Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random Notes From My Vacation

1. Across Minnesota, giant, white windmills, each with three long arms, dot the landscape. They caused me to wonder: How much energy do they harness? Are they efficient? Are they privately owned, or state-owned? Can the energy be stored? What is the energy used for? Why aren't there more windmills harnessing free energy across the miles of empty land?

As you might have predicted, I did a little research on the subject. This article is informative, though obviously biased in favor of the benefits of wind energy production. This older article from USA Today reports that a teeny .5% of all electricity generated in the U.S. in 2005 came from windmills, but that percentage is expected to keep rising. The U.S. Department of Energy reported in 2008 that "wind power could provide up to 20% of the nation's total electricity needs by 2030."

2. The sky looks different in Minnesota and South Dakota than it does in Chicago. Bigger; bluer; taller. The clouds look different, too. Sometimes they were white mountain ranges; sometimes they were ominous tidal waves; and once they looked exactly like Wisconsin State Fair cheese curds.
3. A business opportunity for you entrepreneurial Green Room readers: There are two restaurants near the northeast entrance to Badlands National Park. One is the Wagon Wheel Bar, which I described here; and the other is the restaurant at Cedar Pass Lodge, just past the entrance. The next nearest restaurants are in Wall, South Dakota, a slow 22 mile drive away. This place can definitely use another restaurant. If you can stand the loneliness, start writing up your business plan. I'm available (for a fee) to help you plan the menu--based on my hours and hours of experience in the area.

4. As the child of two extreeeeemely conservative, Christian parents, I grew up believing what they told me: whereas the Bible must be interpreted literally whenever possible, and whereas the Bible says the earth was created in six days, and whereas yada yada, therefore, the earth is not more than 10,000 years old in spite of what science, archeology, and geology have to say about it. I confess that I still hang on to the inclination toward literalness in Biblical interpretation, and it has taken me a long time to let go of my young earth predilection.

However. Being in the Badlands for four days did more to influence my belief about the age of the earth than did 12 years of public school, six years of college and graduate school, and 48 years of exposure to news stories, public exhibits, museums, and other sources of information on the topic. The layers of fossilized Badlands rock, with their varying colors and textures, shouted out to me, "Look at us! We're really, really old! Older than your dad thinks we are!"

I still believe that it's possible that God created the earth in six literal, 24-hour days; I just don't think it's likely that he did. God can do anything, even create brand-new things that look old. Adam is a good example--if you happen to believe in the creation story of Adam and Eve, which I do.

Yes, it's possible that God created the Badlands--and other old-looking geological formations -- with the appearance of age and changes over time. It's possible -- but why would He?


Boy George said...

"God can do anything, even create brand-new things that look old. Adam is a good example..."

So, Adam looked old? How old did he look? "Old" from a grown-up's perspective (say, in his 70s or 80s)? Or "old" from a child's perspective (20s or 30s)?

E. Peevie said...

"Old" is definitely relative in that sentence. "Old" as in "not a newborn." "Old" as in "adult." You get to pick the age.

How about 30-something?

Hpaul said...

I can live with old, I have found I need to, or I can die. The earth and the universe are old. The Bible does not give any age for either.
The various isotope age measuring devices are seriously flawed and based on 2-3 unprovable (and maybe unlikely assumptions). Carbon dating is only good to go back about 30,000 years.
One other way to measure the age of the earth is to 'measure' the age of the oceans. Using the logic that many 'old earthers' use, the trace minerals in the oceans have been measured. Of the top 20 trace minerals in the ocean all of them give an age for the oceans (and therefore maybe for the earth) of less than 200,000 years. I can live with that.