The Antimatter Dilemma

The Antimatter Dilemma

One of the fascinating problems scientists face as they investigate the creation is the antimatter dilemma. Einstein’s famous equation e=mc2 tells us that energy and mass are directly related. We know that mass can be turned into energy, which is the basis of the atomic bomb and nuclear power generation.

Complex experiments have allowed scientists to turn energy into mass, producing two kinds of matter. One kind of matter is the ordinary kind that we all know about – negative electrons, positive protons, and neutrons with no charge. The other kind of matter is the opposite of ordinary matter. The nucleus of this antimatter has negatively charged protons and electrons with a positive charge, called positrons. When antimatter comes in contact with ordinary matter, they destroy each other and revert to the energy from which they came.

Antimatter atoms do exist, and scientists can produce them in the laboratory. They must be stored in magnetic fields because they would destroy any container made of ordinary matter. If the universe was created by turning energy into matter, there should be equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the cosmos. The antimatter dilemma is how did our kind of matter get isolated so that we can exist?

We can’t tell if the stars we see are made of matter or antimatter. That is because the light coming from them is not matter, so antistar radiation and normal star radiation would look the same. The process that propels nuclear reactions in stars produces gamma rays. The gamma rays that the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is detecting are not what normal stars would produce. For that reason, astrophysicists believe they are seeing emissions from antimatter stars.

The Bible tells us that God is energy (light – 1 John 1:5). Because of that, God could create the universe by simply taking some energy and turning it into matter. Suggesting that the creation process was not guided by intelligence means some unknown force solved the antimatter dilemma by separating matter and antimatter at the point of creation. Of course, that does not explain the origin of energy. Researchers say that finding evidence for antimatter stars “would be a major blow for the standard cosmological model.”

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” is a very simple statement, but the presence of antimatter tells us that what God did is incredibly complex. This is real creation and speaks once again of God’s wisdom and power.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, June 5. 2021, pages 8-9.

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or UFOs

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or UFO

Apparently, the media are running out of things to talk about, so they have resurrected the claims of alien visitation to Earth. In June, U.S. intelligence agencies are supposed to release a report detailing what the government knows about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Former CIA director John Brennan has stated that there have been scores of credible sightings of UAPs or UFOs that “may be piloted by a different form of life.” We have repeatedly pointed out that this is not a biblical issue. The Bible does not say that Earth is the only place where God created life.

The attention this matter is getting indicates several things about the United States today. First, the media will jump to any conclusion, no matter how bizarre it is, to get attention. Secondly, people who have rejected God and the Bible have to find some other answer to the mysteries of life, and alien intelligence has always been one of them.

UFO simply means we are too ignorant to know what we are looking at. It doesn’t make any difference if you call it Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The number of possibilities that do not involve alien spacecraft is vast. Many UFO sightings are simply reflections off of the cockpit or window of the observer’s vehicle. Also, being in an unfamiliar environment can cause people to misinterpret what they see.

Once when I was working in Canada, a group of people claimed that a ghost was haunting a woods nearby. One night, several of us camped out in that woods. At about 2 a.m., we saw a ghost, complete with an open mouth and two eyes. It glowed a greenish-yellow color and then vanished. One of the native Canadians in the group laughed because he knew what we were seeing. The aurora borealis (northern lights) were flickering wildly in a solar maximum, and the ultraviolet radiation caused bioluminescence in a dead tree. In broad daylight, we could see that, but at night, with our imaginations running wild, it looked totally different.

Atmospheric refraction or reflection off high clouds can make city lights visible many miles from the city. Earthquakes generate radiation, and some of it is in the visible spectrum. Weather balloons, flares, test aircraft, cloud reflections, satellites, planes, or drones can all become Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. With this new report, we will see a barrage of headlines from conspiracy advocates, tabloid writers, and psychics. In truth, it is more likely that the number of actual mystery objects will be very small. Jesus Christ has answers to the real struggles in life, but E.T. does not.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week magazine for May 28, 2021, page 17.

Alien Spacecrafts Coming to America

Alien Spacecrafts Coming to America - Starlink Mission
60 SpaceX Starlink satellites stacked on a Falcon 9 Rocket ready to be deployed into orbit

On May 5-7 of this year, people across the United States saw a train of lights in the night sky. Calls flooded TV and radio stations from Texas to Wisconsin as people claimed to see alien spacecrafts coming to America. Some of the stories got very imaginative as people started reporting contacts with the aliens and volunteering to leave Earth with them. This reminds us of the old saying, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything.”

It seems that in this day, when many people are rejecting God, their only hope for a better existence is that aliens will come and straighten everything out. This has led to people jump to conclusions about whatever they see in the sky.

What the people saw was not alien spacecrafts coming to America. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been launching constellations of what they call “Starlink satellites.” SpaceX has sent about 1500 satellites into orbit to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. In the past month alone, SpaceX has launched dozens of satellites. You can identify them because they travel in the same orbit, one right after the other.

These satellites are becoming an issue for astronomers who are finding a great deal of light pollution from all this activity. There is even concern about how all these extra lights in the sky might affect nocturnal animals who use the stars for navigation.

As people imagine seeing alien spacecrafts coming to America, we remind you of what we have said many times. The possibility of life on other planets is not a biblical subject. If there is life out there, God created it. The willingness of people to believe in aliens from space while rejecting belief in God is pathetic. It is rooted in ignorance of the night sky and the size and distances involved in the cosmos.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Source: Associated Press by Claudia Lauer, 5/8/21.

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

“Planet Earth – Unique And Bizarre.” Those are the words used by Astronomy magazine (June 2021, page 21) to describe the results of studies of the planets within and beyond our solar system. Why is Earth a unique and bizarre planet?

We have four terrestrial planets in our solar system. In addition to Earth, they are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Those planets have smaller masses than Earth, ranging from Mercury with 5.5% of Earth’s mass to Venus with 81.5%. They also have radically different atmospheres. Venus, which is closest to Earth’s size, has an atmosphere that is 96% carbon dioxide. Mars, roughly half of Earth’s size, is 95% carbon dioxide and 2.7% nitrogen. By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere has 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and less than .1% carbon dioxide.

NASA stationed an observation satellite at the Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun. That is the location where Earth’s gravity balances the Sun’s gravity. The satellite will remain stationary at roughly a million miles from Earth, gather data, and compare Earth data with information from other solar systems. It shows that Earth is the only planet we know of with abundant liquid water driving an active water cycle. 

Scientists believe life itself is responsible for much of the design of planet Earth. Earth’s vegetation has taken whatever carbon dioxide was in our atmosphere and turned it into oxygen. It is no coincidence that the Genesis account portrays plants as the first thing to appear after God created the dry land and seas. 

Another factor making Earth a unique and bizarre planet is the abundance of minerals. Earth has massive minerals of all kinds. Meteorites contain a very small number of minerals, and the Moon has more than the meteorites, but far less than Earth. The media tends to suggest that everything in space is like what we see on Earth, but the data that scientists are gathering shows that our planet is radically different. 

At the end of each day of the Genesis account, God said, “it is good” (Genesis 1:10,12, 18, 21, 25). The first chapter ends with God saying, “it is VERY good.” Over and over, the Psalms call our attention to how unique our planet is. “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him” (Psalms 8:3-4). Psalms 19:1 adds, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows his handiwork.” 

Our unique and bizarre planet was created by an Intelligence that shaped it into the one place that can support human life, not only in our solar system but perhaps in the entire creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

Some people want to believe that everything we see and experience is the product of space aliens, and sometimes this belief ends up in tragedy. In March of 1997, a man named Marshall Applewhite convinced 39 people that a spaceship was following the Hale Bopp comet. He persuaded them to leave their physical bodies to join the aliens on the spacecraft. Despite tragic events like that, many people are investigating similar claims of aliens such as ‘Oumuamua.

In October of 2017, astronomers at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii observed a strange space object. They named it ‘Oumuamua, which is Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger” because it apparently came from outside the solar system. Some thought it was an alien spaceship sent to investigate planet Earth. The object was traveling at 196,000 mph (315,000 kph) as it zipped through the solar system.

As astronomers continue to track ‘Oumuamua, they have found that it is accelerating as it heads out of the solar system. That fact has fueled more attention by those who believe it is not a natural object. It could be a comet, but astronomers have not observed a tail, which comets have. An asteroid is another possibility, but the trajectory does not show any connection to the Sun’s gravity as an asteroid would have. Why the object is accelerating is also not likely to match any asteroid or cometary explanation.

First, we want to remind you that life in space is not an apologetic or biblical issue. Years ago, I did a radio debate moderated by Larry King in Washington D.C. Someone asked my atheist opponent what he would do if a spaceship landed on the Whitehouse lawn and an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said, “Has Jesus been here yet?” That would raise all kinds of other questions, but it does make the point that the Bible doesn’t tell us that Earth is the only place in the cosmos where life exists.

The current thinking about ‘Oumuamua is that it is a pancake-shaped piece broken off from a planet outside of our solar system. It has been speeding up because the Sun’s heat vaporized some solids, providing the acceleration force. There is no indication that alien intelligence is guiding ‘Oumuamua or that its composition indicates an unnatural origin.

If we would spend the same amount of time and energy encouraging people to get along with each other that we spend trying to get alien help to solve our problems, we might actually accomplish something. Jesus told us that He came so we could have “life and… have it more abundantly.” Following God’s Word instead of celestial objects like ‘Oumuamua can accomplish that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

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.

Simplified Cosmological Argument

Simplified Cosmological Argument

It is always interesting to read or hear arguments by atheists and skeptics about what we feature in this column. One recent phone call said, “The creation is too complex for rational discussion. All I know is that God didn’t do it.” In response to that, we want to look at the simplified cosmological argument.

The mechanics of matter/energy interactions are indeed complex.
However, it is an ignorant argument to suggest that since they are difficult to understand, you can reject God’s existence. Here is the simplified cosmological argument for God as the creator that anyone can understand, even without understanding scientific theories.

STEP 1: BELIEVE THAT YOU EXIST. If you don’t believe that you exist, then the whole discussion is untestable, can’t be falsified, and is beyond scientific investigation or debate.

STEP 2: BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS A BEGINNING TO THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE. All observations and the laws of physics demand a specific start to the creation – be it the “big bang” or some other description.

STEP 3. BELIEVE THAT THE BEGINNING WAS CAUSED. If there was a beginning to the physical creation, something or someone had to be the cause. Matter/energy can not create itself.

STEP 4: DECIDE WHAT THE NATURE OF THE CAUSE WAS. You have two choices here. Either the cause was an intelligence, or the cause was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance.

STEP 5: EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE. What does the evidence show? Is chance a statistically reasonable possibility? Is there evidence of design and purpose in the creation?

STEP 6: DEAL WITH THE QUESTION OF WHY THERE IS SOMETHING INSTEAD OF NOTHING. Philosophers can debate this as long as they wish, but if the cosmos is a product of blind chance, then there is no meaningful purpose to human existence. It also means that evil does not exist, and all events on the planet revolve around the survival of the fittest. If there is an intelligence that resides in a personal God, then evil exists, and the war between good and evil gives a purpose for all human existence.

The book of Job explores these points, and Jesus Christ clearly laid out our purpose in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7. You are here for a reason. Not only do “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1) but so does the Earth, and so do God’s people. That is the simplified cosmological argument.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

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

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of a significant astronomical event. It’s the anniversary of a star explosion. On February 23, 1987, astronomers and other observers on Earth witnessed the explosion of a star with a mass about twenty times that of our Sun. They called it supernova SN 1987A.

The explosion was bright enough to see with the naked eye. While Earth observers saw it in 1987, the explosion happened long before that. Since the star was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy 160,000 light-years from Earth, we witnessed an event that occurred 160,000 years in the past.

There have been other supernovas, but SN 1987A was the brightest supernova observed since the telescope’s invention. It was also the brightest since Chinese astronomers observed a star exploding in A.D. 1054. For the past thirty-four years, astronomers have studied the ring of fire as it expands outward from that explosion. The picture showing the remnant of the explosion is a composite image from 2014. It combines visible light from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and x-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

What do we learn from our study of the stars, supernovas, nebulae, and everything else we can see in the universe? We learn the processes God used to create the universe, our galaxy, and our planet. As we examine supernovas, we understand that God used them to forge the heavier elements that make up our planet and our bodies.

Studying the creation process also shows us the incredible precision required to make the universe possible and create life on this planet. On this thirty-fourth anniversary of a star explosion, we are reminded of the words of an ancient psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Other Galaxies Beyond the Milky Way

Other Galaxies Beyond the Milky Way

In the early 1920s, Edwin Hubble (in whose honor the Hubble Space Telescope was named) was peering through his telescope. As he examined many of the points of light that astronomers had thought were stars or “spiral nebulae” in our galaxy, he realized that they are much more than that. He discovered that they are other galaxies!

By the mid-1920s, everyone knew that our Milky Way is only one of a myriad of other galaxies. Since then, we have learned many things about our galaxy, but we still have much to learn. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy in the shape of a large saucer. Other types of galaxies–which are the majority–cannot support planets and therefore are not suitable for life.

We are spinning around our spiral galaxy at about 120 miles (200 kilometers) per second. At that rate, it will take us 250,000,000 years to make one complete orbit of the galaxy. We can’t take a picture of the entire Milky Way because to travel outside of our galaxy would take many thousands of years–even at the speed of light. We can take pictures of other galaxies, and this one is another spiral galaxy named M74.

The Milky Way’s disk is about 100,000 light-years across, and we are about 27,200 light-years from the center. It’s good that we are not near the center because that is the location of a giant black hole. It is also fortunate that we live in an area of the galaxy that is not crowded with quasars, black holes, and other major hazards. The galaxy area with the most gas and dust is less than 500 light-years from the central plane–far away from us. That means we are in an area relatively free of debris, so this is an excellent spot to get a good view of our galaxy as well as other galaxies and stars.

Is it just a coincidence that we are in the right kind of galaxy and in the best position in that galaxy to be safe and to be able to study and observe the universe? We think God wanted us to be in a hospitable place where we could see the majesty of His creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021