Importance of Ice in Earth’s Design

Importance of Ice in Earth's Design - Snow on Mountains

In a recent discussion about global warming, a man said to me that we would be better of if we could get rid of all the ice on Earth. I’m sure some of that sentiment came because we were in the midst of an ice storm. We get lots of snow in Michigan, but when the temperature is zero degrees outside, we don’t see freezing rain, just snow. Another member of the discussion pointed out the need for ice so he could do his favorite sport of ice fishing. In truth, the importance of ice is more than just ice-fishing or winter sports.

The design of the water molecule allows us to have ice, and without it, planet Earth would be in serious trouble. The water molecule is polar, meaning that it has a positive end and a negative end. When water freezes, the positive end of one molecule attaches to the negative end of another molecule. If the temperature is low enough, we have a rigid form of water we call ice.

Many people don’t realize the importance of ice. It is a major design feature of Earth and its ecosystems. Ice has a lower density than liquid water, which allows lakes to freeze from the top. That provides winter protection for all the life that lives in water environments. Marine and freshwater life-forms of both animals and plants could not exist if it were not for the design of the water molecule and the formation of ice.

Ice is also a significant controller of the water cycle on Earth. Job 37:6 indicates that snow is a conscious creation of God. Job 38:22 speaks of the “treasures of the snow” which God says He has “reserved against a time of trouble.” People living in the western United States can tell you of the importance of snow and ice, which locks up water in the winter so that it is available during the heat of the summer. If all the ice on planet Earth melted, what would happen to the sea level? There are debates about how much the oceans would rise, but there is no question but that the state of Florida would be submerged.

Ice in the form of snow cleans our air. It provides insulation in very cold places allowing mammals to survive underground during the winter months. We should not underestimate the importance of ice because it is truly a treasure in whatever form it comes. We must do what we can to maintain the water cycle and the balance that God built into the design of planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Drake Equation and Planet Civilizations

Drake Equation author Frank Drake

In the long history of looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos, one of the exciting discoveries has been learning the things a planet needs to support life. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is called the Drake Equation. He was looking for a way to calculate the number of inhabited planets in our galaxy with which communication might be possible. Drake’s equation lists seven parameters that would determine the answer to that question. They are:

1) The rate of formation of stars in our galaxy.

2) The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

3) The number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life.

4) The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

5) The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

6) The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

7) The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If you knew each of these probabilities, you could calculate how many planets in our galaxy might be inhabited by intelligent beings with whom we could communicate. Drake gave each of these parameters a number or probability, but they were wild guesses. Once you have the numbers, all you need to do is multiply each of these variables by each other.

Let me explain. What are the odds of drawing the ace of spaces from a card deck twice in a row back to back? The odds of drawing one ace of spades out of a full deck is 1 out of 52 since there are 52 cards in a deck. To calculate the odds of doing that twice in a row would be 1 out of 52 times one out of 52. You multiply the individual probabilities, so the total probability would be one out of 2704. If you knew the likelihood of each parameter in the Drake equation, multiplying them together would give you the theoretical odds that we could receive radio communication from intelligent life on another planet in our galaxy.

Going back to the card analogy, if you drew one time out of a deck of 52 cards, the odds would be one out of 52. If you drew the ace of spades 52 times in a row, the number would be astronomical since you would multiply the result 52 times! The problem with the Drake equation is that the parameters are unknown and are probably unknowable.

There are also variables that the Drake equation didn’t include, such as the type of star. For example, a supermassive star will have a very short life expectancy. Researchers at Rice University reported in January of 2020 that many stars have extended magnetic fields which overlap the Goldilocks zones of most exoplanets. (As we have explained before, we say that a planet is in the Goldilocks zone when it can contain water in the liquid state). These strong magnetic fields will strip away any atmosphere the planet might have. Our Sun has a magnetic field, but it is not strong enough to strip electrons from atoms and molecules in the Goldilocks zone where Earth is located.

More variables regularly show up, and they tell us that our solar system and Sun have been carefully designed and formatted so that we can exist. Psalms 1:19 continues to take on new meaning with every discovery we make in space. “The heavens (do) declare the glory of God, and the firmament (does) show His handiwork.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine March 2020, page 9.

Frank Drake was involved in the founding of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which we have discussed previously HERE and HERE and HERE.

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

As we have explained before, scientists understand that a vast percentage of the matter in the creation is something they call dark matter. The simplest way to understand dark matter is to realize that when something is spinning around a core, there must be a force to keep the spinning mass from flying away because of centrifugal force. The dark matter mystery is the unknown quantity preventing spiral galaxies like the Milky Way from flying apart.

If you spin a child around so fast that their feet come off the ground, you must hold their hands tightly. If you let go, they would fly off away from you. Stars going around the center of a galaxy also have to be held by some force. The stars move so quickly that no known force could keep them where they are. That means there is a gravitational force we can’t see holding the stars in their position. We refer to the mass that exerts that gravitational force as dark matter.

Astrophysicist Peter van Dokkum of Yale University has announced the discovery of a galaxy known as DF2, which has stars and star clusters moving at a very slow pace around the core of the galaxy. In all other galaxies having stars at the same distance as stars in DF2, the stars are moving three times as fast as the stars in DF2. That can only mean that there is less dark matter in DF2.

This discovery increases the dark matter mystery because it appears that dark matter is not constant in the cosmos. The amount of dark matter in a galaxy depends on what is needed to keep everything moving at a speed that produces stability in the galactic system. There is a great deal of debate about this discovery, but it appears that the design of galaxies has a new variable that is critical to their existence. That critical factor is how much dark matter has been supplied to keep the system stable. God has tools affecting the creation that we are just beginning to understand. The role of dark matter is only one of those.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine, March 2020 page 45-51.

Greatest Computer Ever Made

Greatest Computer Ever Made

What would the business world pay for the greatest computer ever made? It’s a computer that can absorb, store, and retrieve one billion gigabytes of data and has 125,000,000,000,000,000 units of memory (1.25e for our computer jocks). It can run on 1/500,000th of the energy required to run the most energy-efficient laptop computers and weighs less than three pounds. In reality, you are the proud possessor of such a computer. It’s your brain.

The computer in your head controls all of the organs in our body, the skeletal and muscular systems, and the central nervous system with its 90,000 miles (145,000 km) of nerve connections. The computer in your head is divided into two sections with the left brain and right brain doing different things. They are joined by a membrane called the corpus callosum, which separates the two halves of the brain and yet allows them to interact with one another. If the corpus callosum is severed, you essentially have two individuals produced, and they can still function.

We all know that many things can mess up our home computers. Spilling a foreign liquid on them, applying the wrong voltage and current, overheating them, having some outside person hack into them, or physically changing them by adding or removing parts can all cause terrible consequences. In the same way, our brains can be damaged by the same disrupters. Pollution, foreign liquids, alien chemicals, or outside physical damage can cause terrible consequences to the human brain. The result can be physical problems, mental problems, and emotional difficulties.

In spite of all that, we are amazed by discoveries of how the brain works, what it can do, and how we can help it. When we look at our smartphones, tablets, and computers, we are amazed at their design and complexity. We marvel at the intelligent minds that created them. The computer in our head was also designed by an Intelligence far beyond that of any human engineer. Indeed we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). We all possess the greatest computer ever made. Let us use it wisely, protect it, and allow it to tell us of the wisdom of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Value of a Whale

Value of a Whale - Humpback Breaching

Many years ago, an atheist challenged my statement that everything in the creation had a designed purpose and filled a need. My atheist friend insisted that the whale is one example of a poorly designed creature with no purpose. He said that they eat massive amounts of the ocean’s food that could be eaten by other, more useful creatures. He also challenged that they contribute nothing to the ecology of the oceans. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to why whales are useful. Whale oil seemed to me to be a weak answer. Since then, I have learned the value of a whale.

One of the things I love about science is that it continues to look for understandings of the world in which we live. New studies of whales have revealed some facts that show the whale is incredibly useful. The current winter edition of Defenders of Wildlife magazine reports data on the value of a whale.

Whales live a long time, and they accumulate carbon in their bodies. When the whale dies, it takes that carbon to the ocean bottom, removing it from the atmosphere. New research shows that each whale takes 33 tons (30 metric tons) of carbon out of the atmosphere. By comparison, a tree absorbs 48 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide a year. In 60 years, which is the lifespan of most whales, a tree would remove one ton of carbon from the air. Whales play a role in removing the greenhouse gas that people are concerned about today.

In a whale’s lifetime, it will bring minerals to the ocean surface to stimulate phytoplankton growth. This plankton contributes more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 37 billion tons (33.5 metric tons) of carbon dioxide a year. Phytoplankton also sustains many fish species, and today, fishing is a 150 billion dollar industry.

So what is the value of a whale? Defenders of Wildlife maintains that each whale is worth more than two million dollars. God has a purpose for everything He created, but sometimes it takes us a long time to understand how His creatures help us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Stars and Habitable Zones

Stars and Habitable Zones - NASA

The more scientists study Earth and other objects that surround us in space, the more variables we realize must be carefully controlled for life to exist. Many times before, in our posts, our videos, our books, and our printed quarterly, we have discussed the growing list of parameters that must be carefully chosen. NASA posted a graphic of different kinds of stars in the cosmos and whether they could support life. This picture of stars and habitable zones adds to our understanding of the unique qualities of our Sun.

Water is essential for life. Science defines life as having properties such as moving, breathing, eating, reproducing, and responding to outside stimuli. We don’t discuss “rock people” or “gas people” because they don’t fit that definition. For that reason, scientists are interested in stars and habitable zones–the just-right “Goldilocks zone” surrounding a star where water can exist as a liquid.

In their daily posting on apod.nasa.gov for January 31, 2020, NASA gives the distribution of Goldilocks zones for G spectral stars like our Sun, which are yellow, K dwarf stars, which are orange, and M stars, which are red. The other spectral groupings, such as blue stars, are not considered because of their high radiation levels and activity, which would make life impossible.

The most common type of star in our galaxy, making up 73% of all stars in the Milky Way, are M stars. These red stars have very active magnetic fields and massive radiation. Their Goldilocks zone would be minimal and very close to the star. Orange K stars make up 13% of the stars in the Milky Way. They have a modest Goldilocks zone but are fairly active with some radiation levels. Yellow G type stars like our Sun, make up only 6% of the stars in the Milky Way. These stars have very large Goldilocks zones, and they are very quiet compared to K stars.

As we consider stars and habitable zones, we must realize that the type of star is just the beginning of the variables necessary for a star system to support life. Other critical factors include the size of the star, the location of the planet relative to the star, and the shielding a planet has for protection from the radiation of the star. Also, the stability of the star’s location in the Milky Way is another factor that goes into a life-supporting planetary system.

Our existence is not a product of chance. The more we learn about the Earth, the Sun, and the stars and habitable zones within the Milky Way, the more we understand that the statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” is a massive understatement of what God did to make a place for us to exist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why We Need Tears

Why We Need Tears

The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways turn out to be incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. Most of us don’t realize why we need tears and that we have three different kinds.

Basal tears lubricate our eyes. They are generated in the lacrimal gland, which sits just above the eye and just under the eyebrow. The word “lacrimal” comes from the Latin word for tear, which is “lacrima.”

Reflex tears form in response to irritants. You are most familiar with them when you cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt. These tears have a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes that are not present in basal tears.

Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, which is a natural pain killer released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better. Crying also may generate social support, depending on the situation.

Interestingly, babies don’t produce tears until they are seven or eight months old. The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year. It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves so many different purposes. It is easy to see why we need tears.

The more I learn about God’s design of my body, the more I appreciate the statement of David: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Reader’s Digest, February 2020, page 34-36.

Proton Starting Point

Proton Starting Point

Yesterday we gave a brief and simplified discussion of the electron, a particle which was speculated before the birth of Christ and discovered in 1897. The other fundamental particle in the cosmos is the proton. The date of discovery of the proton is 1919, and Ernest Rutherford gave the proton its name in 1920. Proton is the Greek word for first, and that name describes the fact that when it comes to understanding the elements in the creation, we begin with a proton starting point.

Along with neutrons, protons are called nucleons because they are present in the nucleus of the atom. Hydrogen contains one proton, and science believes it is the starting point for all of the chemical elements. The proton has a rest mass of 1.6726219 x 10-27 Kgs, which is about 1836 times the mass of an electron. Protons are incredibly stable and carry a positive charge. By contrast, neutrons will decay, producing a proton and an electron (beta particle).

In the periodic chart, the atomic number of each element is the number of protons in the nucleus. Neutrons also exist in the nucleus, but it is the proton that determines what the element is. In the laboratory, we can produce heavier elements by fusing protons, which are essentially naked hydrogen atoms. Scientists believe that the heavier elements in the creation have been produced in the cores of giant stars using a proton starting point.

Science is now dissecting the proton to understand how it was created. We have learned that particles called quarks are the building blocks of protons. Two up quarks and a down quark make up the proton. We are beginning to understand electrical charges, but how a positive charge is produced is still under study.

The message of the proton and electron is the amazing complexity of creating the stuff of which everything is made. Everywhere we look, we see a wonder working-hand has gone before. It has taken science many centuries to begin to understand the basics of the beginning of creation. For most of us, all we need to know is, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” There may have been a proton starting point for the beginning of the chemistry of the physical world, but it is evident that much took place to produce that beginning.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Electrons Affect Our Lives

Electrons Affect Our Lives

Everyone has heard of something called an electron. As a science teacher, it always interested me to see how little my students understood about what electrons are, what they do, and how electrons affect our lives.

The story of the electron started early in human history when the ancient Greeks found that if they rubbed fur on amber, the amber attracted things. It wasn’t until the 1800s that people began to understand the electron as we know it today. It was only in 1897 that J.J. Thompson discovered the particle itself.

The design of the electron is amazing. Science is just beginning to understand what charge is, but it is easy to show that there are two kinds of charges. They are negative and positive, and when they are combined, they neutralize each other. The electron carries a negative charge. (The proton has a positive charge and has about 1836 times the mass of an electron, but we will look at protons tomorrow.)

The electron has spin properties and behaves like a tiny magnet due to the spin. In atoms, electrons are paired so that the north pole of one electron is matched with the south pole of another electron. This allows the reactions we know about in chemistry. When an electron is accelerated, it radiates or absorbs energy, depending on whether it is speeding up or slowing down. These factors are the basis of much of our modern world of technology and are the reason electrons affect our lives so much today.

Beta particles can be released in nuclear reactions. Beta particles can be either electrons or antielectrons known as positrons. If an electron beta particle collides with a positive antielectron beta particle, they annihilate each other. The result produces gamma rays – a high energy form of light.

Science is still trying to understand how these particles are created. We are beginning to understand what causes charge, but the answer to the origin questions is what the field of quantum mechanics is about. The normal laws of the physical world have to be discarded, and new rules understood to investigate the tiny world of nuclear physics. It is an exciting time to be alive as science opens up new horizons, and electrons affect our lives in new ways.

All of this reminds us of the intelligence and creative genius of God. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Heavy Element Mystery

Heavy Element Mystery - Gold

One of the most interesting questions about creation is how elements are produced. Simply saying that “God did it” is not the answer. The question we are asking is HOW God did it. A particular challenge to science has been the heavy element mystery.

We understand and can duplicate the production of light elements by the process of nuclear fusion. Hydrogen nuclei can be fused to produce helium, and we see this process as it takes place in the Sun. We can duplicate the process in the hydrogen bomb. As we study the stars, we see other elements produced in stellar processes. When supernova 1987A exploded, scientists saw neon being produced, which is far beyond anything we can do. In theory, the first 26 elements in the periodic chart could be produced by what we see happening in stars.

The heavy element mystery is how elements heavier than iron are produced. For example, how do you make gold? The old alchemists tried in vain to make it by reactions in the laboratory, but we have not seen it being produced even in supernovas. The number of protons present in gold is over three times the number of protons in iron. The amount of energy required to make an atom of gold by nuclear fusion is beyond our comprehension.

In 2017, scientists observed two neutron stars colliding and producing elements heavier than iron. But what would it take to produce uranium with 92 protons and a weight 238 times heavier than hydrogen? That remains a real heavy element mystery. We are not suggesting a “god of the gaps” explanation. In the distant future, science may find an answer, but what it testifies to is the incredible power we see in the cosmos and the design that allows us to have the gold, silver, platinum, and radioactive materials we use.

The heavy element mystery reminds us of how puny and small we are in the context of creation. We have an even better understanding of our insignificance than did the author of Psalms 8:3-4 who wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Click THIS LINK to read a Science News report on a current theory scientists have about the origin of gold.