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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

John Smetanka

Recent Posts

A Summer Sky Full of Planets

Posted by John Smetanka on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 @ 11:06 AM

Three bright planets have graced the evening sky for the past month and will continue to do so throughout June and July. Jupiter, largest planet in the solar system, shines brightest in the southwestern sky just after sunset. Mars, slightly fainter but much redder than Jupiter, is rising in the southeast as the sun sets. Finally, 20 degrees (approximately two fists extended at arm’s length) further southeast Saturn appears white in comparison to Mars and the nearby bright star Antares – both red. Together, these three bright planets make excellent targets for small telescopes, binoculars or just stargazing with the unaided eye. Images of each planet taken with the College’s 14-inch telescope and planetary camera are shown above.

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Topics: John Smetanka, astronomy, Planetarium, planets, Cassini, Curiosity, Juno, telescope

Fear, Courage and The Walking Dead

Posted by John Smetanka on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 @ 16:03 PM
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Topics: John Smetanka, Star Wars, Hunger Games, dystopia, post-apocalyptic, fear, Dune, Christianity

Star Wars - The Gift that Keeps on Giving!

Posted by John Smetanka on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 @ 16:12 PM

Christmas came early for Star Wars fans, like me, this year. Last weekend’s opening smashed box office records, touched hearts and thoroughly entertained. My wife, two sons and I saw Episode VI on Saturday evening after December Commencement. Like thousands of others, our theater was filled with families and friends enjoying every moment – many on the edge of their seats. We left excitedly discussing the events that unfolded and the mysteries that still remain. The magic of Star Wars is back!

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Topics: John Smetanka, The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams, George Lucas, The Force Enlightens, Star Wars

Do You Believe in Alien Megastructures?

Posted by John Smetanka on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 @ 09:11 AM

Speculation about technologically-superior, alien life is abundant in science fiction. Novels such as Larry Nivan’s Ringworld, video games such as Halo, and a TV episode of Star TrekThe Next Generation depict solar-system-scale structures (megastructures) built by incredibly-advanced, intelligent civilizations. Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed that increasing energy demands would lead extraterrestrial civilizations to build larger and larger structures to capture the energy from their star. This might culminate in a “Dyson Sphere”, a megastructure that would completely or nearly completely enshroud the central star of the civilization’s solar system. The episode “Relics” in the Star Trek the Next Generation series depicts a Dyson Sphere. Larry Nivan’s multiple-award winning novel Ringworld imagines a slightly less grand megastructure, a million-mile-wide ribbon that circles a star at the distance separating the earth and sun – ninety three million miles. The video game Halo takes place and is named after smaller versions of the ringworld megastructure.

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Topics: John Smetanka, Halo, megastructures, aliens, Ringworld

Harvest Moon Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, September 27th

Posted by John Smetanka on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

The harvest moon is traditionally the full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox – September 23, 2015 this year. Sunday night, September 27th, this year’s harvest moon will pass through Earth’s shadow. This eclipse is especially rare, since it occurs when the moon is the closest to the earth – the so-called “super moon”. So, the full moon on September 27th will be the brightest and largest of the year. Beginning at 9:07pm the moon will enter the darkest part of the shadow – the umbra. For the next hour the full moon will increasingly be eclipsed – less and less of the moon will be directly reflecting the sun’s light as more of the moon enters the earth’s shadow.

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Laudato Si' and Me (and US)

Posted by John Smetanka on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 @ 11:07 AM

Jesus answered [the rich young man], “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” – Matthew 19:21-25

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Topics: Laudato Si', John Smetanka, Environment, Pope Francis

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Assistant Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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