Monday, October 2, 2017

Core Academy building update

Before and after (most of) the floor installation.
Things are coming along here at the new worldwide headquarters of Core Academy.  I hope that long-time readers who have followed our journey over the past five years rejoice with us as we start a new chapter in our ministry.  The building is nearing completion, and we've scheduled our Grand Opening for Friday October 20 at 7 pm.  You are definitely invited to attend.  We'll have a brief ribbon cutting, then let you tour the new facility.  We'll even have some special guests, including professors from Bryan College helping with some local science demonstrations and Jacob Ellis, the Rhea county archivist, showing off some of the historical treasures from the Core Academy archives.

As we prepare for the big opening, we still need help with moving.  We've scheduled two big moving days: October 7 and 14.  On the 7th, we will move the bulk of the library from Dayton Self Storage just behind O'Reilly auto parts on 27 (see map).  Then on the 14th, we'll move the last bits of our offices on the Bryan College campus.  On both days, we'll start at 9 am and work until we're done or just exhausted (whichever comes first).  If you'd like to help us out, we'd be happy to buy your lunch (and not just pizza).  Shoot me an email if you can help, so I can coordinate all the volunteers.

If you can't help us move, but you still want to help out, there will be plenty of work to do any school day after 3 pm.  Stop by our new location on the campus of Rhea County Academy (245 California Ave) as soon as school lets out, and you can work on putting furniture together, unpacking, or cleaning.  Again, let me know you're coming so I can plan.

If you can't come at all but still want to help, there are still three big things you can do.  1. Pray for us.  Pray that everything gets finished for the Grand Opening, and pray that we Core Academics have the stamina to keep going.  2.  Tell your friends!  We want a big turnout at our Grand Opening!  (And we hope to see you there, too!)  3.  Consider a contribution.  Now that the building is nearing completion, our coffers are pretty empty.  We still have big ministry expenses coming up, as we gear up for the 2018 Smoky Mountain Creation Retreat and new ministries we're not ready to announce yet.  Any amount will help.  You can make a contribution by clicking that donate button at the end of this post.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for praying!  I hope to see you at our Grand Opening on Friday, October 20 at 7 pm.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Homo naledi: there is another

Homo naledi composite cranium

In case you don't keep up with such things, the underground astronauts have resumed excavating fossils from the Rising Star cave.  They're recovering bones of Homo naledi at both the Dinaledi (101) and Lesedi (102) chambers.  This morning Lee Berger tweeted about a third site in the same cave system:

As I've noted before, a second fossil site (Lesedi) suggests that the entire cave system was being used for deliberate burial of Homo naledi.  Using Dembski's design filter, we can rule out chance as a cause by using specification, characteristics of an event that suggest deliberate or intentional action.  In Rising Star, we might argue for chance if we found one chamber of hominin bones, even though the characteristics of the original Dinaledi chamber are extremely difficult to reconcile with that interpretation.  Three similar sites of hominin bones in the same cave system effectively rules out chance.  These Homo naledi bones were deliberately placed in that cave.  Homo naledi buried its dead (because as I see it, they were human beings).

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lab Meeting 5: Minor Miracles

The week of the big eclipse, our longsuffering intern came back to town for her final semester at Bryan College.  She had spent the summer interning elsewhere and learning the latest techniques in DNA sequencing.  Her project with us is our ongoing studies of mutant trillium flowers.  We hoped last year to sequence at least one floral gene from our mutant flowers, but our approach didn't work.  Thanks to your support for our building project, we are currently buying the equipment needed to continue this work at the new Core Academy facility.  We are very thankful that we'll be able to streamline our work on this project.

One thing was still lacking though: We don't have a DNA sequencer on site, but our intern shared with me about a new gadget that allows you to sequence DNA using a USB device that plugs into your laptop.  No, I'm not kidding.  For those in the know, it uses nanopore technology, and it's designed for portability.  It's called a MinION, and the starter kit costs only $1,000!  I told her that we were doing really well with our renovation budget, and we would probably have enough left over to buy one.  But we wouldn't know if we'd have enough until the building renovations were done, and by then, she'd be graduated.

The Sunday after we met to talk about the trillium project, a friend came over and slipped me a folded check as I sat in church.  I smiled and thanked him and tucked the check into my shirt pocket.  I had seen him at our eclipse party, and he had mentioned to me that he wanted to make a contribution to our project.  As soon as the service was over, my wife took the check out of my pocket.  "You need to look at this," she said.

I guess we'll be getting our DNA sequencer after all.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Friday, September 1, 2017

About those Trachilos tracks

I suppose I should say something about the Trachilos tracks. I've received a couple messages about this on Twitter and Facebook. Scientists from a mostly European collaboration announced today that they have discovered early hominin trackways from northwest Crete. They date the tracks to around 5.7 million years ago (late Miocene). Unsurprisingly, headlines claim that this is a "huge" "game-changer" and "challenges theories of human evolution." Let's see what the hype is about.

First of all, these are some smudgy footprints. Here are some clear ones that the authors included in their paper to support their anatomical inferences.

Select Trachilos prints from Gierliński
et al. Figure 9.

Note the 5 cm scale bars. Prints A and B are about 10 cm long, and C is about 12-15 cm. That's four to six inches for us Americans. By contrast, my foot is about a foot long. The smudginess of individual prints does nothing to detract from the bipedal appearance of the tracks though. Check out this shot:

Stance indicated by Trachilos tracks. From
Gierliński et al. Figure 8.

Note again that scale marker. Those prints are about 15 cm apart, which is about 6 inches. Whatever made these prints was quite small.

What can we make of these? Are they hominin prints? Could be. The prints give me the impression of a foot that is slipping around on mud as the creature walks, so I'm not sure I want to put a lot of stock in the purported anatomical details of the prints. Nevertheless, I also don't want to underestimate the validity of the trackways as a whole. They are very interesting and suggestive of hominin tracks.

Are they game changers? Not really. The conventional date for these prints is 5.7 million years. On the evolutionary scale, that's just about the time of the human/chimpanzee last common ancestor. There are putative fossil hominins from Africa that are older than these tracks (Sahelanthropus) and one (Orrorin) that may have been a contemporary. So if these tracks were made by a bipedal hominin, then they are in good company with other African fossils that are also purported to be early hominins. The only thing mildly interesting about the implications is that they extend the range of early hominins out of Africa. Not much of a shocking result. In any event, hominin fossils from that putative age are pretty scant, and this adds just a bit more evidence.

What might this mean for creationists? If the tracks do turn out to be hominins in Europe, it's not a threat to evolution. It just means that early hominins were more widely dispersed than evolutionists previously thought. Big deal.

A creationist might interpret these as either very small early humans (not outside the realm of possibility given the existence of other small-bodied humans like 9-year-olds or Homo floresiensis) or as early representatives of the created kind that includes other bipeds like Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis). I don't think it matters very much, but it would be nice to see a set of bipedal animal tracks from a non-human created kind in closer proximity to Ararat than African australopiths.

So long story short: These footprints are conventionally older than most African human and bipedal ape fossils. They might have been made by really small people or by small bipedal apes. Either way, they're neat. They do not represent a huge threat to theories of human evolution, since they are consistent with other hominin fossils known from Africa. They're merely found in a location we hadn't known about before. I suspect any controversy over the prints will be over the quality of the prints rather than the fanciful notion that they are a threat to human evolutionary theories.

Don't like my comments? Read the article for yourself:

Gierliński et al. 2017. Possible hominin footprints from the late Miocene (c. 5.7 Ma) of Crete? Proceedings of the Geologists' Association DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2017.07.006.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My eclipse experience

I'm sure you've seen more eclipse reactions than you can shake a stick at.  And here's my little video from our eclipse party with the students and families of Rhea County Academy.  I don't have any grand words of wisdom.  It's just an amazing experience.  Truly one of the greatest shows in all of God's creation.  See it if you can.  It's more than worth it.  The next total solar eclipses will be in South America, but the US will get another eclipse in 2024.  Totality will last about twice as long, and the path of totality will run from Texas to Maine.  See it if you can.  It's astonishing.

(And for the record, before I get corrected: I got so excited when totality hit that I conflated "chromosphere" and "corona."  What you see during totality is the corona.)

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.