In reality, the structure of a family is in constant metamorphosis. Consider death. When members of a family die, another must adopt the physical and emotional roles of the deceased member, which in turn changes the familial structure. The situational support one gets from a brother may one day need to be replaced with the support of a mother, father, sister, etc. A single mother will raise her child alone for an indefinite amount of time, alternating between the roles of both female and male figures when appropriate. To suggest that any one situation alters this structure more than another is founded in ignorance, and needs to be reconsidered.

It’s commonly believed amongst the religious community that homosexual life partners cannot experience the same happiness or romantic love as heterosexual life partners. As a married individual, I find these two emotions are intimately connected, and ultimately govern the success or failure of such a relationship. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2011, 44 American states reported an average divorce rate of 53%, and this number has been steadily rising for several years (1). Given that these statistics don’t include homosexual marriages, as same sex marriage was still not legal in the U.S. in 2011, this tells us that over half of heterosexual life partners in America are not in happy and satisfying marriages. This is sad of course, but it also means that homosexual couples have no logical reason to model their love and happiness after today’s heterosexual marriages. A reevaluation of the emotions we share amongst one another may in turn be something from which we may all benefit.

One such emotion is love, and the Bible is quite clear that Christians are to project this more than anything else. A New Testament passage from the King James Bible states, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (The Holy). Here, Christians are called upon to love their neighbors regardless of differences. Yet the lack of acceptance offered to homosexuals from many religious establishments today is exactly the opposite. I do find it unfortunate that some individuals feel uncomfortable empathizing with someone or something they find to be immoral. However, I would expect a command from the God of the Christian community to be of higher priority than one’s discomfort in acting obediently.

In addition to many religious individuals’ moral discomfort in accepting homosexuals is a belief that it is unnatural. These people do not consider homosexuality to be a genetic characteristic, often proposing it as a reversible trait in need of being altered. However, this is simply not true. Marlene Zuk, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, writes in Natural History magazine that there are many documented cases of homosexual activity amongst insects such as butterflies, spiders, beetles, locusts, wasps, bees, dragonflies, etc. (Zuk). Additionally, Canadian biologist, Bruce Bagemihl, has documented over 300 species that indulge in same-sex activity ranging from male anal penetration by males to body rubbing and fellatio (Bagemihl). Considering just a few, of many, examples from the natural world around us, it is easy to see that accusing homosexuality of being unnatural is purely speculation. Claims such as these reflect on people’s desire to block out that which is different and undesirable. This is a viewpoint held by many within the religious community. Since Christianity teaches that its followers are to be above worldly thoughts and actions, I find it has a moral obligation to welcome and embrace the homosexual community.

I must admit it took the circumstance of my father coming out as a homosexual for me to give serious consideration as to the struggle he and others face for simply being gay. The phone call from him while sitting at that diner in California truly changed things for me. While talking, he expressed his concern over the effect this may have on my brother and my view of him as a father. I was shocked. Despite the loss of so many friends, much of his family, his career that was longer lived than me at the time, and his marriage of 26 years, he was only concerned about being a good parent. I assured him he had nothing to worry about in regards to my view of him as a parent, and I think he believed me. Since he became open about his sexuality, Keith Jenkins seems to be a much happier man, despite the initial repercussions. He is an exemplary parent, a determined individual, a valuable member of society, a friend to the undeserving, and an overall kind person. If the American Christian community modeled itself after such an individual, it may find itself in fact more Christ-like.

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– Bagemihl, Bruce. “Is Homosexuality Unnatural?” New Scientist 198.2661 (2008): 5. Print.

– “Billy Graham backs N.C. anti-gay marriage amendment.“ USAToday.com. USA

Today, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

- The Holy Bible. King James Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1999. Print. Rev.

Standard Vers.

– United States. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Divorce Rates by State: 1990, 1995, and 1999-2011.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

– Wyatt-Nichol, H. “Sexual Orientation and Mental Health: Incremental Progression or Radical Change?” Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 37.2 (2014): 225-41. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

– Zuk, Marlene. “Same-sex Insects: What Do Bees–Or At Least Flies–Have to Tell Us About Homosexuality?” Natural History. Nov. 2011: 22. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Why I Desire to Learn, and Hope to Innovate.

 

I recently watched a lecture, given by Lawrence Krauss at the 2014 NECSS. After his lecture he opened the floor to the audience for questions. One man asked him a question that I personally have tried to find a simple, straightforward answer to for a little over a year now. The question was more-or-less, “What do you think about schools encouraging science oriented students to go into fields such as business and finance?”

In summation, Krauss responded, “We, as a society, can not continue to function by just making money. We have to make things, and to make things requires science and engineering.”

About three years ago, my brother-in-law showed me, and others, Lawrence Krauss’ lecture entitled “A Universe from Nothing”, and it is one of my favorite lectures to this day. This hour-long presentation kindled a true sense of curiosity in my mind. However, not just an action-less thought about “what if?” or “how?”, but a real sense of curiosity driven by the use of knowledge and understanding about the universe we live in. It is the main reason, compounded with my desire to make good money in a career I respect and appreciate, that I have begun a long path in academia this year (January 2014).

While I have respect for many people in many fields, my passion lies in what we do not yet fully understand. The fact is that a day will come where Earth will no longer be able to support our species’ existence, and if we want to continue living beyond that time, we have to branch out into the cosmos. I am just as ignorant as anyone else about what that may require, and unfortunately, I realize that I will most likely never see the time humans colonize another spacial body other than Earth. However, the idea that I may be able to contribute, on a species-wide level, to our advancement is an amazing idea that I truly respect.

Do what you love. Love what you do.

Geoff//A Student

Watch the lecture: http://goo.gl/353PdD

A Spartan-bred Physicist?

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I attended a transfer student seminar at Michigan State University yesterday. After the presentation I had the opportunity to speak at-length with a senior academic advisor. He was incredibly helpful and beyond kind enough to talk with me for an hour about my current thoughts on my potential career path. I gained a lot of clarity through this great conversation as well as received a lot of food for thought. One example is that earning my Ph.D. in physics will likely be a 15 year experience split between classes and research.

Currently, MSU has the #1 rated Nuclear Physics program in the world which obviously adds to the quality of considering this institution for studies in any branch of physics. The idea of attending is captivating, but intimidating. Do I want to become a Spartan-bred physicist? I have much thinking to do.

Bohr’s Model of the Hydrogen Atom

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Today in my Chemistry class I learned a little bit about the Bohr model of a hydrogen atom. There is much to be said about this model, but I just want to touch on one thing that excited me greatly. Very simply put, an atom has a nucleus at its center, where one will find protons/nuetrons, and then the atom’s electrons orbit around this. According to Bohrhs model, the energy possessed by the electron in a hydrogen atom and the radius of its orbit are quantized which simply means they are fixed to a certain value and may never be between the two of those values. As the electron becomes excited (unstable), its energy level increases and can move to an orbit further away from its nucleus, and in return as it becomes less excited, it falls back towards the inner most orbit which is known as the ground state (lowest possible energy level) and gives off a photon (a particle of light). Now, the part that I find fascinating is that when the electron moves from orbit to orbit, due to the quantized nature, it never actually travels in between the orbits; it is simply in one, and then BAM, it is in another! This is called a quantum leap (jump). This is my first encounter with a real example of quantum mechanics. While a very simple example, it goes to show how weird the quantum world is. I am incredibly excited to learn more about it!

As always, if you find anything in need of correction just let me know! I am here to learn and share!