Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity
Photo of the Suez Canal blocked by the giant ship taken from the International Space Station.
Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The Moon does many things that affect life on Earth. Sometimes its power can help in ways we never considered, such as opening the Suez Canal.

For a week, we saw news reports about a giant ship blocking that canal which carries much of the world’s shipping. The offending vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships, and it got stuck on the sand and turned sideways to block the entire channel. Tugboats and dredging vessels worked to dislodge it, but they were toy boats by comparison. You could think of a child with a toy shovel and sand bucket trying to free a beached whale and push it back into the ocean. I saw a news report with an “expert” saying it could take weeks to free the vessel.

Then, the Moon stepped in. The March full-moon arrived over the weekend and helped to free the ship. We have said before that the Moon does many things to support life on Earth. Its light helps nocturnal animals, and sometimes humans, to find their way. The Moon’s gravity stabilizes the Earth’s tilt which causes the seasons. The gravity also causes the tides that clean the ocean’s shores and estuaries. The tides and the moonlight play an essential role in the reproduction of sea turtles and many crustaceans. The tides even help to free stuck ships.

On March 29, the container ship Ever Given became dislodged, opening the Suez Canal. The 1,300 foot-long ((400 m) vessel would still be stuck if the Moon’s gravity had not raised the water level to lift it enough that the tug boats could move it. Tides are highest during the full-moon. At that time, the Sun and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Their gravity pulls on the water raising the tides. In this case, that force was enough to free a ship the size of the Empire State Building from being stuck in the mud and thus to open the Suez Canal.

One more thing about the Moon is that it has just the right size to allow us to have total solar eclipses, which benefit scientists in their study of the Sun. We never stop marveling at the powerful forces in God’s creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Reference: Space.com

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Our Milky Way galaxy is somewhat orderly, with the stars orbiting what appears to be a large mass at the center – probably a black hole. Simulations of galaxies shown on science programs present a consistent whirlpool of material, all spinning in the same direction and obeying the physical laws we teach in a high school physics class. But space is not orderly and simple.

Simple explanations don’t work with galaxies like M64, sometimes called “The Evil Eye Galaxy” or “The Black Eye Galaxy.” In that galaxy, stars and gas close to the core orbit in one direction, but those further out rotate around the core in the opposite direction. Astronomers believe that this behavior indicates two galaxies collided, producing the confusion, but why the systems are in the same plane doesn’t match that explanation well.

There are cases in our solar system where objects revolve in different directions, including the moons of Mars and some other planets. Uranus is tilted on its side, spinning perpendicular to the ecliptic. Space is not orderly and simple or as benign as science fiction might like to portray it. Each time science makes a discovery showing that space is not orderly and simple, we have to wonder at God’s creative nature. Did He put some of these things together to challenge our creative thinking?

The most exciting aspect of all this is the unique stability and beauty of our planet. On March 27, 2021, NASA released a report stating that new telescope observations show there is no chance of something in space colliding with Earth that would threaten our existence for at least the next 100 years. We should thank God for His marvelous creation and for the fact that He designed our planet for the long haul. Now, all we need to do is to take better care of it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

For more on M64 see the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for March 29, 2021.

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Yesterday, March 20, 2021, the Sun was directly over the equator, and that brought in the spring (vernal) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, it was the autumn equinox for those south of the equator. That means if you want to know what direction is due east, all you would need to do is watch the Sun come up, and due west was where the Sun went down. From now until June 20, the Sun will be moving farther north. We call that day the summer solstice. Where we live in the mid-Northern Hemisphere, the Sun will rise and set about 33 degrees north of due east and west on that day. Why do we need to have the Sun moving north and south in our sky anyway? Why can’t we have the equinox all year?

If the Sun continually stayed directly above the equator, life on Earth would be more difficult. Areas near the equator would be much too hot, and regions far from the equator would be much too cold. There would be two narrow “Goldilocks” areas in between that would be hospitable for life. Plants need a respite from the growing season to prepare for the next growth cycle. Animal life depends on the seasons for reproduction and growth. We would miss the beauty of the changing seasons. So having the equinox all year would not be a good idea. Then why does our planet have this variation in the direction of the Sun?

Earth’s axis tilts 23.5 degrees, and as our planet makes its annual journey around the Sun, the tilt varies toward or away from the Sun. At our summer solstice in June, the inclination is toward the Sun, and at the winter solstice, the axis tilts away from the Sun. That makes the Sun appear to move from 23.5 degrees north of the equator to 23.5 degrees south. At the equinox, for a moment, the Sun is precisely over the equator. The next question is, does this just happen to be a lucky accident?

Since this is just one more factor that makes Earth suitable for advanced life, how could we be so lucky? We have discussed before the many factors that must be just right for life to exist. This is one more, and we don’t think it’s an accident. We believe it’s another evidence of a wise Designer. God gave us seasons for a purpose (Genesis 1:14).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Changes in Earth’s Magnetic Field

Changes in Earth's Magnetic Field

People who promote the theory of evolution generally ignore historical events that would be Inconsistent with neo-Darwinism. Darwinism depends on an acceptance of uniformitarianism, the belief that no process has ever operated in the past that is not going on today. Previously, we have talked about past asteroid collisions with the Earth, which is an example of a process that isn’t shaping our planet and life on Earth today. Researchers in New Zealand have released a new study of changes in Earth’s magnetic field. That process, which radically altered the Earth some 42,000 years ago, is not a factor in understanding modern geologic processes.

In a magnetic reversal, changes in Earth’s magnetic field cause the north and south magnetic poles to switch. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have shown that this transition took nearly 800 years to complete, and during that time, the planet would have had no magnetic field.

The lack of a magnetic field would have been a major catastrophe which is not going on today. Our magnetic field acts as a shield against high-energy charged particles coming primarily from the Sun. Without that shield, there would have been severe environmental threats to life on Earth. Their study suggests that tropical rain belts shifted, glaciers stretched across North America, and a severe drought hit Australia. The effects of the increased radiation on living things would have a strong genetic impact.

The researchers suggest that humans living during Earth’s magnetic field changes would have to retreat to caves for shelter from the radiation and the harsh weather conditions caused by the magnetic reversal. Chris Turney, one of the authors of the study, said that any humans living at that time would have seen what was happening as “the end of days.”

The notion that Earth has been a quiet incubator for life over a very long time is inconsistent with the evidence. Losing our magnetic field would be the start of a domino effect of changes, all of which would harm life. Our magnetic field is slowly decreasing now, but this data, and other studies like it, suggest that magnetic reversals are prolonged events lasting 800 years.

The Bible makes it clear that catastrophic events are rare in Earth’s human history. Noah’s flood, the death and resurrection of Christ, and His second coming seem to be the most apparent biblical events that are catastrophic. Our planet’s stability is a part of God’s design, and without it, we would not be here. But history is punctuated with events on the Earth that are not uniformitarian such as changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Those changes have altered our planet to make it hospitable for human life. They also make it impossible to have a faith that says chance and time can account for all life we see on planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, March 12,202,1 page 21.

Seaweed Farming in Underwater Forests

Seaweed Farming in Underwater Forests
Salted Dulse

We live in a time of change. We need radically new ideas to handle global warming, food shortages, animal extinction, carbon footprints, and land utilization problems. God has provided more than just land-based resources to meet our food and air quality challenges. Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface, which seems to be the logical place to address some of these challenges through seaweed farming in underwater forests.

Here are a few advantages offered by seaweed:

1) Seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide. Left alone, it sequesters the carbon at the bottom of the ocean, where it can remain for centuries.

2) Humans can eat some seaweed, such as dulse (Palmaria palmata). It is a nutrient-rich red macroalga that can be used in cooking. Icelanders use it as a snack food.

3) Seaweed can be used as a feed alternative for livestock freeing massive amounts of arable land.

4) Seaweed eliminates the need for watering and applying fertilizer or pesticides while reducing land deforestation.

5) Raising seaweed advances shellfish populations, a significant food source for many people throughout the world.

6) Seaweed reduces ocean acidification protecting ocean life.

7) Seaweed can be grown in areas where land farming is almost impossible. At present, the largest seaweed farm is in the Faroe Islands 62 degrees north latitude, only four degrees south of the Arctic Circle.

Seaweed farming in underwater forests is already practiced by 50 countries around the world today. Our point is that those who blame God for food shortages and environmental issues should realize that God has given us solutions, but He expects us to use them. Instead of using the oceans to dispose of wastes, we desperately need to stop the pollution and start building ocean farms to grow food.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: World Wildlife Magazine for Spring 2021 pages 14 – 19.

Texas Cold Snap Highlights Earth’s Design

Texas Cold Snap Highlights Earth's Design
Snow in Downtown Houston, Texas, in February 2021

Everyone has seen changes in climate patterns worldwide, and in the United States, a Texas cold snap highlights Earth’s design. We need to better understand the global weather systems related to how our planet gets, retains, and releases heat.

Recently an ice-breaker research ship was supposed to get as close as it could to the North Pole. Surprisingly, it was able to get all the way to the pole; something never deemed possible. In February of 2021, Texas experienced a very unusual cold snap. While the media was paying attention to the electric grid’s disruption and water availability problems, the impact on animals was largely overlooked.

In Texas, cold temperatures killed massive numbers of insects and the animals that depend upon them for food. Bats fell from the sky because they had no insects to eat and had no place to go to escape the cold. Milkweed was killed, cutting off the primary food supply for monarch butterflies. Sea turtles could not adjust to the low temperatures, and volunteers took 10,600 turtles to the South Padre Island Convention Center. There they warmed the turtles and eventually returned them to the Gulf of Mexico.

All of those events remind us of the delicate interdependence of life on this planet. We tend to minimize disasters of this magnitude, but we will be reminded later this year. When grocery prices spike because of the lack of Texas-grown fruits and vegetables, we will realize that the Texas cold snap highlights Earth’s design. It should make us aware of how connected we are to other life forms on the planet.

Taking care of Earth’s climate and resources means not allowing human waste of all kinds to upset nature’s balance. We must learn to appreciate God’s design for life everywhere we look. Indeed we can know there is a God “through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Associated Press 2/16/21.

Factors Required to Support Life

Factors Required to Support Life - A fine-tuned sun

The media often brings news about newly-discovered planets in the “habitable zone” of some star beyond our solar system. They usually mean that scientists think the planet may be the right distance from the right kind and size of star for water to exist in liquid form.
Calling such a planet “habitable” may be misleading because there are many factors required to support life.

One of those factors is that the star also has to be extremely stable, as our Sun is. Consider the fact that a change in the Sun’s luminosity of only two percent would make Earth uninhabitable. That seems hard to believe, but scientists have calculated and modeled it.

If the Sun were only two percent dimmer and everything else the same, there would be more snowfall. Because snow reflects more of the Sun’s heat than land or water does, Earth’s surface would become cooler. The cooling would cause more snowfall, resulting in more reflection of the Sun’s rays and, therefore, more cooling. The result would be a runaway freezing of the surface water, and the entire Earth would become covered with ice and snow.

On the other hand, a two percent increase in the Sun’s brightness would cause greater evaporation of Earth’s surface water. The resulting water vapor would act as a greenhouse gas, trapping more of the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere. The increased heat would cause more evaporation resulting in more water vapor and an increased greenhouse effect. The result would be global warming on a massive scale.

Either way, life on Earth would not be possible. We don’t know if there are any other planets in the universe with all the factors required to support life. Our finely-tuned Sun is only one of many features that allow life on this planet. Some people would suggest that our just-right Sun is merely an accident, but we think this is another case of design by a wise Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Why Do We Need Wetlands?

Why Do We Need Wetlands?
The Pantanal

A giant wetland called the Pantanal is located mostly in Brazil and partly in Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s the world’s largest tropical wetland covering as much as 75,000 square miles (195,000 sq km). You might think that such a vast area is a lot of wasted space that should be drained and used for other purposes. Why do we need wetlands anyway?

The Pantanal is located in a depression in the Earth’s crust surrounded by highlands. Several rivers flow into the Pantanal, bringing sediment and making it an inland river delta. In the rainy season, up to eighty-percent of the floodplain is covered with water. In the dry season, the floodplain becomes dry. Forests of trees grow in the higher areas of the Pantanal. In the lower seasonally inundated areas, grasslands are growing.

The area’s topography creates various biome regions supporting plants that are native to rainforests, savannahs, and semi-arid lands. There are 3,500 plant species in the Pantanal, 1000 bird species, 480 reptile species, 400 fish species, and 300 mammal species. In other words, the Pantanal supports an incredible variety of aquatic plants and a very diverse menagerie of animals.

Some of the animals living in the Pantanal are rare or endangered. We need wetlands like the Pantanal to support these various plants and animals, plus thousands of invertebrate species. More than that, wetlands are natural water treatment systems that remove pollutants and chemicals, purifying and replenishing the groundwater. Wetlands also provide a buffer against flooding in other areas.

Why do we need wetlands? They are an essential part of the hydraulic system God created for planet Earth described thousands of years ago in Job 36:27, 28, “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture, and abundant showers fall on mankind.” That ancient book describes the water cycle with scientific accuracy.

We need wetlands for what they do for our water supply and the support they provide for plants and animals essential to the balance of nature. Human activity threatens the Pantanal, as well as many other wetlands. We must become better stewards of the blessings God has placed in our care.

— Roland Earnst 2021

Ocean Currents Affect the Climate

Ocean Currents Affect the Climate

There is much concern today about global warming, but many factors determine the climate in any particular location on Earth. Of course, we know that the closer we get to the equator, the warmer the temperatures are. Conversely, as we get closer to the poles, we find colder temperatures. But that isn’t always true, and one factor is what some people call “the global conveyor belt.” We are talking about how ocean currents affect the climate.

Ocean currents temper some areas which would be excessively hot to make the climate much more comfortable. Ocean currents affect the climate in some regions by stabilizing it to prevent extreme temperature swings. Many areas benefit from ocean currents which bring warmer temperatures.

An extreme example of an area warmed by ocean currents is Lofoten, an archipelago of islands in Norway. Lofoten is located north of the Arctic Circle at more than 68 degrees north latitude. The Sun remains below the horizon for more than a month in the winter and above the horizon for more than a month in the summer. The rest of the year, it never rises high in the sky. However, Lofoten is the most northern place on Earth where the daily mean temperature remains above freezing all year. The reason for that is the effect of ocean currents. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current carry warmer water from areas farther south to temper the climate of Lofoten. In fact, Lofoten has the largest upward temperature anomaly in relation to its latitude of any location in the world.

The causes of the ocean currents are numerous, including waves, wind, Coriolis effect, water density differences due to temperature and salinity, shoreline configurations, melting polar ice, and the ocean floor’s contours. This global conveyor belt of ocean currents affects the climate making Earth more hospitable. It is only one of many engineering marvels that have created this amazing, beautiful, habitable world. Some say that the world is all an accidental product of natural forces. We say that those forces are evidence of a Master Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

K2-141b Is Not Another Earth

K2-141b Is Not Another Earth

In their desperate attempt to find an inhabited planet, some media people have jumped to the conclusion that any planet close to 8000 miles (13,000 km) in diameter will be inhabited. One of the candidates orbiting a star in our galaxy is called K2-141b, and it is reasonably close to us in size and location, a little under 200 light-years away. However, K2-141b is not another Earth.

Astronomers have discovered that its atmosphere has all the elemental components of rocks. That has to mean that the surface temperature of the planet is hot enough to vaporize rocks. That would be more than 5400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 C). K2-141b is not another Earth.

At this time, when people are concerned about global warming, we must consider how many factors on Earth and the surrounding area give use the proper temperature for life to exist. Without the variables that keep our planet cool, we could not have a surface temperature of less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 C). The size, temperature, and activity of the Sun have to be just right. The amount of ocean surface that reflects solar heat back into space is crucial. The factors that restrict greenhouse gases, the relatively low value of volcanic activity, the lack of exothermic chemical reactions, the reflectivity of clouds, and many other factors all influence our temperature.

Even though K2-141b is not another Earth, there may be other planets with conditions that permit surface temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water. But evidence shows that such planets are rare, and their design would be from the same source as our planet. If God has created life elsewhere on a planet that will allow life to exist over the long haul, it will be another demonstration of incredible wisdom and design. Our planet is exceptional, and taking care of it should be a high priority for all of us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine, March 2021, page 9.