Stirring the Pot – The Sun and Parker Solar Probe

Stirring the Pot - The Sun and Parker Solar Probe

If you do any cooking, you know that to be a successful cook, you have to stir the pot every so often. Not only does stirring the pot prevent the food from sticking to the bottom, but it also improves the flavor by mixing the ingredients. The Earth and its relationship to life is also a kind of pot. We are just beginning to understand how complicated the relationship is between the Sun and the various ecosystems on Earth that allow life and advanced life to exist.

In 2018 NASA launched a probe called the Parker Solar Probe to fly near the Sun and make measurements and observations. No space probe has ever been close enough to the Sun to gain much data, but this probe was designed to fill that gap in our knowledge. At this point, it is about halfway between the Sun and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.

The Sun has what are called switchbacks when the magnetic field briefly reverses itself. This reversal varies the amount of solar wind coming to the Earth. This variable wind compresses Earth’s atmosphere, stirring the pot, so to speak. The mixing of the gases makes changes in our atmosphere, which we can observe in the auroras. The magnitude of the switchbacks also affects our power grids and orbiting communication satellites.

It is obvious that the movement of materials in our atmosphere and the constant changes that take place are part of the solar system design. The new data may open doors not only to how we can protect our power grids, but it may give us further understanding of the origin and sustaining of life on Earth.

Stirring the pot is one more factor in the intricate design of our planet and solar system that makes life possible. When Proverbs 8 talks about wisdom being present before the creation, it speaks of things we are just beginning to understand. The more we know of the creation, the more we know of the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: apod.nasa.gov for 12/9/19

Joy of Hard Water

Joy of Hard Water

Our visitor had just arrived in the United States from South America. He had never seen snow before arriving on a day in January. As he looked out into our back yard, he laughed heartily and said, “How happy is your hard water.” I had no idea what he was talking about because I think of hard water as something that leaves mineral deposits that are difficult to remove. I had not connected joy and hard water.

I joined him at the door and saw what he was looking at. The visitor was talking about the solid state of water in the form of snow. Our “hard water” made a snowman, something our visitor could not visualize from his personal experience. Nothing could stop him from joining my daughters to make his own snowman.

Water is, indeed, a remarkable material. The design of its molecular structure allows it to dissolve other substances. This same structure allows water to hold vast amounts of heat. It also allows water to exist as a solid. Liquids like alcohol have a molecular design that does not make them nearly as good as water in these critical ways.

The most important use of water is in living things. Without water, digestion would be impossible. The control of temperature and distribution of nutrients in living things depends on the presence of water. Planet Earth controls and moderates temperatures by its use of water. Even the Earth’s ability to store massive amounts of water in polar and glacial ice depends on water’s molecular design.

My response to our visitor was that our hard water was a joy all right, but that water itself was the real joy. It’s a material designed to serve the needs of all living things and is the basis of life itself.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Wood – Natural Multipurpose Building Material

Wood – Natural Multipurpose Building Material

We have mentioned before that many human inventions are actually adaptations of things we see in nature. That applies to products from Velcro to high-strength materials to airplanes. However, there are times when we can’t improve on the natural product, so we use it as God created it. An example of that is wood. It’s a natural multipurpose building material. Wood is strong, durable, flexible, weather-resistant, lightweight, and non-toxic. Lumber from trees is the most common building material for homes and other housing structures.

How could there be such a well-designed and valuable natural multipurpose building material? Wood is produced in a living plant. Under the protective bark of a tree lies the cambium layer. It is the innermost layer of the bark where growth takes place. Each year, during the warm months, the cambium produces living cells, which become the new sheath expanding the trunk of the tree. The layers from previous years remain as the wooden skeleton giving strength to the tree. If you cut it down, you can count those layers as visible rings revealing the age of the tree.

The tree’s roots take in water with vital nutrients from the ground. Within the woody trunk, there are microscopic conduits called xylem carrying that water up to the leaves. Just outside of the cambium, another layer of micro-ducts called phloem moves sugar-water that the leaves produce using the amazingly complex system of photosynthesis. The phloem supplies nourishment that the cambium requires to build the new sheath of wood. When the growing season ends, the phloem carries the remaining nourishment to the roots for winter storage until next spring.

Trees often lose branches from wind, ice storms, other natural means, or by human intervention. When that happens, it can throw the tree off balance. The cambium steps in to build a thicker sheath on the side where the limb was lost, reinforcing the tree to bear the uneven load. When examining the rings of a felled tree, a ring that is thicker on one side indicates a fallen branch. The tree automatically takes care of the area of the lost limb by covering it with new annual sheaths.

Take a moment to look at the wood in your house. That natural multipurpose building material in the window and door trim, the floor, and your furniture was once alive. It was growing and transporting sap while the leaves converted sunlight and water into sugar-water to nourish the tree, and the cambium created new growth. The lines in that wood tell the story of days and years of rainfall, sunshine, wind, and changing temperatures in a forest somewhere in the world. The wood in your house is not there by accident, and we don’t believe the tree was a natural accident, but the work of a creative Engineer.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Trees Prepare for Winter

Trees Prepare for Winter

Imagine standing naked outside on a cold winter day. When winter’s chill comes, people take shelter. If we have to be out, we put on more clothing. Most animals have fur or feathers to help keep them warm, and they also seek shelter from the cold. Trees in winter can only stand there and take it for months at a time. So how do trees prepare for winter?

Living cells in plants or animals consist primarily of water inside a membrane. If you leave a bottle of water in your car on a night when the temperature drops below freezing, you know it will freeze and break the bottle. That is because water has the unique property of expanding as it freezes. The same thing can happen in living cells. If the water in the cell freezes, it will expand and rupture the membrane. Animals that are endothermic (warm-blooded) generate heat within their cells by burning sugar to produce energy. Plants make sugar using light energy. With a few exceptions, they don’t produce heat.

How do trees prepare for winter? They use a process botanists refer to as “hardening.” The cell walls become more permeable to allow water to escape. At the same time, sugars, proteins, and acids in the cell are concentrated into a syrupy liquid, which acts as an antifreeze. The spaces between the cell walls become filled with ultra-pure water filtered through the cell walls. Pure water without stray atoms to form a nucleus around which ice crystals can grow, will freeze only at a much lower temperature. With the cells filled with antifreeze and spaces between having only ultra-pure water that can be super-cooled without freezing, the tree is ready for what the winter brings.

How does the tree know that it’s time to harden for winter? Fall weather can fluctuate quickly and dramatically. A tree can’t depend on the fickle weather because it could easily be fooled by warm days that suddenly turn cold, causing it to freeze to death. Trees know when to prepare for winter because of the length of the days – the “photoperiod.” Weather is unpredictable. The Sun is absolutely dependable. When the tree senses a decrease in light in each 24-hour cycle, it knows winter is coming, even if the weather is unusually warm. The pattern of changing daylight and darkness is exactly the same every year, even though the weather is capricious.

God engineered this incredibly well-designed system. “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for seasons and for days and for years’” (Genesis 1:14). Thus God designed the system which says, “Trees prepare for winter.” It’s another engineering marvel from the Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Mushrooms, God’s Waste Processors

 Mushrooms, God's Waste Processors

We are all familiar with the green plants that grow in our yards and gardens. Most of us know that the process that converts the energy of the Sun into food for the plant is called photosynthesis. “Photo” means light, and “synthesis” means change. The change is made possible by a wonderfully well-designed material called chlorophyll, which means “green leaf” in Greek. What happens when there is no light and no chlorophyll? This is essentially the issue on the forest floor, where detritus piles up, including cellulose from plants and organic material from both plants and animals. A whole different kind of organism is required to change all of that material into useful energy. That is why we have plants such as mushrooms, God’s waste processors.

Instead of cellulose, which makes up the cell walls of most plants, the cell walls of a mushroom are made of chitin. Chitin is a protein similar to the keratin in your hair and fingernails. Mushrooms are fungi that use chemical changes to turn dead plant material into energy, which may be useful to other forms of life. There are hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms and thousands of different types of toadstools. Each kind contains materials that allow these plants to clean up anything that might be on the floor of the forest.

Not only do mushrooms and toadstools clean up the forest floor, but they also supply humans and animals with a variety of useful materials. Humans can eat many forms of mushrooms, and animals can eat some varieties that humans cannot. We use mushrooms and toadstools to make dye, detergents, bug killers, and medicines for humans and animals.

Everything in the creation has a purpose, but sometimes we are ignorant of the uses and benefits of things like mushrooms. God has designed not only the beautiful things we see, but also the beautiful things we don’t see, but which are essential to our existence. Mushrooms are fungi, and we often think of a fungus as something negative and bad. However, mushrooms, God’s waste processors, play a positive role in support of our life on this planet.

We have a children’s book titled The Friendly Fungus Among Us by Charlsy Ford and John Clayton. You can read it online HERE or purchase it HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs

Wolf Spiders are One of God's Dandy DesignsThose of us who live in the United States Midwest are familiar with a very large spider species that we see frequently see in our sheds and outdoor equipment. These spiders have a creamy or golden cast with stripes on their heads and brown, gray, and black markings. Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs.

Wolf spiders have stout bodies covered with sensory hairs. They can run very quickly, and they don’t spin webs. Wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row has four small eyes, the second row has two large forward-facing eyes, and the top eyes are toward the back and side of the head.

After mating, female wolf spiders place their eggs in a silken sac. They attach the pouch to their bodies and carry them around until they are ready to hatch. When they hatch, the mother assists them by carrying them on her back. She can carry up to 100 spiderlings until they are prepared to function on their own. Sometimes the females will step into a water source and allow the babies to crawl down and get a drink and then crawl back up for safety.

Wolf spiders are agents designed to keep a balance in nature. Their diet consists of ants, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects that pose a threat to humans and our crops. They can bite a human, but while the bite is uncomfortable, it is never lethal. Wolf spiders are one of God’s Dandy Designs to keep things in balance and prevent our crops from being ruined by insects. Eradicating spiders is not a good idea, and wolf spiders are one of the best friends we have.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from the Herald Bulletin by Sheryl Myers October 29, 2019.

Rossby Waves and Earth’s Climate

Rossby Waves and Earth's ClimateWe have previously discussed the movement of air around the Earth, and the circulation pattern called the Hadley cells. Another important factor in Earth’s climate is Rossby waves.

Because the equator is hot, heated air rises and moves away from the equator, dropping its moisture as it cools. At about 30 degrees latitude, the now dry air falls back to the Earth, producing deserts. As the air reaches Earth’s surface, it moves north and south, creating the trade winds in the subtropical area and the prevailing mid-latitude winds in latitudes between 30 degrees and the polar regions.

A wide range of things alters this simplified picture. When greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide accumulate, they reflect infrared radiation causing the Earth’s atmosphere to become hotter. This effect isn’t uniform, however. Because of melting sea ice, Earth’s poles are affected by greenhouse gases more than the area of the equator. This causes a thermal imbalance between the poles and the equator affecting circulation around the poles and creating Rossby waves.

As the thermal imbalance has become greater and the air more wobbly in recent years, that affects the jet stream. The wobbles this past year have caused the northern jet stream to go further south than usual, bringing cold into Arizona in late spring. When the jet stream swung north, it brought hot tropical air toward the poles. On its way north, it brought unusual amounts of water into Oklahoma while Anchorage, Alaska, got temperatures over 90 degrees for the first time ever. Rossby waves is the name applied to the meandering high-altitude winds that have a major influence on Earth’s weather.

All of this shows us how fragile Earth’s climate is. Weather patterns depend on a wide range of variables which include the:
*size of the Earth’s atmosphere
*tilt of the Earth
*distribution of land compared to water
*chemical makeup of the atmosphere
*kind of radiation coming from the Sun and how that radiation is absorbed and reflected
*nature of Earth’s surface (whether ice or black dirt)
All of those factors go into making Earth a habitable planet.

We exist on this planet because of the precision design and construction of Earth and its atmosphere. The fact that it has stayed stable long enough for human life to exist for thousands and thousands of years is a testimony to the careful design and construction. Proverbs 8 finds “wisdom” speaking about its role in the creation process. Wisdom says she was there before the creation (verse 22-23) and that wisdom was a part of the preparation of the heavens (verse 26-28).

As we see the results of the small changes that have happened to the atmosphere in the past 100 years and the instability of Rossby waves, we wonder at Earth’s design and the wisdom of God who created it.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy, December, 2019, page 64.

What the Mercury Transit Tells Us

What the Mercury Transit Tells UsAbove is a photo of the Sun. If you look closely, you will see a small dot in the upper half near the right side. That is the planet Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. Mercury made what astronomers call a “transit” of the Sun on Monday morning, November 11, 2019. In our area of the country, the sky was overcast, and it was snowing. However, Bill Ingalls of NASA took this photograph from his location in Arlington, Virginia. I find it interesting to consider what the Mercury Transit tells us.

What’s so special about Mercury passing in front of the Sun? For one thing, it doesn’t happen very often. Although the last time was only three years ago, the next time will be in 2032, but it won’t be visible from North America. The next Mercury transit visible in North America will be in 2049. Since Mercury is closer to the Sun, it passes between the Sun and us every 116 days. However, most of the time, it is either above or below the Sun from our view, and Earth’s atmosphere makes it invisible in the daylight.

Scientists used precision telescopes and equipment to study the transit. They can learn more about the atmosphere of Mercury as it is silhouetted against the Sun. Historically Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) watched a transit of Mercury and realized that it could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It occurred to him that a transiting planet would appear in different positions to viewers in different locations on Earth. Measuring the apparent shift between two distant Earth locations at the same time and applying a little math, one could calculate the distance to the Sun. In 1769, after Halley’s death, astronomers used a transit of Venus to calculate the Earth-Sun distance.

Think about what the Mercury transit tells us without even seeing it? Because of the fact that astronomers can know in advance the exact date and time of a transit of Mercury (or Venus), or a solar eclipse (when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun) we realize that the solar system is orderly. We can study the heavens and learn of the Creator. We can see His wisdom and design of our planet and the solar system in which it exists. We can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1:20) as the heavens declare His glory (Psalms 19:1).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Care and Maintenance of Pets

Care and Maintenance of PetsI am totally in awe of how much pets mean to people and how much they do for their owners. As people become more and more aware of the need to take care of planet Earth, they realize the environmental impact of the care and maintenance of pets.

When God created life on this planet, He built balance into all life. There were natural limits to the population of animals. There was a healthy relationship between prey and predator. Then humans killed off certain predators and transported animals to new areas where they had no predators. They sometimes adopted wild animals as pets and later released them or allowed them to escape into the wild. Those actions upset the balance, and today we are paying the price for that disturbance.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service tells us that cats, many of them feral, kill billions of birds every year. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that wild and free-roaming dogs are a threat to the survival of almost 200 species around the world. Sometimes people obtain a cute baby crocodilian for a pet, and when it grows too large, they release it into the wild where it can become a danger to other animals or people. The Florida Everglades has a problem with Burmese pythons, which people released when they became too large for pets.

We have a great responsibility for control of the animals that God has given us to oversee. God said, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the face of the earth” (Genesis 1:28). That doesn’t mean to destroy them. It means to take care of them and work to produce proper management of their lives. The selfishness and greed of humans harm the planet on several levels, including puppy mills and the neglect of animals in our control. The care and maintenance of pets is an area where we need to do better.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Race and Skin Color

Race and Skin ColorWhy do humans have different races and skin colors? If we all came from “Mother Eve,” should we not all be the same color? In the past, some people suggested that people of other races were not really human, and they used that argument to justify everything from slavery to infanticide. What is the truth about race and skin color?

It is interesting scientifically that only humans have mostly naked skin and along with that, different colors of skin. Other animals have hair and mostly light-colored skin. As science has told us more about skin color and confirmed that we all came from common ancestors, we find clues about race and skin color and how we should treat one another.

The most fundamental reason for skin color differences is the fact that humans live at different latitudes. It is quite evident that human populations that have lived near the equator for many generations tend to have darker skin. As one moves from equatorial Africa toward the north, there is a constant change in skin color. By the time you get to northern Scandinavia, you have very light-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes. People living near the equator have black skin, black eyes, and black hair.

It’s easy to understand why. Take two tin cans and paint one black and the other white. Fill them with boiling water and measure their temperature five minutes later. Dark colors radiate heat faster than light ones, so the darker can will be cooler than the white one. In equatorial Africa, the problems of heat release are very significant, because our brain cannot be allowed to overheat.

Another factor is ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause many changes in living tissue, including cancer. Human skin produces a substance known as melanin for protection. Melanin, God’s sunscreen, is a large organic molecule which both physically and chemically reduces the effects of UV radiation. Melanin absorbs UV rays causing them to lose energy. It also neutralizes harmful chemicals called free radicals that form in the skin after damage from UV radiation.

Dark skin absorbs a high percentage of UV light. It is essential, however, not to lose all the UV. Another thing that UV light does is to allow the body to produce vitamin D. Farther from the equator, the amount of UV is less, so dark-skinned people may not get enough UV light to make vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, so lighter skin is better at latitudes away from the equator.

As humans have migrated all over the globe, their ability to produce nutrients like vitamin D has been reduced in some groups. The Inuit people in Alaska don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, but they eat fish, which is very high in vitamin D. Their diet compensates for the low UV exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin, the complex biochemical system that produces vitamin D, and the ability of the body to protect itself against overheating and nutritional problems all speak well of the wisdom and design of our bodies.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Instead of allowing race and skin color to divide and cause hostility between us, we should celebrate God’s wisdom and design. They show that we have a universal Creator who designed and equipped us marvelously to live on a planet that has varied conditions and environments.
— John N. Clayton © 2019