Janice Boekhoff

Fun Science Fact


In honor of my current town of residence, Bettendorf, Iowa—which happens to be right on the Mississippi River—here are some fun facts about the Mighty Mississippi.

  • The second longest river in the USA, the Mississippi stretches around 2,340 miles (3,770 km) in length. It’s only slightly shorter than the Missouri River, which reaches around 3,902 miles in length (6,275 km). The two combine to form the longest river system in North America,
  • It is also the fourth longest river in the world and has the third largest watershed in the world,
  • “Mississippi” is an Indian word, generally accepted to mean “the Father of Waters,”
  • At its widest point, the Mississippi River stretches out over 7 miles (11 km) in width,
  • The first bridge built across the Mississippi River was in 1855 with the first railroad bridge finished a year later in 1856,
  • Martin Strel, a Slovenian swimmer who is famous for swimming the length of entire rivers conquered the Mississippi over 68 days in 2002,
  • It takes 90 days for a drop of water to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River,
  • From its source in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet in elevation,
  • The deepest place on the Mississippi River is 200-feet deep and is located near Algiers Point in New Orleans.

References: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/mississippiriver.html and http://experiencemississippiriver.com/interactive-tools/fun-facts/and http://digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/v006/v006p529.html

Photo Credit: © Tornado98 | Dreamstime.comBridge Photo©

Let it Snow (oops, I meant rain)

Rolling Storm
Can we control the weather? For thousands of years, rain, snow, sleet and drought has remained the eminent domain of God. In fact, the weather has brought many a man to his knees in desperation, crying out to the One who controls the entire earth.

As drought becomes more common, especially across the Midwest, scientists have stepped up their efforts to make it rain. Although cloud seeding has been around for almost 70 years, scientists are still at odds over its efficacy.

The principle of seeding a cloud is to spray the clouds with a chemical (usually silver iodide) that acts as a nuclei around which ice will form. When these ice particles become heavy, they fall through the warm atmosphere and melt into droplets of rain. While seeding, some pilots have said they can see the clouds change as they spray them.

With the right kind of cloud that has the right amount of micron-sized water particles available, the evidence seems strong that cloud seeding works, at least to a point. A professor at the University of Wyoming says he can increase rainfall by 15% under the right conditions. The Colorado ski resort, Vail, has the clouds above it seeded and claims to have 35% more snow.

But the question all of this brings up is: Would those clouds have produced the rain anyway?

There is no way to know. Scientists can’t run a controlled experiment to find out. The weather in a specific region is simply too large for scientists to control all the variables. So, we may never know the answer to how well this method works.

Despite the fact that cloud seeding shows evidence of enhancing the rain, the truth is scientists cannot make it rain. They can maximize the rain from the potential in the clouds that are already out there, but they cannot create something out of nothing.

Only God can do that.

What do you think? Does cloud seeding work? If so, why are many scientists still skeptical?

Reference: Baum, Dan. “Summon the Rain.” Scientific American. June 2014, 310(6), p. 56.

Photo Credit: © Dave Winfield | Dreamstime Stock Photos


Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

Proverbs 29:25

My son, at third grade, has finally reached the point where he realizes mistakes are something to avoid (yes, this lesson had to be learned the hard way many times before it stuck). But this has led to a phenomenon I wasn’t prepared to deal with in my strong-willed hard-driving boy—paralyzing fear.

Of course, this fear doesn’t manifest itself when I’m giving a well-earned lecture. Instead, it has shown up on the basketball court. He gets out there and suddenly is afraid to do the wrong thing, so he does very little or nothing at all.

We’ve always been more concerned with him having a good attitude toward the coaches and other players, so we have never pressured him to perform. In fact, we’ve spent the last few weeks trying to convince him it’s okay to make mistakes, but this is a hard concept.

Many of us can nod our heads and agree that it’s okay to make mistakes, especially for our kids. But what about when it comes to us?

We’re adults. We should have it all figured out, right?

And yet, some of us aren’t following our God-given callings because of our own fears. Oh, we can be rational about it, saying we don’t have enough time or money to do what God is asking. But if God is calling us, He will provide the way.

If you’re trying to follow God’s will, you don’t have to be afraid to make a mistake. Even if you accidentally take the wrong path, God’s been known to find a four-wheeler and take you off-road in the right direction.

On the other hand, be very afraid to make a mistake by listening to fear and doubt. God will not go down the road of fear with you because faith and fear don’t travel together. Every time you start to say “I’m afraid…” or “I worry about…,” ask yourself what you’re really afraid of and why you think God doesn’t have that figured out.

Dear Father, help us to err on the side of faith. Do not let fear overtake us. Let us be so attuned to Your voice that moving outside Your will is what scares us. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Fun Science Fact

A plant called the vampire plant, or more commonly known as strangleweed, is a parasitic plant that strangles its host. It uses sharp protrusions, called haustoria, to penetrate the host plants outer layer and suck out sugars and other nutrients. Recently, researchers have discovered the vampire plant doesn’t stop there. It also transfers messenger RNA (mRNA) back and forth between itself and its plant victim. Talk about super-natural!

The scientists aren’t sure why the vampire plant does this, but they speculate that it might use the mRNA to learn more about the host plant’s growth or as a genetic Trojan Horse to make the plant more susceptible to the parasite.

The design God placed into this parasitic plant is amazing—although I’m not sure the victim plant appreciates it quite so much.

Reference: http://www.livescience.com/47375-vampire-plants-suck-victims-genes.html

Photo Credit: © Catarii | Dreamstime.comCuscuta (dodder) Plant Photo©

How Old is Oil?

Creation geologists believe oil formed as a result of the massive burial of animal and plant matter at the time of Noah’s Flood. Tar or bitumen is mentioned in the Bible about 100 years after the Flood. So, within 100 years, some underground oil had formed and migrated to the surface.

Other geologists believe oil deposits were formed by burial of plants and animals in repeated smaller floods occurring over millions of years. But does it take millions or even a hundred thousand years to generate an oil deposit?

Nope. In 2013, engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory transformed harvested algae into crude oil in less than one hour. Although this occurred in perfect laboratory conditions, there’s no reason to think oil couldn’t have developed much faster than millions or even thousands of years.

But do we have reason to question why geologists think our oil reserves are millions of years old? Yes. Oil is an organic compound which quickly degrades due to bacterial action. In fact, biodegraded oils are common, such as oil from the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the tar sands in Alberta. How could these oil fields have survived the constant assault of bacteria for a million years?

To address this issue, some scientists hypothesize that a process, called paleosterilization, can stop biodegradation in oil reserves at temperatures over 176 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this seems unlikely since bacteria thrive all over the earth in temperatures as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to mention the fact that groundwater would continually bring in new sources of bacteria.

So, how long would it take for the oil to form and migrate through the rock to the oil reservoirs we find it in today? Unfortunately, little is known about hydrocarbon migration. Oil is a large molecule and migrates slower than water (which moves through the pore space in rock on average 50 feet per year). But even at a slower rate, the evidence suggests oil could have easily migrated to reservoirs within a few centuries.

What do you think? Are our oil reserves relatively young? Do you remain unconvinced?

References: Clarey, Tim. “Rapidly Forming Oil Supports Flood Timeframe.” Acts & Facts. March 2014, 43 (3), p. 14.; and http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=1029

Photo Credit: © Bulus | Dreamstime.comOil Pump Photo

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