NASA posted this picture on apod.nasa.gov on April 8, 2019. Yang Suite took the photo in northern Norway of a phenomenon that lasted about 30 minutes. Witnesses said that colorful clouds, dots, and plumes suddenly appeared. Can you imagine what would have happened if the sky over Washington D.C. had been filled with what you see in this picture? Are they space aliens?
In this case, the picture is of a NASA-funded project called Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE). Gas tracers were dispersed from two short-lived rockets into the ionosphere at altitudes of 70 to 150 miles (112-240 km). The goal was to measure how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers auroras. Science still has much to learn about the design of the solar system and how something like an aurora takes place. So are they space aliens? No, and anytime we can see something that we don’t understand, we should seek to understand it and recognize the design and intelligence that is involved. The more we know of the creation, the closer we can get to the Creator.
I have a bicycle wheel that I use to demonstrate circular motion and forces to my physics students. Some of the forces that we can demonstrate seem to contradict common sense, but they are physical forces that make life possible.
The wheel has a handle on both sides. If you spin it rapidly and put one handle in the crotch of your hand between your thumb and first finger, you can completely let go of the other handle, and the wheel will stay in place, seemingly defying gravity. As the wheel slows down, it begins to wobble, and the slower it goes, the more rapid its turning motion is. This is called precession, and it applies to all spinning objects.
Several years ago when I was teaching this unit in my physics class, I did this demonstration. My class skeptic, who tried to make sure I knew he wasn’t impressed with anything I did, said: “OK – big deal, how does that mean anything to me?” My reply was that he wouldn’t exist if the universe had not been designed with these laws in place creating the physical forces that make life possible.
We live on a globe spinning at roughly 1000 miles per hour. The globe itself is revolving around the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour in a solar system that is orbiting the core of our Milky Way galaxy at 515,000 miles per hour. Each of those motions involves forces that make life possible. We would not have weather moving heat and moisture around the globe without the rapid spinning. The Earth would collapse into the Sun if we weren’t traveling at such an enormous speed. The solar system would collapse into the core of the galaxy and be absorbed by the black hole that holds our system together if we weren’t moving fast enough to avoid such a thing happening.
We understand these fundamental laws of physics, but our observations tell us that the picture we have painted here is oversimplified. Stars on the outer edges of the galaxy are circling at roughly the same speed as stars near the core, and that should not be happening. We know that there must be dark matter filling in for the lapses in speed that we measure. Either that or the darkness is simply in our understanding.
The reality of the motions and physical forces that make life possible on Earth are there for us to examine. However, the implications of what we see defy our imagination and speak of the reality of the God who designed and created it all.
The big news in environmental concerns for the past ten years has been the apparent rise in the average temperature of planet Earth. The planet has had more dramatic global warming and cooling in the past, but the magnitude of warming today has to be alarming to any thinking person who takes the time to look at the data. It seems likely that human contributions to global warming could be substantial, but the extent of human influence is still being debated. In any case, it seems wise to work toward minimizing what we do contribute. Research proves a relationship between trees, carbon dioxide, and global warming. The Creator has given us a cheap, effective, permanent solution to controlling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The answer lies in the trees that God gave us from the beginning. Here is some information about how trees can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as presented in Scientific American, April 2019 page 7:
One tree can store an average of 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year.
If agroforestry were practiced, 9.28 gigatons of carbon dioxide would be sequestered by 2050. (Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland.) Trees increase farm productivity and give farmers revenue through fruits, nuts, and timber while storing carbon dioxide.
Landscape restoration would sequester 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year.
There is a direct relationship between trees, carbon dioxide, and global warming. The bottom line is that keeping forests intact can go a long way toward saving the planet, and that just means taking care of what God gave us in the beginning.
Imagine an animal that can survive without water, can withstand 300-degree temperatures, can live without oxygen, can survive the vacuum of space, can survive almost any amount and kind of radiation, and can hibernate for decades. This is not science fiction; it is an animal phylum known as tardigrades, often called “water bears.” There are as many as 1,200 species of tardigrades, and they live all over the Earth.
In 2007 scientists put two species of tardigrades in containers and launched them into orbit and opened them up to cold, airless space with no protection from the punishing radiation of the Sun and stars. When they returned the tardigrades to Earth, they were alive, and they are still producing offspring that are also alive and reproducing.
These animals are microscopic, about half a millimeter long when fully grown. Under a microscope, they look like a combination of a chubby bear and a single-eyed alien. They have legs but no circulatory system or skeleton. In extreme environmental conditions, they curl up and enter a survival mode called cryptobiosis. When conditions improve, they revive and resume their normal life processes. They eat algae and aquatic plants.
Scientists have studied the tardigrade genome and found ways to improve crop survival in bad weather. The United States government has allotted five million dollars to scientists attempting to find ways to protect vaccines and human blood using what they learn from the genome of tardigrades. Other uses include preserving organs for transplant and producing a sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet rays as well as reducing radiation damage in cancer treatment methods.
The development of life on Earth has not been a hit-or-miss process. As science looks at smaller and smaller things that our technology allows us to see, we realize that there is a whole world of carefully designed microscopic plants and animals that form the base of the animals we CAN see. Every time we look into the world around us, we see that a wonder-working hand guided by an intelligence far beyond our own has gone before and provided for our well-being. Thanks to technology, we realize that now more than ever before.
Law enforcement officers use tasers to incapacitate offenders. A taser delivers an electric shock causing the victim’s muscles to freeze, but there is rarely any permanent damage. In the natural world, there are electric eels that use what we might call God’s taser.
Police tasers shoot two darts charged with opposite polarity producing an electric shock to stun the suspect. Electric eels emit pulses of electricity which disable the prey. The eel’s head has a positive charge, and the tail has a negative charge. The eel curls its tail around the victim and generates an electric field. The closer the tail gets to the head of the eel, the stronger the field becomes. The prey’s muscles are frozen so it cannot escape.
Electric eels also use their charge capacity to find prey. If the eel swims close to a weed bed or something else where prey is hiding, its electric field will create an effect that reveals the hiding place. The eel’s electric field will not stun the prey, but it will cause the prey’s nervous system to fire making it twitch and reveal itself.
The eel can also use its electric capacity as a defense mechanism. When an intruder approaches, the eel will rise out of the water clamping onto the intruder with its mouth. The eel’s positive head will be clamped on to the intruder, and the electricity will go through the intruder and back to the water where the negative tail is. This delivers a nasty shock of nearly one ampere – far higher than the shock of the man-made taser.
Researchers believe these eels use electric fields to track and navigate both their paths and the paths of their prey. How this works is not well understood. Science still has much to learn about electric eels.
One important point to keep in mind as we study the natural world is that maintaining balance in any ecosystem is critical. If plant eaters get too numerous, they will eat all the plants and the plant eaters all die. Predators keep the number of plant eaters in check. Animals like the electric eel are critical to maintaining the balance needed for long-term survival of all life on Earth. God has built some very sophisticated animals, and the complexity of electric eels and their use of electricity speaks of wisdom and design, not blind chance.
The mouth is one of the more dangerous parts of the human body regarding what comes out, what goes in, and what lives there. It is also the home of our dangerous tongues.
Fungi, micro-organisms, and viruses continuously come in with every bite of food and even just from breathing. In spite of that, the tongue rarely gets infected, and when it does, it usually heals quickly. One reason is that the tongue secretes an antibiotic called “lingual antimicrobial peptide” (LAP). The production of LAP increases when an infection inflames an area. LAP is also present in other parts of the digestive system, but the tongue is a first line of defense against microbes.
God designed our bodies to survive in a world that has all kinds of things that could harm us. The tongue is only one small, but very important example of how design provides protection. What goes into our mouths has the potential to harm or nourish us, and we need to be aware of that. But we also need to be mindful that what comes out of our mouths can encourage or harm others. God intends that we should use our dangerous tongues in the right way.
James 3:9-12 tells us:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from the same spring?”
James also said in 3:6 and 8: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and it is set on fire by hell…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Our tongues are dangerous, not because God designed them that way. They are dangerous because of the way we use them. At a time when vile language and hatred comes out of the mouths of many people, we must control our dangerous tongues and use them for good.
Although space-travel movies are exciting and fun, they are not very realistic. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light. There is overwhelming proof that he was right. That fact has an impact on the reality of space travel.
Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross wrote an excellent book entitled Why the Universe is the Way It Is. In this book, he states that due to the laws of physics the top speed of a spaceship would be limited to about one percent of the speed of light, or 6.7 million miles (10.8 million km) per hour. Based on that, he says that for aliens to travel from any other planetary system where intelligent beings could possibly exist would take at least 25,000 years! (Remember that it will take nine months just to travel to Mars, our neighboring planet.)
So when you watch a two-hour movie in which people travel from one planetary system to another at hyper-light-speed, remember that it’s only Hollywood. The reality of space travel is not what we see in the movies. We live in a universe designed by a Creator who gave us a special place with everything we need to live. Is there any kind of life, not just intelligent life, anywhere else in this vast universe? We don’t know, but the chances of meeting intelligent beings from another planet are very, very slim. That’s the reality of space travel.
By the way, my picture is poking a little fun at a statement made by the well-known atheist biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. He begins chapter 1 by stating, “Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’”
So does discovering evolution indicate advanced civilization and the level of our intelligence? More importantly, does evolution explain the reason for our existence? Personally, I think the reason for our existence is not found in evolution, but begins in Genesis chapter 1 and is developed in the rest of the Bible.
Today, March 20, 2019, is a special day as the spring equinox arrives for the Northern Hemisphere. Today the Sun will set exactly in the west and tomorrow it will rise exactly in the east when observed from the Equator. The day will be exactly 12 hours long and night will be exactly 12 hours long. After today in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will be longer than the nights. Officially spring arrives today at 9:58 PM Greenwich Mean Time (5:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time where we live).
In reality, all of this is an exaggeration of the real situation.Don’t expect a balmy spring day if you live in Michigan (as we do) or other northern areas. Ice and snow have to melt, and the land has to warm up. Nevertheless, the equinox does remind us of Earth’s design and how many variables control our existence on this planet. What does happen on this day is that the Sun will be directly overhead at noon at the equator.
During the northern winter, Earth’s tilt has caused the Sun to be overhead south of the Equator. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the Sun’s location relative our planet will drift north until June. When the summer solstice occurs on June 21, the Sun will be overhead at 23 degrees north latitude. The more direct sunlight not only warms the Northern Hemisphere, but it avoids overheating the Southern Hemisphere.
If Earth did not have a 23-degree axis tilt, the Sun would beat down on the equator from directly overhead all year long. The Equator would become so hot that nothing could live there. The northern and southern latitudes would both freeze. Wind belts created by air rising violently at the equator would be hurricane force 24/7. We see that happening on planets in the solar system that do not have an axis tilt.
Ancient people knew that the position of the Sun changes throughout the year. They used elaborate but primitive observatories to determine the time to plant and harvest based on the Sun’s position. Unfortunately, this led many cultures to worship the Sun. Nowhere does the Bible encourage or condone the worship of any celestial bodies. The Bible recognizes the seasons and the role of the Sun as designed by God for human existence. (See Genesis 1:14-15).
The ancient psalmist David said it (Psalms 8:4) and the writer of Hebrews quoted it (Hebrews 2:6), “What is man that you keep him in mind or the son of man that you look after him?” The equinox is a good time to be reminded of God’s provisions for us and thankfully worship the Creator, not the creation.
Yesterday we mentioned that the Sun was at the exact angle to illuminate the Moon’s Jura Mountain Range. The effect is sometimes called the Golden Handle of the Moon because it resembles a small handle on the side. Since the sky was clear here in southwest Michigan last night, I took a picture of it. The tiny “handle” that you see is a semi-circular ridge surrounding a flat plain called the Sinus Iridium (Latin for the Bay of Rainbows). Sinus Iridium is actually an impact crater which has filled with lava, and the “mountains” that the Sun is illuminating is the edge of the crater.
In the NASA photo, you can see wave ripples on the surface as the lava flowed into the basin of the crater and hardened.
On our Does God Exist? educational tours of the Canyonlands we always visit Meteor Crater in Arizona. It is perhaps the best-preserved impact crater on Earth. At three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) across, it is awe-inspiring to see. By comparison, the Sinus Iridium crater is 150 miles (240 km) across. You can also see several smaller impact craters that were formed after the lava flow.
As you examine the surface of the Moon, you will see that it is covered with impact craters caused by meteor and asteroid collisions. Earth has been bombarded with asteroids in the past. There is evidence of a large (93 mile, 150 km) impact crater called the Chicxulub Crater near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula.
Since Earth is a bigger target for impacts, why is Earth’s surface not pockmarked with craters like the Moon’ surface? Scientists have found evidence of about 190 impact craters on Earth. Most of them were early in Earth’s history, and erosion, plate tectonics, and other forces have hidden them from view. More importantly, we are protected from many of the impacts by our atmosphere. The heat from friction as a meteor enters the atmosphere at high speeds usually, but not always, causes them to burn up before they touch the ground. The more we see of God’s creation, the more we see His wisdom and power.
You can read more about impact craters and their effect on life on planet Earth in our previous posts by using these links. METEOR CRATER (also called the Barringer Crater) and the CHICXULUB CRATER. You can read about a Martian Meteorite HERE.
If the sky is clear tonight (March 16, 2019), you will have an opportunity to observe an interesting phenomenon known as the Moon’s Golden Handle.
The Sun’s light will strike a mountainous area of the Moon at a shallow angle. The Moon will be in what is known as the waxing gibbous phase. Waxing means that more of it is becoming visible as sunlight increasingly illuminates the surface. Gibbous means that it is not yet a full moon, but it is more than a half moon. At this exact angle, the sunlight will illuminate the Jura Mountain Range, and the mountains will appear as an arc on the upper left side of the Moon’s visible surface. The arc resembles a tiny handle on the side of the Moon, so it has been called the Moon’s Golden Handle.
Galileo (1564-1642) observed this phenomenon as he looked through an early telescope. You can see it with a pair of binoculars. If you have a small telescope, you can get an even better view. The angle of the light gives a unique opportunity to get an idea of what the surface of the Moon is like. Not only does the Moon have mountains, but it has lava flows and numerous craters from bombardment by meteors.
The fact that we can predict when lunar eclipses will take place and when phases of the Moon will occur shows how much precision God has built into His creation of the cosmos. We know when the Moon’s Golden Handle will be visible because we can depend on that precision as we depend on God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).