The geometric form of the year

Artist’s rendering of the amplituhedron, a newly discovered mathematical object resembling a multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated — the probabilities of outcomes of particle interactions.

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Scientific discovery or technological breakthrough of the year?

Along the lines of the amplituhedron, above, what would you say was the top scientific discovery or technological breakthrough of 2013?

Thrivent is fair and balanced about abortion

Thrivent is the made up name for the merger of two Lutheran institutions:  The  Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood.  These were “fraternal” organizations that sold life insurance, IRAs, and other financial services exclusively to Lutherans.  (There are equivalent groups for Catholics and, I believe, other churches.)  In return, the AAL and LB funded programs for congregations, did matching fund donations for various charities and ministries, and became staples of the Lutheran sub-culture.  (Every congregation had a chapter with annual meetings and fun activities.  Church dinners and pot-lucks nearly always had AAL or LB napkins and paper cups.)

A few years ago, the two competing organizations merged and gradually started going more corporate.  This past year, Thrivent members voted to drop its exclusively Lutheran identity, offering its services to all Christians.  That was controversial, but it passed.  Recently, the word got out that Planned Parenthood is one of the charities that Thrivent is willing to support for a major philanthropic program .  That sparked a furor among members of the pro-life Lutheran denominations (LCMS, WELS, ELS, and some smaller associations and independent congregations), though the fraternals have always been pan-Lutheran, with ELCA members as well, and Thrivent now must cater to “all Christians.”  But, being responsive to its constituents, Thrivent has just announced that it will no longer be willing to  funnel money to Planned Parenthood.  But it has also suspended funding for pro-life organizations as well! [Read more…]

Christmas giving and Christmas receiving

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Consider that receiving gifts is a sign of the Gospel.  And giving gifts is a sign of Vocation.

May this day be full of reminders of Jesus Christ and all of His blessings to you.

“God was man in Palestine. . .”

I didn’t even realize that the late John Betjeman, England’s long-time poet laureate, was a Christian, but he was, as I’m learning.  His poem “Christmas” is stunning, a warm survey of all of the decoration and shopping and nostalgia surrounding the season, building up to this:

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Read the whole poem and listen to it in a recording after the jump. [Read more…]

My take on “The Hobbit” 2

We’re on the road, and Friday we were caught in the ice storm in Oklahoma City, taking shelter in a hotel in Bricktown, OKC’s very cool entertainment district.  It was 9:30 p.m. and I was just settling down for a long winter’s nap, when my wife said, “Let’s go see the Hobbit!”  Showing that we nearly-senior citizens can be just as impulsive, reckless, and irresponsible as the callow young, we walked four blocks through the freezing rain, slip sliding away to the nearly-empty multiplex where we were just in time for the 9:45 p. m. showing.  (It was nearly 1:00 a.m. when we made our way back, way, way past our accustomed bed times.)

As my wife commented, most critics have been saying that the first installment of the Hobbit was kind of slow, with all that atmosphere and exposition, and that the second installment, The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug is much better, with non-stop action from the very beginning.  As often happens, the critics describe something true, but fail in their interpretation and in their assessment.   There is way too much action in this second movie, which is not nearly as good as the first one. [Read more…]