Galileo and the Music of the Spheres

Galileo and the music of the spheres… love this new music video from Coldplay. Reminds me of my planetarium days. What if this were the opening act of a “Music of the Spheres” star show in a multimedia planetarium theater?


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The Holiness of Ordinary Time

Steve Bell, Ordinary Time, Pilgrim Year series Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary Julie Canlis, Theology of the Ordinary

In this season of the liturgical year called Ordinary Time, Candace and I are reading aloud two books this year: Steve Bell, Ordinary Time, from his Pilgrim Year series; and Tish Harrison Warren, A Liturgy of the Ordinary (IVP, 2019). We’ve also ordered Julie Canlis, A Theology of the Ordinary (2017).

Steve Bell explains that Ordinary Time, coming at the end of the liturgical cycle, “is the season in which we come to realize the astonishing holiness of our daily lives as a consequence of all we have previously [experienced in the church year]… the daily is impregnated with the divine.” Steve then quotes one of my favorite novelists, so I had to go back and read the essay he cited. Here is a fuller version of the quotation, followed by a famous line from G. K. Chesterton:

“While no serious novelist knows for sure where his writing comes from, I have the strongest feeling that, whatever else the benefits of the Catholic faith, it is of particularly felicitous use to the novelist. Indeed, if one had to design a religion for novelists, I can think of no better. What distinguishes Judeo-Christianity in general from other world religions is its emphasis on the value of the individual person, its view of man as a creature in trouble, seeking to get out of it, and accordingly on the move. Add to this anthropology the special marks of the Catholic Church: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which, whatever else they do, confer the highest significance upon the ordinary things of this world, bread, wine, water, touch, breath, words, talking, listening — and what do you have? You have a man in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery; a pilgrim whose life is a searching and a finding.”
— Walker Percy, “The Holiness of the Ordinary,” in Signposts in a Strange Land (New York: The Noonday Press, 1991), pp. 369.

“Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary.”
— G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. 4, “The Ethics of Elfland.”


I’m reminded that Ralph Wood argues that Sam Gamgee is the real hero of The Lord of the Rings. Wood is convinced that, if the Incarnation were to occur in Middle Earth – as an old sage once foresaw (cf. Morgoth’s Ring, p. 321) – Tolkien would have reported that God chose to enter the world not as a wizard nor even a human but as a hobbit.
— Ralph C. Wood, The Gospel According to Tolkien (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), ch. 5.


From Michael Barfield:

G. K. Chesterton quote

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A few Torrance updates

This summer I’ve enjoyed several Torrance-related conversations and activities, some related to the Reading Group hosted by Marty Folsom, others related to hosting the 2021 Workshop-Retreat, and soon the Firbush Retreat. In addition, there’s been progress on the Torrance Oral History project, with the posting of the manual online and preparation behind the scenes of the transcriptions. Here are some videos in reverse chronological order; a few other links or videos will be added later.


Kerry Magruder, Trinitarian Perspectives on Science, Firbush Retreat, Sept 2021. (Short version.)


Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (#1988-489), ch. 2, “”Access to the Father” (#1988-489c). Marty Folsom discusses this chapter with Kerry Magruder.


Marty Folsom, “John Macmurray’s Influence on Thomas F. Torrance,” Scottish Journal of Theology 71, 3 (2018): 339-358; #2018-MF-1. Discussion with Kerry Magruder.


Travis Stevick, “The Function of Scientific Theory in the Thought of T. F. Torrance,” Participatio 7, Science, Epistemology, and Natural Theology (2017): 49-70; #2017-TMS-1. Discussion led by Kerry Magruder.


Derrick Peterson, Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes: The Strange Tale of How the Conflict of Science and Christianity was Written into History (Cascade Books, 2020); #2020-DP-1. Discussion led by Kerry Magruder.


Kerry Magruder, to discuss “Interdisciplinary Relations: Art, Astronomy, Music and Theology in Galileo’s World.” Discussion led by Marty Folsom.

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Nightmare Scenario

Nightmare Scenario, Fauci bobblehead

This Fourth of July weekend I read Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. I highly recommend it. The two authors, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, are reporters for the Washington Post, and excerpts of the book have appeared there previously. The book weighs in at nearly 500 pages. It is investigative journalism focused exactly where we need it: on the creation of a first, source-based, comprehensive account of what actually happened with public health in 2020. I’m tempted to say it reads like a John Grisham novel, except every page provides the backstory to events we all-too-clearly remember!

I am happy how the backstory succeeds in humanizing some of the doctors I wasn’t sure about or had actually come to distrust: Deborah Birx, Robert Redfield, and Stephen Hahn. I now understand and appreciate their actions more than I could as an observer of headlines and press conferences “watching from a distance.” Not that they didn’t make mistakes (the same goes for Fauci), but the story of the four of them (including Fauci) working together against all the idiots is compelling. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all to rehabilitate any of the other major figures, including Alex Azar (HHS Secretary) or the White House.

“Nightmare scenario” refers to two levels: first, for pandemic planners, it is the scenario in which a viral pandemic arises with asymptomatic spread. Second, on another level, no one could plan for the eventuality that the epidemiological “nightmare scenario” would actually materialize under a political “nightmare scenario,” during an American presidential administration that cared only for politics and nothing for public health.

Redfield, director of the CDC, comes across in the book not as the conservative political activist I feared from his missteps early in the AIDs epidemic, but as a friendly grandfatherly figure who dedicated his life to public health and the care of marginalized and vulnerable people, inspired by John Paul II, but who was never cut out to be an administrator nor equipped for hardball politics. He would rather ask every security guard about their families than implement schemes to outmaneuver Kushner and Azar.

Similarly, I have much much more sympathy now for Birx, who worked in the White House itself, and for Hahn, the director of the FDA. The three of them were far more exposed to White House pressure than Fauci. Indeed, the three made a pact, which they made known, that if one of them was fired, the other two would resign in protest. And all four doctors, including Fauci, met weekly to keep each other in the loop, encourage one another, and coordinate their activities. The political interference and the public harassment all four endured is simply atrocious.

This is not the last word; it is a baseline upon which other accounts will be added. I can’t wait for the memoir of Francis Collins, for example. But Nightmare Scenario is an indispensable first account. It would be a gripping story, if only it were fiction.

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Lewis books – Wade Podcast

The Wade Center podcast was one of my favorites even before the pandemic. I never miss an episode. As I wrote here previously:

The Wade Center Podcast, hosted by the Wade’s co-directors David and Crystal Downing, is a treasure trove of enthralling and insightful conversations about the seven authors the Wade collects: in addition to Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald. If you enjoy any of these writers, you will want to go back and listen through the archives of the Wade Center podcast!

When the lockdown started to restrict the number of scholars visiting the Wade, who usually provided the pool of conversationalists for the podcast, curators David and Crystal Downing decided not to suspend the podcast but to devote episodes to their own introductions to Lewis’ books. These recordings convey David and Crystal’s expert commentary in a lively and humorous mode of informal discussion. For future direct access to this collection of remarkable resources, here’s a list of the books they have discussed so far. This list only includes podcasts devoted to a specific book; it excludes most episodes which are topical in nature — download the entire back-catalog of episodes in your favorite podcast app! Subscribe to The Wade Center Podcast wherever you get your podcasts or listen on the Wade Center website.


Podcast episodes devoted to specific works by C. S. Lewis:


Podcast episodes devoted to specific works by J. R. R. Tolkien:


Podcast episodes devoted to specific works by Dorothy L. Sayers:


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Sue Magruder, 1932-2021

A 1932 model in a 1935 model
A 1932 model in a 1935 model

Sue Lee Brimer Magruder, 88, of Kirksville, Missouri, died Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Kirksville. Sue was born on June 26, 1932 near Bowling Green, MO, the daughter of Cecil R. Brimer and Lottie Maude (Stanley) Brimer.

When Sue was two years old she moved with her family to Powell, WY, where they homesteaded in the Big Horn Basin. Her first memory on the homestead is of waking up in bed in the morning and finding snow on her face and eyelashes. In Wyoming, Sue’s Mom would look out the window upon the mountains and recite Psalm 121:1-2. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” This verse became Sue’s theme verse, sustaining her throughout her life.

Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder
Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder

In the 4th grade Sue checked a book out of the school library called Lost Worlds. It was a book about ancient civilizations and had a picture of Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple in Egypt. She thought it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen and determined she would one day go there. In August of 1990, she fulfilled that dream.

During World War II the family moved to Renton, Washington, before returning to Hannibal, MO, where Sue finished her last two years of high school. She attended Hannibal LaGrange College, receiving her Elementary Teaching Certificate. She then taught school in Antonia, MO, for two years before attending Northeast Missouri State Teachers College to finish her teaching degree. While standing in the registration line on June 4, 1954, she met a smiling young man named Jack Magruder. On their first date Jack told her that he was going to marry her and that he dreamed of someday becoming a science education professor at the college. 10 weeks later, on August 4, 1954, they were married at First Baptist Church in Kirksville. And she did finish her degree, graduating from the college in May of 1955.

The next several years were spent moving around the country (Iowa, Colorado, California, Louisiana) while Jack pursued his Masters and Doctoral degrees, Sue taught elementary school, and they grew their family. In 1964 the family returned to Kirksville where Jack had been offered a job teaching in the science division at Northeast Missouri State College. Sue eventually completed her Masters Degree at Northeast Missouri State University with additional work at University of Missouri-Columbia.

Sue dedicated her life to education. She taught for 13 years at Northeast Missouri State University. She served 9 years as First Lady of Truman State University and 4 years as First Lady of A.T. Still University. She was an adult Sunday school teacher for 11 years and a literacy teacher in the Adair County Adult Education Program. As recently as the 2019/2020 school year Sue was a reading tutor through the Oasis program at Kirksville Primary School.

She always loved to travel, read, fish, and do jigsaw puzzles. A place of special meaning to the family was Yellowstone National Park. One of the recent trips in 2015 included 17 members of her family. In 1966 Jack and Sue built their house in the country east of Kirksville where they raised their children along with numerous horses, cattle, hogs, cats, and dogs. There they welcomed generations of students from around the world, and countless gatherings of friends and family. She raised her family with superb love and dedication, leaving a legacy of faith, hope, and love.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Cecil and Lottie, by her sister, Aleta Fountain, and brother, Dale Brimer. She is survived by her beloved husband of nearly 67 years, Willis Jackson Magruder. She is also survived by her 3 children, Julie Beth Magruder Lochbaum, Kerry Vaughn Magruder (Candace), and Laura Ellen Magruder Mann (Marvin). Grandchildren include James (Rojina) Lochbaum, Anna (Matthew) Matheney, Rachel (Stephen) Folmar, Hannah Magruder, Zac Burden, Susanna Magruder, Jackson (Brianna) Mann, Jonathan Mann, and a great-grandson, Maverick Mann.

In 1992 Jack heard the song “Look At Us” on the radio and hand copied the lyrics in a love letter to Sue. He was correct that their love was the embodiment of the song – and that love lives on.

Look at us after all these years together.
Look at us after all that we’ve been through.
Look at us still leaning on each other.
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us. Look at us still believing in forever…
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us.

Sue Magruder

There will be public visitation on Saturday, June 5 from 10:00 am to noon under the tent at Davis and Normal streets on the Truman State University campus. A June 14 memorial service will be live-streamed from First United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Sue & Jack Magruder Scholarship fund at Truman State University or First United Methodist Church in Kirksville.

Mama's Memorial Service June 14, 2021 from Laura.


Update: On Mother’s 88th birthday, Saturday, June 26, Laura took this photo of a double rainbow over the homestead at Willis Creek Ranch. We take this as nature’s tribute.

Double rainbow over Willis Creek Ranch

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Phyllis Comstock, 1931-2021

Phyllis Loraine (Martin) Comstock, 89, of Memphis, Missouri, formerly of Downing, Missouri, went home to be with her sweet Jesus and her sweetheart, Junior, on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at Scotland County Care Center in Memphis, Missouri, after contracting COVID-19.

The daughter of Minor Franklin and Beulah Ruth (Eiffert) Martin, she was born on March 3, 1931 at her grandfather Ed Martin’s home east of Sublette in Adair County, Missouri. Her sister, Bernidene LaRue (Martin) Billiet, was born one year later. She attended rural Sperry School and later rural Brushy School after the family moved to a farm south of Downing, Missouri, in Schuyler County. Phyllis attended Downing High School, graduating with the class of 1949.

Phyllis Comstock Phyllis Comstock

On July 11, 1948 in Lancaster, Missouri, she was united in marriage to Tillman Comstock, Jr. They eventually purchased a farm in Scotland County northeast of Downing, Missouri. After losing their first child, Gary Lee, at birth, Phyllis and Junior raised three children on the farm, Cheryl Ann, Craig Alan, and Candace Lea. The family were members of the Downing Christian Church where Phyllis was active in Christian Women’s Auxiliary. Phyllis was a skilled homemaker, gardening and canning much of the family’s food and sewing many of their clothes. She loved tending her flowers and reading Louis L’Amour westerns. Phyllis enjoyed her years with the Chit Chat Club and the Red Hatters in Downing, Missouri. She and Junior were members of the National Farmers Organization (NFO). They loved to square dance, host pitch card parties and family gatherings, watch birds, deer hunt, and go camping and boating with friends at the lake. They enjoyed traveling to Oklahoma, to the mountains of Colorado, and to the Iowa State Fair. They especially loved spending time with their grandchildren.

Junior and Phyllis shared a deep abiding love for one another. She loved to hear him sing “You Are My Sunshine.” After Junior was paralyzed in a farm accident in 1985, Phyllis cared for him at home until he moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri, in 2005. Junior passed away in 2008, shortly before their 60th wedding anniversary. In 2015, Phyllis moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri.

Survivors include her children, Cheryl Eddleman and husband Mike of Kahoka, Missouri; Craig Comstock and wife Mary of Unionville, Missouri; and Candace Magruder and husband Kerry of Norman, Oklahoma. She is Grandma Sugar and Grandma Phyllis to 14 grandchildren: Shawn Erickson and wife Angela of Festus, Missouri; Nikki Worstell and husband Tommy of Blue Springs, Missouri; Laura Ussary and husband Brad of Kansas City, Missouri; Travis Eddleman of Olathe, Kansas; Clint Eddleman of Kahoka, Missouri; Kristi Eddleman of Kansas City, Missouri; Vanessa Whitaker and partner Dr. Shane Wilson of Memphis, Missouri; Jason Comstock and wife Irene of Jackson, Missouri; Andrew McCollom and wife KayLea of rural Unionville, Missouri; Matthew McCollom and wife Andrea of Kingwood, Texas; Jonathan McCollom and fiancé Kelly Foster of Roeland Park, Kansas; Rachel Folmar and husband Stephen of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Hannah Magruder of Kirksville, Missouri; Susanna Magruder of Norman, Oklahoma; as well as to 24 great grandchildren: Quincy and Schuler Erickson; Austin and Alyssa Schwent; Thomas, Jonathon, Timothy, and Hope Worstell; Brett and Seth Ussary and Lexi DeKraai-Ussary; Meadow, Carson, Payton, Mia, Avaya, and Aven Eddleman; Victoria and Clifford Whitaker; Kaitlyn Miller and husband Traven; Athena and Iris Comstock; Hudson and Porter McCollom; and two great great grandchildren Dennis and Ivy Miller. She is also survived by brother-in-law Charles Comstock and wife Ardis of Downing, Missouri; nieces, nephews, and other family members; and many good friends and neighbors.

Phyllis is preceded in death by her parents, Minor Martin on April 30, 1999 and Ruth Martin on April 5, 2005; her husband Junior Comstock on March 19, 2008; son Gary Lee Comstock; two premature infants; sister Bernidene Billiet and husband Gene; brother-in-law Derwood Comstock and wife Dorene; and grandson-in-law Dan DeKraai.

A Celebration of Life service will be scheduled at a later date when COVID restrictions permit. Online condolences may be expressed to the family by logging on to normanfh.com. Arrangements are under the direction of the Norman Funeral Home of Lancaster, Missouri.

Phyllis Comstock

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Winter – Windham Hill

Winter, with Mark Isham, is one of my favorite early Windham Hill releases. We practically wore out our copy on VHS. In the thick of allergy seasons and the hot months of summers for many years gone by, it was magically restorative. Now I’m so glad to find it digitized. I’m posting it here to help me get through the next few months…

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Johann Kepler: Life and Works

As Curator of the exceptional Kepler collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I’ve been invited to give talks on Kepler to various audiences, including the 2013 Okie-Tex star party at Black Mesa, Oklahoma. Much as with similar talks on Copernicus and Galileo, this is framed as if we were in the vaults of the OU History of Science Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together. The talks are an introduction to these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

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Copernicus and the Motion of the Earth

Back in 2005, I created a planetarium show, “Copernicus and His Revolutions,” for the Cosmology and Cultures Project of the OBU Planetarium (available here).

Soon after that, as Curator of the remarkable Copernicus collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I was invited to give talks on Copernicus to various physics and astronomy programs around the country. A version of this Copernicus talk has been presented at Michigan State University (2007), Florida State University (2008), and at the Okie-Tex star party near Black Mesa (2009), among others.

Much as with similar talks on Kepler and Galileo, this talk is framed as if we were in the vaults of the Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together, in order to see what stories are evident in the works themselves. These talks introduce these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

A PDF handout contains quotations, names of people mentioned, resources for further reading, and question prompts for discussion and reflection.

This presentation is too long to watch in one session. Take breaks between any of the 10 major sections to stretch your legs and process what has been presented. The final two sections offer questions for reflection and resources for further reading.

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