VLA photo VLA in the movie Contact

This summer Candace and I are going to Alcon2022 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We’ll be presenting an update on The Sky Tonight project (; see overview).

The program and speaker line-up look exciting. It even includes an all-day trip to the Very Large Array!

Very Large Array and Astronomical Lyceum: website | Wikipedia

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The Swing

The Swing (song)

When our girls were young, Candace took the poem “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson and gave it a catchy tune. They loved to be pushed in a swing as she sang the poem. Here’s the poem and her musical notation, which she wrote out last night.

The Swing, Michael Hague The Swing, Michael Hague
The Land of Nod and Other Poems for Children by Robert Louis Stevenson,
selected and illustrated by Michael Hague
(New York: Henry Holt, 1998); Amazon.

The Swing

The Swing

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The Sky Tonight: At launch

The Sky Tonight: Perils of Launching a New Digital Scholarship Project.

A brief introduction of The Sky Tonight project prepared for the OU Libraries’ “UL Week” in late May, 2022.

We gaze at the night sky filtered through many layers of cultural heritage and representation. But how best to inspire people today to explore those cultural layers and tell their own sky stories today? Building on my experience as a former planetarium director, astronomy teacher, student of the history of astronomy, and curator of the History of Science Collections, I’ll share my hopes for “The Sky Tonight” digital scholarship project and explain how I’ve gone about creating the website so far. Was I crazy to select Drupal as the platform? What architecture would be basic enough to be robust but also scale to address the various kinds of resources I expect the site to provide? Is it reasonable to expect a single website to be able to support research and public outreach at the same time? Can a single site be crafted to appeal to an extremely wide range of disparate users and audiences? And how can it be implemented it in limited spare time, incrementally, and sustained by a humanities scholar over the long term?

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Beloved song from an old album

Jubilation! Myrrh, 1975

I have this album in my hand, my turntable isn’t working, but here it is on YouTube (and Apple Music). Thanks, Marijohn, your “Where I’m Going” has traveled with me all these years! (2022 – 1975 = 43 years and counting) 😃

Posting it here for future easy reference:

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Torrance updates, 2022

On this page I’ll post Torrance updates as they happen for 2022. Here are some videos in reverse chronological order; a few other links or videos will be added later.

Cf. Torrance updates for 2021.

May 2022: Announcing The Thomas F. Torrance Science and Religion Collection, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma. I expect to be devoting considerable sustained effort to this project in coming years.

Discussion with Calum MacKellar, The Image of God, Personhood and the Embryo (#2017-cmk-1), esp. pp. 133-137. Cf. Christianity and the New Eugenics: Should We Choose To Have Only Healthy Or Enhanced Children? (#2020-CMK-1). April 7, 2022.

Discussion with Chris Kaiser, “Humanity in an Intelligible Cosmos: Non-Duality in Albert Einstein and Thomas Torrance,” in The Promise of Trinitarian Theology: Theologians in Dialogue with T. F. Torrance (2001). February 10, 2022.

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Feast of the Annunciation

In the church calendar March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation, the annual remembrance of Gabriel’s message to Mary according to the gospel of Luke 1:26-38.

Here’s a carol that tells the story from Moya Brennan’s wonderful Christmas album, An Irish Christmas:

“Gabriel’s Message,” by Moya Brennan, An Irish Christmas (2006)

I cannot think of this day without calling to mind the “shimmer of the angels’ wings” — “not a feather stirred” — in Fra Angelico’s painting from the Monastery of San Marco in Florence:

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico (c. 1437)

Malcom Guite reflects upon the Annunciation in this poem, the first in a quintet on Mary, from his book Sounding the Seasons:

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,
They coruscate around us in their joy
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;
The promise of His glory yet to be,
As time stood still for her to make a choice;
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,
The Word himself was waiting on her word.

Listen to Malcolm read it aloud on his blog.

Candace and I have been reading aloud Steve Bell’s Pilgrim Year series. In the booklet on Lent, Steve writes:

“We typically think of Mary, and anything to do with the birth narrative of Jesus, as belonging to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. However, echoes of Lent/Easter reverberate through the Christmas narrative just as echoes of Christmas sound through Lent. The story of salvation is one story where every part penetrates and deepens the meaning of the other… Now is the liturgical time to begin preparing for his coming into our lives… The Annunciation announces and inaugurates the Incarnation…” Steve Bell, Pilgrim Year, Lent, p. 56.

Steve Bell, “May It Be Done,” Feast of Seasons (1995)

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St. Patrick’s prayer

St. Patrick’s prayer – the “breastplate” or “lorica”

Andrew Wright, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” (Journeysongs)


I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

of the Creator of creation.

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

Steve Bell, “The Lorica”


I arise today

Through the strength of the love of cherubim,

In the obedience of angels,

In the service of archangels,

In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,

In the prayers of patriarchs,

In the predictions of prophets,

In the preaching of apostles,

In the faith of confessors,

In the innocence of holy virgins,

In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through

The strength of heaven,

The light of the sun,

The radiance of the moon,

The splendor of fire,

The speed of lightning,

The swiftness of wind,

The depth of the sea,

The stability of the earth,

The firmness of rock.

Daniel Couper, “This Day God Gives Me”


I arise today, through

God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

From snares of devils,

From temptation of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,

afar and near.

I summon today

All these powers between me and those evils,

Against every cruel and merciless power

that may oppose my body and soul,

Against incantations of false prophets,

Against black laws of pagandom,

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;

Christ to shield me today

Against poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Jean Watson, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”


Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

of the Creator of creation.

John Michael Talbot, “Christ my Light”

Previous posts on St. Patrick’s Day:

Bonus: Malcolm Guite on St. Patrick’s Day, 2021

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14 books on a deserted island

14 books

Russell Moore asked what 12 books I would want with me if I were stranded on a deserted island for the rest of my life. I couldn’t do it. For me, 14 is the minimum! So here are my 12 + 2 stowaways in other baggage = 14 books, in no particular order.

  1. Bible.
    Goes without saying. Oh to have a lifetime to fully contemplate the 66 books herein!

  2. Prayer Book.
    Although I’m not an Anglican, the Book of Common Prayer would be my prayerbook. The BCP brings faith alive through lively dialogue comprised of an intricate interplay between scripture passages, historic creeds, and countless prayers for every theme and mood and occasion. With the BCP, one is never confessing faith alone but sharing in the communion of saints through the ages.

  3. Theology.
    For theology, what about Augustine? Athanasius? A one-volume summa of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa? Calvin’s Institutes? A one-volume anthology of Barth’s Church Dogmatics? I choose Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, a classic exploration of the formation of the Nicene tradition, the mystery of faith, articulated in a mode of faith seeking understanding. It is theology as doxology; to read it is to worship.

  4. J. R. R. Tolkien.
    It would be hard to go without The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, but selecting The Lord of the Rings trilogy (single volume edition) is a no-brainer. This masterpiece for the ages is the ultimate literature of hope triumphing over despair.

  5. C. S. Lewis.
    The Chronicles of Narnia (single volume edition) is my first Lewis selection. Sometimes children’s literature says best what needs to be said. I’ve not included Lewis’ theological or scholarly books, as much as I appreciate them, because literature feeds the human heart in a way that discursive writing never can.

  6. Paradise Lost and Retained.
    I would need an origin story to keep my sense of history meaningful and real. C. S. Lewis, Perelandra, is a brilliant meditation on human flourishing even if one were stranded as the only human being on an entire planet. A single-volume edition of the Ransom Trilogy is available, so I would select that in part because of the human/animal and human/non-human friendships portrayed in the other two volumes, Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength.

  7. Paradise Regained.
    If Perelandra is a meditation upon the Garden of Eden, C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, provides an imaginative vision of the future. In this slot, I almost selected Dante’s Divine Comedy for its comprehensive vision (and in an edition with notes by Dorothy L. Sayers). And Dante has staying power over multiple readings as poetry. Yet The Great Divorce narrowly wins out over Dante’s trilogy, for me, maybe, because it encompasses the themes of Purgatorio and Paradiso with a similarly compelling imaginative vision. OK, maybe Dante. Can’t make up my mind on this one. No, it’s Lewis. I love this book too much.

  8. George MacDonald.
    I would want with me at least one book by George MacDonald. Slightly edging out his fantasy, I choose one of his novels: Thomas Wingfold, Curate. Wingfold consists about half of sermons, and about half of dramatic story. The story demonstrates faith in action in difficult circumstances, and I would welcome such reminders that God is good regardless of my forsaken predicament.

  9. Poetry.
    Living without poetry would be detrimental to one’s soul. How could I face the future without the poets who have accompanied me since my youth: T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, or Luci Shaw? Should I choose among various anthologies or thematic collections? Oh, so hard. The poems in Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons, would be well worth memorizing in order to meditatively recite aloud. Prayers are poems; poems are prayers. These prayers would sustain me through the cycles of the recurring years. But when will Malcolm publish a Complete Poems? And, oh, it’s hard to choose just one volume of poetry!

  10. Astronomy.
    Stranded on an island below, I would want to become more at home with the stars above. My preferred choice would be Jeff Kanipe and Dennis Webb, Annals of the Deep Sky, but it’s 8 vols. so far and counting. So I choose Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights, a practical introduction to the night sky for the unaided eye which incorporates allusions to history, literature, and science in its brief daily accounts of the stars visible each evening. There might be something to be said for selecting a more comprehensive guide to the stars, but I have read this simple little book dozens of times already and I believe I would not tire of its nightly guidance many, many more times again.

  11. Natural history.
    To teach me to live with eyes wide open to the wonders of the creatures below, I’m tempted to include my whole shelf of nature guides, or a one-volume equivalent such as Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. There’s no Sibley’s Guide to the birds of this island, right? Nor a general natural history of the island? Yet, again, literature (more than didactic field guides or purely scientific descriptions) can awaken me to observe with the eyes of the heart as well as the eyes of the forehead. Then I’ll be inspired to create my own island field guides! So I will go with Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Other nature literature, such as Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, the collected works of Loren Eiseley, Walden by Thoreau, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, call out to me — but no matter how small the island I would discover myself to be inhabiting, it would clearly dawn on me before too long that my journey there is like that of a pilgrim, so I choose Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. No one writes more beautifully than Dillard. I will want her to teach me how to journal.

  12. Encyclopedia of human knowing.
    My list omits entire sections of the library shelves! Where is the history? The science? The ethics or philosophy? A medical guide? Or a single comprehensive encyclopedia of current human knowledge? A one-volume Oxford English Dictionary in teensy print? What about my beloved textbooks in the sciences: Lehninger’s Biochemistry or Guyton’s Human Physiology, or a text in geology or ecology – or one of the texts I have taught students with, such as Masterton and Slowinski’s Chemistry or Hickman’s Zoology? These have absorbed years of wondrous attention in my life. But as textbooks, they are by nature snapshots in time, narrowly focused upon just one subject area of science, and even at that neither the last word nor the first word in their fields. To capture the true spirit of the natural sciences, flowing like a braided stream through the ages, perhaps I should select the most comprehensive single-volume anthology of extracts from the history of science? Hmmm. My choice is Aristotle, Complete Works. What Aristotle has going for him is that, unlike a textbook, nearly every subject area is here, from natural history and biology to meteorology and chemistry to logic and rhetoric, ethics and metaphysics. Yet unlike an encyclopedia, and much better than having all the right answers, Aristotle inspires me as an exemplar of one who strives to experience reality in its fullest extent, to observe carefully, and to think well across all aspects of life as a way of being. And while I shall disagree more often than not, arguing with Aristotle would be enough to keep my mind sharp. If faithful are the wounds of a friend and iron sharpens iron, Aristotle is a friend to last a lifetime. (If this one title counts as two books, then I would simply print out beforehand the one-volume combined digital edition.)

  13. Art.
    Something in art would be essential. Perhaps an illustrated edition of William Blake, or the collected works of Vincent Van Gogh or Georges Rouault? Or the most massive illustrated history of art I might lay hold of? I still remember long ago avidly reading through my first art book, Janson’s History of Art (back when it was in its second edition). While I’ve never displayed any talent in art whatsoever, on that deserted island I’d be doing my best to create in some manner, for I would have need of the interior dialogue and its expression that is art. (See Why?)

  14. Christmas.
    Could I create my own Christmas anthology? The mystery of the Incarnation, with all its echoes of joy reverberating through the long Christmas season (Thanksgiving to Candlemas), has been since my early teens the central animating annual rhythm of my life. Tales like Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” only scratch the surface of it. See Favorite Family Christmas Storybooks and Christmas Read-Alouds.

PS: I hope the island is Scottish or Irish, like the island of Skellig Michael. If it’s tropical, just kill me now.

PPS: If one adds up the purchase price of the editions linked to via the pictures above, it will become clear why I’ve been left abandoned on the deserted island in the first place, banished from disrupting our monthly budget ever again. 😂

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Hard Times

Appalachian Journey concert (YouTube, Amazon) / album (Wikipedia)

(See also Francis Collins and Renée Fleming here.)

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Open Access: Communities of collaboration

I’m writing a short statement of the significance of Open Access for the OU History of Science Collections. It’s intended as a concise overview and introduction, not a detailed policy or white paper. This is my rough working sketch.

Communities of Collaboration

Open access has two dimensions: technological and cultural. Our aim in the History of Science Collections is to pursue open access as a means of establishing communities of collaboration. These communities freely range across demographic and disciplinary lines. The challenge of fostering communities of collaboration is what defines the modern university library, including special collections. Conceived in this way, the open sharing of ideas is a cultural task that requires more than just a merely technological approach, although the technological infrastructure of open access is a prerequisite. Without a humane approach to technology that attends to the needs of various communities and appreciates the nature of their work, the communities of collaboration we seek to support will not actually flourish.

Unexpected partners

As a special collection we strive to provide technological infrastructure in the specific ways that collaboration requires, developed in dialogue with research partners and with attentiveness to other creative users of collections materials. We cannot anticipate a priori who these users might be or what kinds of communities of collaboration may result.

For us, one actual need we discerned and determined to provide is open-access high-resolution images. When I began working for the libraries in June 2000, image requests came in immediately. Even my first month on the job made clear to me that resourceful researchers, artists, and lay persons in unexpected pursuits could put images from our books to so many creative purposes. Over the first few years we received image requests not only from historians of science and scientists (whom one would expect), but also from K12 schools and educators, artists, from organizers of conferences for event programs, from restaurants for use in their decor, and even from churches for use in bulletins! From that time, I made it our goal to make providing open-access print-quality images a distinctive service of the OU History of Science Collections.

So with help from volunteers(*), we began creating a website of online galleries populated with images in high demand by scientists, educators, and researchers. By 2009 or so, we had roughly 60,000 images online available for download for free in print-quality resolution. With systematic digitization of entire books mostly beyond our means, we selected for digitization images most commonly found in survey textbooks with which science students and science educators would be most familiar.

Eventually OU Legal advised us that, while we might continue allowing direct downloads, the images must be copyrighted, and the question of their continued availability always seemed precarious. Thankfully, however, after Rick Luce became Dean of Libraries in 2014, OU Legal reversed themselves and approved a blanket policy of open access applied to all of our images. This open access policy remains in effect today for the History of Science materials in the new repository ( The old online galleries are now deprecated and no longer available on the open internet, and sadly, our current repository does not support direct downloads of print-quality images. Nevertheless, the service of providing open access images appropriately reflects our home within a public research university library.

Visibility of the Collections and awareness of materials

In addition to serving users in ways that support multiple communities of collaboration, the provision of high quality images without cost (and without delays due to time-consuming human mediation) was also (while it lasted) an advertising and promotional strategy that money couldn’t buy. Open access increases the visibility of a special collection located obscurely in a flyover state and allows us to achieve an international reach. Until the online galleries were deprecated, we developed a fairly successful strategy of using open-access print-quality images to increase our visibility in the profession of the history of science and also among science educators, journalists, and publishers.

The distinctiveness of an open access policy for high quality images immediately became clear to me back in 2000 when a PBS documentary on Galileo began production that would eventually list us as the first institutional credit. As another example, in the first decade of the 2000’s we frequently saw our images appear in the pages of Sky and Telescope, which was at that time the most popular monthly periodical for amateur astronomy. Or fast forward to 2011 when the most important book on Copernicus to be published in a generation included this sentence in the preface:

“I wish to register special thanks to the University of Oklahoma History of Science Collections for its enlightened policy of making available free online use of visual material from its rich collections of rare primary sources.”

Providing high-quality select images at no cost increased awareness among many communities and readerships that a History of Science Collections exists in Oklahoma.

While we are unfortunately no longer in the business of supporting unmediated direct downloads of print-quality images, there are other ways we have been able to use open access to increase awareness of materials. For example, via the ShareOK repository, documents such as the critical edition of the most important medieval treatise on the astrolabe, or the annual newsletters of the International Commission for the History of the Geosciences (INHIGEO), now draw attention to OU from global communities distributed far and wide. The INHIGEO newsletters were discovered and cited by the writers of an obituary of Ursula Marvin for the New York Times. Marvin was a pioneering woman geologist who had been interviewed in the one of the newsletters by Kenneth L. Taylor. The discoverability features of ShareOK made those newsletters visible to writers who would never have thought to look for that information in Oklahoma.

Research collaborations

Open access is the basis for collaborations with partners in research. Consider, for example, Darwin Online and Galileotheca, the two digital libraries which support research on these major figures. The History of Science Collections is a major contributor to Cambridge University’s Darwin Online. Having provided digital versions of nearly 40 obscure editions, the Collections’ contribution is second only to that of Cambridge itself. Similarly, the Collections provided many works related to Galileo to the Museo Galileo in Florence, the leading research center for Galileo studies. For example, the OU copy of the broadsheet Apiarium, the first publication of observations made with a microscope, is one of only a handful of copies that exist. When Rick Luce and I visited the Museo Galileo for the first time, we presented the Director Paolo Gallucci with a 2GB scan. We were gratified when, a year later, Prof. Gallucci unveiled the Galileotheca digital library in an academic symposium held on the Norman campus as part of the Galileo’s World exhibit. These two international partnerships would be impossible without a policy of open access for high quality images.

Moreover, when Rick Luce arrived in 2014, the very first month on the job he visited Berlin to open a collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. With Jürgen Renn, the Director of the Max Planck, Luce agreed to co-develop an open access academic series of primary source editions. Edition Open Sources (EOS) resulted: a peer-reviewed, scholarly publishing series in both digital and physical formats. Digital-format publications in EOS are free and immediately accessible to the public worldwide under a creative commons license. Development of the platform was led by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPI). Francesco Luzzini’s Theory, Practice, and Nature In-between: Antonio Vallisneri’s Primi Itineris Specimen, the first title published under the editorial supervision of OU, was published in March of 2018. More recently, Mahdi Abdeljaouad and Jeffrey Oaks published Al-Hawārī’s Essential Commentary: Arabic Arithmetic in the Fourteenth Century November 24, 2021, the 14th title in the series overall. The project was a collaborative venture between MPI and the Department of the History of Science, OU Libraries, and the History of Science Collections. Although we do not expect to continue in an editorial role, the History of Science Collections will continue to supply open access works which scholars may wish to publish in the series.

These three examples — Darwin Online, Galileotheca, and Edition Open Sources — show that open access in support of communities of collaboration has an international reach.

* Two volunteers deserve particular mention: Eric Bruning and Carilyn Livesey. Eric — then an OU student in meteorology and now professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech — generously created an online image gallery for us in python. Carilyn spent weeks at a time with our digital camera to create thousands of high resolution images selected from textbooks in science and the history of science.

Why open access matters — the following 6-minute video is an excerpt from a longer interview with Rob Reynolds, recorded at the NextThought studio on May 20, 2015. Thanks, Rob!

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds – Open Access from Kerry Magruder on Vimeo.

“The defining challenge for a research university is how to establish these communities of collaboration that work across disciplinary lines.”

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