Earth’s Atmospheric Shield

Earth's Atmospheric Shield Protects Against Meteoroids
In 2013 a 10,000-ton 60-foot (20 m) wide asteroid entered the Earth’s atmospheric shield and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion occurred 18 miles (29 km) above the Earth emitting a shock wave equivalent to 10 Hiroshima bombs.

A team led by Dr. Jay Melosh of Purdue University has extensively studied what controls how much damage a rock from space can cause. Dr. Melosh’s research was funded by NASA’s Office of Planetary Defense, and some interesting facts have come from the research. According to the study, Hollywood disaster movies aren’t even close to being realistic. Dr. Melosh says “Realistic stuff doesn’t make a good story. Hollywood usually manages to get it wrong.”

Meteoroids are hunks of rock that come in all shapes and sizes and with different amounts of porousness. As a rock enters the atmosphere, air pressure builds up in front of it, and a vacuum develops behind it. For most porous rocks, the air will rush into the rock and blow off pieces, like an air hose blowing in a bucket of sand. The design of the Earth’s atmosphere is what causes the break-up of the meteoroids. It is only if they are too big to blow apart that they hit the Earth leaving a crater such as Meteor Crater in Arizona.

The article about Dr. Melosh’s work in the Herald Bulletin says that Earth’s atmospheric shield is better than we thought. Modern astronomy continues to find design features of the universe and the Earth that allow life to exist on this planet. This is another example of a design feature that makes it so that we don’t have to walk around looking up to dodge an incoming celestial missile.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Dark Energy and Creation

Dark Energy and Creation
One of the great mysteries of cosmology is the fact that the cosmos is speeding up as it expands. Scientists explain this acceleration by an invisible pressure called dark energy which makes up about 70% of the energy in the cosmos.

This explanation is based on an assumption called the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric which took Einstein’s equations and applied them to a universe they assumed to be homogeneous and isotropic. In other words, it assumes a smooth universe. Science has determined that the universe is not smooth. It is made up of great voids separating networks of dense galaxy clusters and filaments.

Emily Conover writing in Science News for November 25, 2017, (page 22) said, “If the universe were soup, it would be more of a chunky minestrone than a silky smooth tomato bisque.” When the equations are applied to a universe that is not isotropic and homogeneous, the acceleration of the cosmos seems to be explained without the need for dark energy. By the very nature of the lumpy design of the cosmos, its collapse is avoided.

It is interesting to note that the cosmos was created in such a way that its very existence contains the fingerprint of a design that allows great stability over an infinite amount of time. The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.

Many aspects of the creation we may never understand, but as our instruments get better and data accumulates, we understand that we have, in the words of Issac Newton, “found a pebble of knowledge while an ocean of truth lays before us.”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is really all we need to know. Seeing His power, wisdom and design bolsters our faith in the fact that “The Lord possessed wisdom at the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old: wisdom was appointed from eternity from the beginning. Before the world began…” Proverbs 8:22-23.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Unobtainium or Unobtainable

Unobtainium
Have you ever heard of the discovery of a new mineral called unobtainium? It has enough power to allow humans to travel faster than the speed of light. Chances are you have heard of it on the internet. As you can probably guess, it’s fake news.

We have received a few emails in the last eight years suggesting that we are on the verge of being able to travel throughout the cosmos because of the development of this new mineral. One writer even suggested that God was an alien who came from a place where this mineral exists in large quantities. The writer suggested that the alien created Earth and all life on it as a great cosmological experiment.

My first contact with unobtainium was when my wife dragged me to a movie titled Avatar produced by James Cameron in 2009. The theme of the movie was that a deposit of unobtainium (spelled unobtanium in the movie) existed on an alien planet inhabited by gentle blue creatures who lived in a tree. Then greedy Earth people came to exploit the deposit, destroying the tree and the aliens in the process.

Scientists and engineers have used the term since the 1950s to describe a mysterious substance that doesn’t exist. It’s is a joke used to describe anything that is impossible. The tabloids may promote this as a real substance, but the only thing that will take you out of this world faster than the speed of light is to be resurrected as described in 1 Corinthians 15:22-57. Unobtainium is truly unobtainable.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Since 1960, scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The program is called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). So far it has been 57 years of listening without any positive results. Scientists have now entered the next phase of the search called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

On October 16-18, 2017, scientists beamed a message toward a red dwarf star known as GJ 273 in the hope that there might be someone there listening. Of course, there are always radio and TV signals of various kinds going out from transmitters all over the Earth, but this attempt is a concentrated signal beamed toward this specific system. The transmission contained mathematical and scientific information as well as music. The reason scientists chose GJ 273 is that there are two planets orbiting the star that they hope might be able to support life. And it is the closest possible potential life-supporting location.

Picking one random star to direct a communication signal toward may seem like shooting in the dark–and it is. However, a METI team member said that this is just a prototype of what they want to do “one hundred times, or one thousand times, or one million times.” In other words, this is just the beginning.

So when will the results of this experiment be in? GJ 273 is more than twelve light-years from Earth. So in about 2030, the signal will reach its destination. If there is intelligent life there listening and they respond right away, we might hear something by 2042 or 2043. Translation will be a challenge. If Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence continues to send out signals to other potential inhabitable planets, they will be farther away, and thus it will take longer to hear anything back.

Some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have criticized this effort because they are afraid it might wake up hostile extraterrestrial beings to the fact that we are here. Perhaps the aliens will not like our music style and decide that they want to put an end to it. They could send their “storm troopers” to start a Star Wars type of scenario. Of course, since they would not be able to travel at anything close to the speed of light (if Einstein is correct), they might arrive here centuries from now to find nobody left on this planet.

We have three observations on this project. First, all indications are that the chances of life existing anywhere in space are very slim. There are far too many variables needed to make life possible on any planet or moon. Secondly, the resources going into SETI and METI could better be used helping people right here on our own planet. Thirdly, as we have said before, whether or not life exists anywhere else in the universe has no bearing on whether God exists. God can create life anywhere He chooses.

When it comes to messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, we believe that there is Intelligence out there. We also believe that He would like to hear from us. We further believe that He has been to Earth to communicate with us. And we believe that if we choose to communicate with Him, we will not be limited to the speed of light. He can hear us instantaneously.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Continental Drift and Recycling

Continental Drift
In 1910 an Arctic explorer by the name of Alfred Wegener coined the term continental drift. Wegener saw the same fossils in South America that he had seen in western Africa, and he proposed that the two continents had been connected at one time. Wegener’s proposal was ridiculed by the scientists of that day who saw the Earth’s crust as too solid to allow any model of that kind to work.

Over the years studies of earthquake epicenters have shown that there is movement of huge slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The rock material bends more and more steeply until the slabs eventually melt into the mantle–the molten interior of the earth. These slabs and everything on them do in fact move.

In 1952 an ocean cartographer by the name of Marie Tharp began making profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor going from west to east. Her profiles showed a ridge down the center of the Atlantic with younger material in the center and older material on both sides. She proposed that molten material was coming up from the mantle and pushing the two slabs of ocean floor material away from each other. Where the slabs hit the edges of the continent, the material is deflected downward making trenches in the floor of the ocean.

All of these discoveries flew in the face of the accepted geological theory at the time, and Tharp was ridiculed. In time scientists came to understand that the Earth is made up of plates sliding along the surface and sliding down into the mantle when a continent is reached.

There is a message in all of this that what is considered to be scientifically impossible, sometimes turns out to be true. At the same time, a pet theory can ultimately be proven incorrect. One of the beauties of science is that eventually it cleans up its own mistakes.

Another message is that sometimes God addresses a problem long before humans know there is a problem. This whole process is one of the greatest recycling systems of all time. As nutrients and minerals get eroded off the continents, they are deposited on the ocean floor. The movement of the ocean floor ultimately returns this material to the mantle to be recycled back to the Earth’s surface.

No elements are lost from the Earth’s reservoir by this system, and it assures us that there is no waste in the resources of the planet as a whole. Jeremiah 10:12 speaks of God preserving the Earth by His wisdom, and continental drift is one of tools by which He does that.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Stretched Out Gravity Waves and the Nobel Prize

Stretched  Out Gravity Waves
One of the interesting words in the Old Testament dealing with space and its creation is the Hebrew word natah–usually translated stretched out.

This word describes God’s act of creating space/time. Natah suggests that the cosmos is a like fabric that can be stretched. It could also mean stretching out as when we pull the cord of a lawnmower or outboard motor. (For uses of the word natah, see: Psalms 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1)

Three United States scientists won the Nobel physics prize in October of 2017 by detecting ripples of gravitational waves traveling through the universe. In September of 2015, these scientists and others detected gravitational waves for the first time confirming a part of Einstein’s predictions.

The bottom line is that space is not empty, and objects in space are not isolated. The creation is like a garment that can have ripples in it. Stretched out gravitational waves fill the universe.

The next step for scientists will be to learn how to use gravity waves to study cosmic phenomena that they can’t observe by light or other electromagnetic radiation. Gravity waves will help us to learn more about God’s creation, and they are another verification of the biblical description of the nature of the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

More Viewers than the Super Bowl

More Viewers than the Super Bowl
The “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 had more viewers than the Super Bowl. According to Nielson ratings, the 2017 Super Bowl had 111 million viewers on TV. About 215 million adults, or 88 percent of the United States adult population, watched the eclipse. That total includes those who watched it live, plus TV and internet viewers. Of course, many children watched it too.

The University of Michigan and NASA compiled the viewing statistics with a joint survey. Sixty-one million adults in the United States watched the eclipse on TV, computers, tablets, or phones. Unlike the Super Bowl the vast majority, about 154 million, watched it directly with the aid of viewing glasses or pinhole cameras. About 20 million traveled to locations where they could see the totality. I can testify that the roads in southern Illinois were crowded with travelers. After the eclipse, it took 3 hours to drive 40 miles. You can watch a speeded-up view of the eclipse on this video. Be sure to turn the sound up so that you can hear the reaction of the people around me during the eclipse.

In addition to a large viewership, the satisfaction rate was high. Seven out of ten said they were not disappointed. (Probably about half of the Super Bowl crowd was disappointed because their team lost.) If you listen to the video that I edited, you can tell that the crowd on the bluff overlooking the Ohio River was not disappointed.

We are pleased that there was this much interest in a science-related event. God’s creation can draw more viewers than the Super Bowl.

–Roland Earnst © 2017

Great American Eclipse “Engineered”

The Great American Eclipse
One month ago today a total solar eclipse crossed the United States. The so-called Great American Eclipse had many interesting things associated with it.

We have pointed out in previous discussions that people have attached all kinds of erroneous connections to eclipses. Some people have suggested that the eclipse predicts the doom of kings and in recent weeks the demise of Donald Trump. We have seen religious prognostications of all kinds attached to the eclipse including the second coming of Christ. There are those who have denigrated biblical events such as the darkness at the time Christ died, saying it was just an eclipse. (No eclipse can last for three hours.) None of these claims and predictions have any value.

One message that should stand out from the eclipse is the precision that God has built into the creation of the cosmos. How can astronomers predict when eclipses will occur including the exact time for a given location? This is quite simple if you understand the design of the creation. Astronomers have a grid in the sky that is an extension of the latitude/longitude system on the surface of the Earth. All objects in space, including the Sun and the Moon, can be plotted on this grid system. This allows scientists to plot the movement of the Moon and the shadow the Moon casts on Earth. (Remember that a solar eclipse is the Moon’s shadow on the Earth.)

Many of us earth science teachers use the Earth Science Curriculum Project. It has a lab where students plot an eclipse and predict what kind of eclipse will occur. They can predict when it will start, how much of the Sun will be covered, and when it will end. One of my students commenting after doing the lab, “Wow, what engineer thought up this system?” Another student responded “No engineer did it. God did it!” The first student responded, “Well God is a pretty cool engineer!”

We have pointed out that one of the problems people have with faith is that they attempt to explain everything as mysticism and magic. When it becomes obvious that planning and design are part of the system, that understanding erodes their faith in God. A good magician can mystify us, but still, he is using methods we can understand if we learn how he did it.

The Great American Eclipse spoke well about how precisely and carefully God has designed the planetary system in which we live. The eclipse is one more witness to the statement that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1).
–John N. Clayton

Can God Create a Rock He Can’t Move?

Can God create a rock He can't move?
Can God create a rock He can’t move? That is a recurring question we see just about every day in someone’s email. The idea is that if God can do anything, He should be able to create a rock so big He can’t move it. But that would mean there is something He cannot do. Many times the question is sent along with a quote of Matthew 19:26 where Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” There are multiple errors in both the question and in the questioners’ concept of God.

I want to make it clear that there are things that God cannot do. The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). There are many things associated with evil that God cannot do because they would violate His very nature. That should be so obvious that no thinking person would want to debate it.

It is also important to understand that God cannot renege on His promises. The Bible is full of promises of God, beginning with Genesis 3:15. The New Testament treats those promises as iron clad–something that God cannot break. Take a few minutes to look at Acts 13:23, Romans 4:21, Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 10:23, and Hebrews 11:11. It is important to Christians that the promises of God apply to us today, and that promises concerning eternity can be trusted. (See Matthew 10:32, Matthew 25:46, and 2 Timothy 2:12.)

God cannot hear the prayers of sinful people who reject God and His teachings. The Old Testament tells us that in Isaiah 59:1-2, Proverbs 1:24,28 and 28:9. In the New Testament, we all know the promise in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in (Jesus)…will have everlasting life.” We also see in Mark 16:15-16 that the lack of belief leads to condemnation. John 8:24 and Romans 1:16 and 10:1 carry the same message.

So when Jesus said, “with God, all things are possible?” in Matthew 19:26, what was He talking about? To understand any passage in the Bible (or any other book), you need to look at who said it, to whom, why, and how the people it was spoken to would have understood it. In this case, Jesus is talking about how hard it is for a rich person to “enter the kingdom of God.” He said it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” The disciples asked how anyone could be saved. Jesus answered in verse 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

From a human standpoint, giving up riches for something religious seems impossible. But God’s love is so great and His grace so sufficient that even a rich person can be saved. The statement certainly doesn’t apply to moving a physical rock, but rather a spiritual boulder.

Someone asked Marshall Keeble, a great old black preacher, the question, “Can God create a rock He can’t move?” His response was “Yep, and He can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” God uses unlikely tools to accomplish impossible challenges. Using an old physics teacher to answer questions like this one is improbable, to say the least. But the fact that you read this discussion this far indicates that no matter how unlikely it might be from a human standpoint, sometimes it works.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Value of a Total Solar Eclipse

Albert Einstein and the value of a total solar eclipse
Here is an interesting story of how a solar eclipse helped to confirm a scientific theory and demonstrated the value of a total solar eclipse.

Yesterday, we pointed out that it’s more than a “marvelous coincidence” that the Moon can exactly block our view of the much larger Sun. It’s an evidence of design. When the Moon hides the Sun’s photosphere, scientists can study the chromosphere and the corona to learn more about the Sun and how it affects life on Earth.

In 1687 Isaac Newton presented his universal law of gravitation answering many questions about gravity. One question that remained unanswered was how gravity can act through empty space.

In 1916 Albert Einstein presented his theory of general relativity in which he proposed that mass produces gravity by warping space. Planets orbit the Sun because the mass of the Sun and the planets causes space to be curved. The theory suggested that light would also follow a curved path because of this warping. Einstein calculated how much light would bend near a massive object and proposed that light from distant stars would be bent when it passes by the Sun.

Einstein’s idea seemed hard to believe, but there was no way to disprove it since the bright Sun hides any starlight passing near it. You can’t see the stars during the day.

Then in 1919, British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington made some measurements during a total solar eclipse. While the Moon blocked the Sun’s photosphere, Eddington made precise measurements of the apparent position of stars that were visible near the Sun. Comparing those measurements with the positions of the same stars at night, he confirmed that Einstein was correct. The light was bent as it passed by the Sun.

The eclipse of 1919 demonstrated the value of a total solar eclipse. Many eclipses since then have added to our scientific knowledge. Understanding how gravity warps space has allowed us to make accurate Global Positioning Satellites. We use GPS in our cars for driving, in our tractors for farming, and in our smartphones for hiking, and for many other things. God designed and engineered an amazing world and gave us the ability to understand it through scientific study. Science and faith are friends–not enemies.
–Roland Earnst © 2017