Making Babies… And Math

Recently I wanted to find out the probability that an average woman would get pregnant at any given age.

I was really surprised by what I found. In my family going back in time, people tended to get pregnant whenever it occurred to them to try. So I had this model in my head that likelihood of getting pregnant after puberty (menarche) was close to certainty in any given month when an attempt would be made, until the time when one’s body stopped wanting to deal with pregnancy.

But it turns out that the first several years of being a woman we females aren’t particularly fertile. It’s possible to get pregnant, as all too many teens can attest. But for most in that early period of time, there’s not reliable ovulation to accompany the outward signs associated with monthly ovulation. This anovulation seriously messes with likelihood of getting pregnant in the early teen years, which is awesome, since risk of maternal death is significantly elevated for folks who get pregnant before age 16.

The peak timeframe for fertility is in the early twenties. Across multiple studies, it appears a person who wishes to become pregnant at this stage of their life has a 97% chance of achieving their goal, with a 25% monthly probability of getting pregnant. Continue reading

LDS Perspectives #48: Ardis Parshall, Dime Novels, Churchill, and LDS Women

The Mormon Image in Literature with Ardeth Parshall

Ardis Parshall is one of the most prolific LDS historians. Her blog, Keepapitchinin, has been running for over ten years now and includes over 6,000 posts, almost all written by Ardis.

Ardis has teamed with Michael Austin to republish literature related to Mormonism that is rare, fragile, and soon could be lost. Dime Novel Mormons, their current offering, presents four novellas featuring Mormons as villains.

The way Mormons were portrayed in dime novels was remarkably consistent. The authors played on common stereotypes and themes such as Danites, polygamy, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. As we read these novels, we can better understand what was happening in the minds of those meeting Mormon missionaries for the first time, or the fears Mormon families had as they sent loved ones to serve missions in a world filled with such distorted fiction. The outrage associated with one such Anti-Mormon novel was so great that English citizens called for a removal of all Mormon missionaries. This prompted Winston Churchill to look into Mormon activities, luckily only to confirm actual Mormons were good and sweet.

Laura Harris Hales also talks with Ardis about her forthcoming book, She Shall be an Ensign. In this eagerly anticipated work, Ardis provides us the history of the Church through the eyes of the women who participated.

James Hamula released, no longer a member of the church

From James Hamula’s biography at

August 8, 2017: This morning James J. Hamula was released as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following Church disciplinary action by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins provided the press no details about the removal. But the church did confirm Hamula was no longer a member of the church and that his ouster was not for apostasy.

This is the first excommunication of a LDS General Authority in the social media age. The most recent excommunication of a General Authority prior to today’s announcement involved George P. Lee, who was cut off in 1989 and admitted in court circa 1994 to touching the chest of a 12-year-old girl. The most recent excommunication of an LDS General Authority prior to 1989 occurred in 1943, when Apostle Richard R. Lyman was cut off for a long-term affair with a woman he considered to be his secret plural wife.

I urge readers to reach out in love and compassion to the Hamula family and their friends during this unprecedented public readjustment.

Update: The Deseret News has also published an article about this announcement, which discusses the reasons why the Church excommunicates individuals and the circumstances where they might explain the reason for the action.

Upcoming Cosmic Events

Three big astronomical events coming up over the next month.

1. August 20, Sunday, is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. In 1977, Voyager 2 was launched on a journey to the outer planets. Along with Voyager 1, these two satellites did the first flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  Traveling at over 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager 2 is now 15 billion miles away from earth. It is approaching the edge of our solar system. It will encounter the star Sirius in 300,000 years.

2. The following day, Monday August 21, is a solar eclipse. This is the first major eclipse across the United States since 1918. Beginning in Oregon and passing down through South Carolina, there will be a 70 mile swath of complete darkness across the states. Most of the US will see at least an 80% eclipse (here in Indianapolis, we’ll have 93% coverage). The entire event will be over an hour in length, with the full eclipse only a couple minutes in length.

Be sure to never look at the Sun without proper protection, especially during an eclipse. Regular sunglasses do NOT give ample eye protection. Only special eclipse sunglasses with an ISO 12312-2 rating. I purchased 10 pair on Amazon for $3.99, including shipping. Order now, to ensure they arrive on time.

3. September 5 is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. Launched 16 days after Voyager 2, its trajectory brought it first to Jupiter, and so it was named V-1. Having traveled 18.5 billion miles from earth, Voyager 1 is the first and only manmade item to leave our solar system (August 2012). It currently is measuring the interstellar gases and winds.

Voyager was part of the plot in Star Trek movie with Captain Kirk finding an alien modified version centuries in our future. I thank Voyager for making me the Trekkie I am today.

The satellites run on a nuclear powered electric motor expected to run down by 2025. After that, they will not have enough energy to transmit anything else to earth. Voyager 1 will encounter star AC +79 3888 in about 40,000 years. The star is further out, but is approaching earth, shortening the time to arrival.