Category Archives: Technology

Treatment of Macintosh computers, applications, iPod touch, Bible software etc.

Accordance’s Word Frequency Graphics vs. Word-Cloud Generators

Graphic Pie Chart

Recently someone had inquired about the possibility of implementing a word-cloud generator in Accordance Bible Software, which could be beneficial in identifying the most frequently used words in a Bible passage. By now anyone reading this has most likely already seen one, but just for clarity a word-cloud is a group of words clustered together in different font sizes with those most frequently used appearing as larger text, and those less common in smaller sizes.

While word-clouds are an interesting way to deliver such statistical information, in Bible software I find them a little static and rather limited. This is where Accordance’s “Search Details” not only comes in handy, but in my opinion far exceeds the capabilities of any word-cloud generator. And although this feature doesn’t produce the same exact visual graphic as a word cloud, the end result (word frequency statistics) is produced, and it is done in an even more versatile and more visually appealing way than a mere cluster of text.

Graphic Bar Chart

For those familiar with Accordance, simply run an asterisk (*) search in the limited text range you want, and then display the “Search Details” and choose, for example, the “Pie Graphic.” In this example, you would select “Display Words” rather than “Key Number” to get a visual graphic of every word in that range as I have done in my search here. In addition to the colorfully displayed word-frequency, you also see the word count with all the options to view and organize your search results in anyway you want. In this scenario, I have only shown two of the several display options available. But the flexibility is unsurpassed, ranging from the option of creating these different types of visual analyses to generating a true textual concordance in English, Greek, Hebrew, or any other language present in your Accordance library. This, to me, is quite amazing and very practical!

To run this kind of search, you simply type an asterisk in the search box in place of a word. This tells Accordance to show every single word in your chosen search range. My sample here is from an asterisk search in Ephesians 1:1-10 (my search range). The two graphic images I have inserted are from the same search but each displays the statistics differently. In either graphic one can immediately see how central Christ is to the entire passage as well as the key role of the preposition “in.” With a word-cloud, the word ‘Christ’ would appear in a larger font along with ‘in’ etc. But I find the ‘Pie’ and ‘Bar Chart’ graphic displays to be much more appealing to the eye than a word-cloud of mere text, not to mention the ability Accordance’s “Search Details” window offers to continue working with your search results in different ways.

God, Science and the Big Bang: An Explosive Debate

Two days ago, a dear sister from Serbia sent me a message asking my thoughts about antimatter. She had dialogued with a man who bombarded her with recent findings that, according to him, proved there was no need for a “divine being” to explain the origin of life, because antimatter can be created in a particle accelerator. It’s one of the newer, more exciting topics in science and the study of physics.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a rather colossal project in every sense, one that pushes the confines of what man thought possible just over a few decades ago. Twenty years in the making, the LHC is now a sprawling construction, a 27km-long circular underground tunnel that straddles the French-Swiss border, near Geneva. And it’s making quite a bang. In fact, that is exactly what it was designed to do, to recreate a mini-Big Bang. (see the above-ground simulated image below)

Inventions like the LHC underscore the brilliance of the human mind, the summit of all terrestrial life forms. Man has been endowed with the ability to observe through the five senses, process information, analyze it, discuss it, debate it, and draw conclusions from it. Especially wonderful is his ability to create! And with the invention of the LHC come new ways to explore old mysteries. It promises what many hope will be years of thrilling, ground-breaking research that will one day explain what really happened “In the beginning.” (See close-up shot of the LHC below)

Hydrogen atoms are fed into the source chamber of the LHC where their electrons are then stripped off, leaving only hydrogen nuclei, protons with a positive charge. They are then accelerated through the tunnel until they reach the speed of light, at which time these proton packets are redirected into a collision course with each other. This is the simulation of the BB’s effects, as they believe it happened.

From this, a team of a thousand-plus scientists from 33 countries hopes to learn more about the nature of our amazing universe, the way it was seconds after its birth at the first BIG BANG, presumed to be 13.7 billion years ago. One specific mystery they want to unveil is where all the antimatter went after the explosion, which left mostly matter, the ‘stuff’ we’re made from.

But from this research, the clearest lesson we have learned so far is the premise on which scientists are approaching the birth of the universe. It was accidental in nature, and God is not a factor in their equation. The common people who are observing from the sidelines have also leapt to conclusions that not only exceed their own understanding, but that violate the principles of the selfsame empirical science supposedly being cited.

The purpose of research is to examine a subject and arrive at a conclusion, in this case, the origin of life. But when we begin research with a premise that excludes certain possible explanations, such as a divine creator, we do nothing other than reveal our philosophical bias. The evidence, if they are fair, may just point to another source, one not so quickly welcomed by materialists. Case in point, the voices being heard in the LHC project speak of the EVOLUTION of the universe. Even though they have yet to determine what happened, they have already decided that it has, and I quote, “evolved.” Does this strike you as science by the book? How has this been concluded when their search is really just beginning? Well, it hasn’t been concluded. It has been assumed, such as other ideas I look forward to covering in future posts at uThinkology. And even once they are able to reproduce the ‘birth’ of the universe with the LHC, the question will still remain, “What caused it?”

In science every effect has a cause. And if protons, or ions, from which matter is comprised, were the first building blocks to matter, where do they come from? They are not eternal, so what got the whole process going? Science can answer many questions, and I applaud the remarkable achievements that have been made by men of great minds. But until biases are put aside we do not have true research taking place. Instead, we have a philosophy that men are promoting, and one that is being accepted because geniuses have said to, while in truth the verdict has not yet been reached.

The questions that most need answering shouldn’t be limited to what happened to antimatter, but also, “Can the origin of the universe be explained without intelligent guidance or design, and does the conclusion of these studies eradicate the God-factor?”  Indeed, researchers are far from finished. What we can conclude so far, is that there is no reason (other than a hatred for the idea of a divine being) to eliminate design and creation as the possible cause for life. And let’s not overlook the fact that:

  1. These scientists are trying hard to “RECREATE” the Big Bang, and I emphasize the word ‘recreate’
  2. They are conducting the experiments with special and precisely created-and-controlled conditions that allow for the manipulation of matter
  3. They are using preexisting matter, which had to come from somewhere, for something cannot come from nothing
  4. They are doing all this under INTELLIGENT guidance, which only shows that such a delicate and fragile operation must be carefully executed by intelligent beings.

The Big Bang doesn’t in the slightest way disprove God. At most, it tells of the nature of the creation of the universe, that it was explosive. It still does not explain why it happened, or what caused the process. And it may just be that God created matter (and antimatter) in this explosive way. The Scriptures do not specify how God created, other than “In the beginning the earth was void and without form.” Some Scriptures even indicate a connection between extreme heat and creation’s end, such as:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2Pet. 3:10-13 NAS95)

and

“…our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29 NAS95).

I find it rather interesting that in the end, God will destroy space and matter by an explosive fire, such extreme heat that all matter will be consumed. Another Big Bang of the reverse order?

In another post, I’ll talk about “strong force” or “atomic glue” in particle physics. A scientific mystery to which the Bible appears to make reference. Empirical science will agree that every effect has a cause. We Christians maintain that God is the only uncaused cause of all matter. Because the universe is not eternal as all agree there was a beginning, we must ask what started it all? What do uThink?

Creation, Evolution or Both? A Visual Concept Map on the The Origin of Life

Origin of Life

A visual concept map on the three views for the origin of life

Today’s post is a mind-map entitled “Three Views on the Origin of Life.” I created this map to use as a visual guide for myself and for the congregation during Sunday morning’s message. Click on the image to enlarge it.

For the presentation, I broke the map into 15 sections, projected them as slides and walked the congregation through each main point. Visual presentations are proven to aid in learning and memory retention, so lately I’ve really made an effort to utilize them. On this map you will see dotted lines and arrows revealing the relationships and contrasts between the three views. It isn’t intended to be exhaustive, rather a brief overview that points to the soundness of Creationism’s view.

Easier said than done, however, with such massive subjects as creation and evolution. Choosing what to target and then fitting it into a 55 minute message (with translation from Italian into English) was nothing short of a miracle. It was a lot of work, but also a whole lot of fun. I hope you find it useful too.

I like employing mind-maps in my study preparation because they basically are a circular outline that read from the 1:00 o’clock position round clockwise. This provides a complete view of everything you need to cover, all on one page and in context, but (preferably) very succinctly. You get the whole “picture” if you will. It is freeing because one is not forced into a linear approach. I find that I don’t always think linearly, and, in fact, most people don’t.

At first, the apparent “busyness” of the map may seem overwhelming, but in reality it is very simple and logical to follow. Have a look and see if you can get the gist of it. To give credit where credit is due, I used a trial version of “Inspiration 9” by Inspiration Software ©.

 

Times have changed, and so have the tools available for Bible study

Have you ever had to use a concordance to find that Bible verse you wanted to reference? Then, you looked for it but couldn’t find it because your reconstruction of the verse as you recalled it didn’t match the word order or the ‘words’ themselves in the concordance index? Unless you are like my wife who has a nearly photographic memory (she can tell you what I wore at Christmas time in 2002), the answer is yes. Finding your way around the Bible at times can be difficult, and finding a certain verse can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. Enter electronic Bibles and Bible study software.

In today’s era of technological advancement, Bible study and word or verse searching can be done at lightning fast speed. Even if you enter words out of the correct order or you can’t even remember more than one, it’s likely you’ll still find what you are looking for when using software. Although I still read and reference paper-based books, and have no intentions of giving up printed Bibles, I no longer own a printed concordance. In fact, my primary reference tools are digital and the ones I use daily reside right on my computer in my favorite Bible software, Accordance. Accordance is made for the Mac, but it can be run on a Windows platform with a free emulator. And on my iPod touch, I use Bible Reader, by Olivetree, available in several mobile platforms such as Palm Pilot, Blackberry and others. With these applications, I always find what I need and I find it fast.

I have heard some people say that using a computer to study the Bible is cheating. But that is hardly true. If doing things the old-fashioned way means being more spiritual, let’s all go back to clay or stone tablets. Or how about unrolling a scroll at church service to follow along during the message. Or…well, I think you get the point. Perhaps the naysayers are under the impression that you enter a verse and the computer does all the work for you, even generates a sermon. The truth is, Bible study on the computer does nothing more than accelerate the process you would normally employ to study with print books. You still need to think, follow a line of thought, research, read and, we hope, hear from the Lord.  The machine simply makes your tools so accessible that flipping through hundreds of pages for research is no longer necessary. In one word, convenience.

Bible study software for me has not replaced the joy and intimacy of holding and writing in my print Bible, and it never will. I also still love to sit back with a good book in hand. And let’s face it, for extended reading the backlit screen of any electronic reader (other than say, the Kindle or similar device) is rather unfriendly to the eyes. But for shorter sprints of reading and reference work, computer-based Bible study is the way to go. Anyone who owns a computer and enjoys digging into the Scriptures wont regret the digital approach, it can’t be beat

From the new believer to the seasoned saint, there is a world of reference works available at your finger tips. Potentially, you could do such things as simultaneously compare multiple translations of the Bible (NIV, KJV, NASB etc.), look up a word’s definition in English, or consult the biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic). You could reference commentary or get statistical information, such as how many times the word ‘love’ is used in 1, 2 and 3 John. By the way, the answer to that is 42 times. See the screen shot below from my word search in Accordance that took all of about 0.2 seconds. The hits are highlighted in bold red. Click on it to enlarge.


In print, you would have to physically read all three books of 1, 2 and 3 John, and take note of each occurrence. With software, it takes less than a second. If you have maps, you can find any location named in the entire Bible, or even read a dictionary’s article on it. The screen shot here is from my Accordance atlas in which I located Ephesus instantly by just selecting the word in Acts 18:19 and then clicking on the atlas icon. Again, locating this in paper format would require at least a couple of minutes, if not more. Click the image to enlarge it.

The possibilities are endless. Personally, I love to study the Bible and absolutely am thrilled to be able to do it in the way that software allows me to. Any tool that helps you to cover more ground – especially such precious grounds as Scripture – more thoroughly, should be employed.

For ultra portability, I use Bible Reader by Olivetree. It offers its reader for free, along with a few Bible translations and other resources. But they also sell an extensive selection of basic to even the most advanced form of Bible study tools. Having Bible Reader on my iPod is indispensable while away from my Mac and can’t access Accordance. I can do simple to complex word searches, reference commentary, view maps and practice reading the original Greek. Twenty years ago we would have had to carry around a bunch of books. Well, times have changed, and so has the form of tools for Bible study. Whether you go the digital route or not, I just hope you’ll study the Bible. But if you are reading this post it’s likely you own a personal computer of some kind, so why not give the electronic way a try? Imagine, the world of the Bible at your fingertips…what more could you ask for? To see more about approaching Bible study, see “Pad, Pen and Prayer; Slowing Down for Bible Study.

Mind Mapping

For those of you who have never heard of  NovaMind Express Mind Mapping Software, it is a great way to take and create notes efficiently. I’ve been using the technique for several months now, and I find it rather liberating for certain tasks, rather than following a linear approach to note taking and generating outlines for teaching purposes. Mind mapping is a clean, nimble and aesthetically attractive way to recall your material and even to make presentations if you like.

This morning, in response to a request by a dear sister from our midweek Bible Study, I sent a few mind maps to her so she could see what she had missed in a previous study two weeks ago, as well as review yesterday evening’s lesson. While it was fresh on my mind, I thought I would post a couple here as well. By no means am I an expert in this practice, and these maps in particular mostly will be meaningful only to me, since they were not made for presentation but rather to aid me in memory recall. And only I know the purpose behind the triggers along the map, but still they will give you an idea of the technique and some of them are indeed self explanatory. I hope you’ll find mind mapping as helpful as I have and useful in your study and/or organization of just about anything you do in ministry or daily life. I made the below samples using NovaMind and you can click  to check out their site and download a free trial. This application is my favorite of the bunch!

Right now we’re in James on Wednesdays, and much of the content present in these is in question form. This is because I run the group as an interactive study where others need to come prepared, think and participate. By the way, mind maps are read clockwise, so you begin at the upper right at 1:00 o’clock and follow the branches around to, in these examples, the 10:00 o’clock position. So here they are, click on them to enlarge.