Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and hydroxyl radicals are among the lesser-known agents that clean our atmosphere. Hydroxyl radicals are composed of a single oxygen atom combined with a hydrogen atom. Since the valence of these two atoms is minus two and plus one, respectively, the combined charge is minus one. That means that the OH- radical will attach itself to any plus-charged atom or molecule. Numerous molecules in our atmosphere offer a positive charge, such as carbon monoxide and methane. Also, many organic compounds have loosely held hydrogen atoms. When the hydroxyl radical attaches itself to another hydrogen atom, the product is water.

Even if you don’t understand all of the chemistry involved here, it should be evident that the materials the hydroxyl radicals attach themselves to are common atmospheric pollutants. Hydroxyl is an air cleaning compound designed to remove natural contaminants and human-caused pollution as well. In typical situations, the concentration of hydroxyl radicals is a few ppt (parts per trillion). Keeping our atmosphere free of damaging pollutants requires much more than that.

Recent discoveries have shown that lightning produces significant numbers of hydroxyls. In 2012, a NASA jet flying through storm clouds over Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas detected hydroxyl concentrations of thousands of ppt. Electricity from lightning can produce enough hydroxyl radicals to keep our air clean of any natural pollutants and help to reduce human-caused pollution.

We have said before that lightning takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and produces nitrates that provide essential nutrients for plants. Now we know that lightning is also indispensable as an air cleaning tool. With lightning and hydroxyl radicals, God has designed a tool that not only allows plants to provide our food but also cleans our air.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for June 5, 2021, page 13, and ScienceDirect.com

Building an Atom Is Not Simple

Building an Atom Is Not Simple - The Standard Model

When I started teaching high school chemistry in 1959, scientists described the starting point for matter as the atom. They knew that atoms are composed of electrons orbiting a nucleus that contains protons and neutrons. Building an atom did not seem so complicated. Nobody thought to ask if the components of the atom were made up of still smaller particles. The theory was that protons, neutrons, and electrons are the starting point for all of chemistry.

Research in the 1950s raised some troubling questions. Particle accelerators smashing particles together at high energies revealed a wide variety of previously unknown subatomic constituents making building an atom more complex.

Since that time, scientists have organized three groups that give a coherent picture of the particles and forces God used in building an atom. One is the quark group. It contains six particles which, when combined, produce a variety of larger particles, including protons and neutrons. There are also six lightweight particles called leptons, which include electrons. The third group comprises force-carrying particles which hold quarks together and account for electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces. The four members of this group are photons, gluons, W bosons, and Z bosons.

This understanding is called “The Standard Model.” Why do we care about all of this? On a practical level, it has led to the whole field of nuclear science. The application of nuclear science can be destructive, as seen in the atomic bomb. It can also offer great uses as an energy source, and it provides a wide range of medical uses. On an apologetic level, this understanding shows the wisdom and design built into every corner of our existence. All of these particles can decay into other things. We still do not understand how gravity fits into this model, but the power and wisdom required to produce the building blocks of matter speak volumes of their Creator.

Several of these particles have antimatter partners. Science is discovering more and more evidence showing that the origin of quarks and leptons is rooted in dimensions beyond the three dimensions of space and time, which we know. When you observe the wisdom and design built into the way all of this is organized, you have a good picture of how God’s creative wisdom has resulted in the world in which we live.

We now know that ultimately all quarks, leptons, and force particles will dissolve into the energy from which they came. Second Peter 3:10-12 describes this process in vivid detail. Numerous passages like Proverbs 8:22-23 hint at the history of God’s power, energy, wisdom, and design in the creation of the physical cosmos. Building an atom is an incredibly complicated thing to do, and the very existence of matter speaks to the magnificence of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Magic Potions from the Periodic Table?

Magic Potions from the Periodic Table?

Imagine that you are walking along an unfamiliar street, and you see a sign that says, “Magic Potions from the Periodic Table.” The unusual sign and the look of the store arouse your curiosity.

As you walk in, you notice that the room is dark, and you see a man who looks like the stereotype of a wizard. On shelves lining the walls, there are 92 bottles of chemicals. You see labels on some of them that say “carbon,” “oxygen,” “nitrogen,” “phosphorous,” “zinc,” and other elements. The “wizard” is pouring some chemicals from bottles into some beakers. He looks at you with a smile and says, “What can I mix for you today? I can give you a potion for morality. How about something to make you appreciate beauty? Love—the true, unconditional kind of love is right here. How about letting me mix you up some meaning and purpose in life?”

You are startled and a bit confused because you had chemistry class in school. You realize that putting together the chemical elements you see on the shelves will not give you the things this “wizard” is offering. Even carbon-based molecules cannot supply morality, appreciation of beauty, true unselfish love, or meaning and purpose in life.

Chemistry is not enough. There is something beyond the chemical formulas and covalent bonding that comes into play in humans. The “wizard” is the naturalist who says that chance evolution and chemistry explain everything about our existence. Do we accept his suggestion? Does chemistry explain it all? Can the wizard’s magic potions from the periodic table fully explain what it means to be human?

Shouldn’t we look for an explanation beyond naturalism? We think a better explanation is that there is a God who created us in His image. It seems evident that we are more than bodies made of chemicals assembled by chance.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Salt and Water Chemical Bonds and Life

Salt and Water Chemical Bonds and Life

We see a correlation between salt and water chemical bonds and life. One of the first things students learn in chemistry class is that elements bond to form compounds in two different ways. One is called “covalent,” and the other is called “ionic.”

In an ionic bond, two elements transfer an electron. An excellent example of ionic bonding is sodium chloride, common table salt. The sodium in salt has a loosely-held electron in its last orbital. Chlorine, on the other hand, needs an electron, because its last orbital is one electron short of the most stable configuration. When sodium and chlorine combine, the sodium gives up its last electron, and the chlorine absorbs it.

A classic example of a covalent bond is water. Hydrogen needs an electron to produce the most stable possible form of the hydrogen atom. Oxygen needs two electrons to give it the most stable arrangement. Oxygen can share two of its electrons with two hydrogen atoms. The result is that two hydrogen atoms are attached to the one oxygen atom, producing water.

Water and salt are very different kinds of compounds. Water is tough to break apart into its component atoms. Salt is very easy to break apart. Just dumping salt into water will tear the salt molecule apart into sodium and chlorine. The design of these atoms is amazing. The salt molecule is polar because only two atoms are involved. The water molecule is also polar because of the location of the two electrons that are shared with the hydrogen. An electron by itself is not stable. The spin of the electrons and their magnetic properties require pairing to be stable, and that pairing forms compounds such as water and salt.

In teaching high school chemistry, I would use boy-girl relationships to help kids understand chemical bonding. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:18 that God said, “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Verse 24 says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” All of life reaches stability in a shared relationship. Just as water is more stable than salt, so too humans who are in a committed relationship of oneness and sharing are more stable than when isolated and alone. The same Designer of salt and water chemical bonds gave us each other for the best of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

How the Elements Were Created

How the Elements Were CreatedScience has made significant progress in understanding many things about the universe and our planet and the life on it. However, there are many, many things that we have not yet begun to understand. There are also many things we think we understand, but we are still working on better understandings. One question involves how the elements were created.

At the time of the cosmic creation event (widely called the “big bang”), there were atoms with one proton and one electron and some with twice that many. We call simplest element hydrogen, and two hydrogen atoms combine to form helium in the process of nuclear fusion. More and more fusion took place and still is happening in our Sun and other stars. The process requires intense heat and pressure to fuse the atomic nuclei into a heavier atom.

In stars much more massive than our Sun, heavier elements up to iron can are being formed by fusing more and more atoms together. When you go beyond iron, and all the way up to uranium, even the biggest, brightest, and hottest stars can’t squeeze those atoms together. Scientists believe that the heavier elements are created in exploding stars known as supernovae. When they explode, the theory goes, ripples of turbulence form as the supernovae toss their stellar material into the void of the universe. The forces in that turbulence press more and more atoms together to make the heavier elements. As those atomic elements fly off into space, gravity pulls them into lumps which eventually become planets, such as the one on which we live.

A problem with that explanation is that when the atoms are blasted from the supernovae, they are all traveling in the same direction at perhaps the same speed. How can that produce enough force and heat to fuse them together? An alternate explanation is that the explosion within the supernova is not symmetrical, creating areas of greater density. Ultradense and ultrahot regions concentrated in small areas of the exploding mass perhaps give a better explanation of how the elements were created. (See a paper on that published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.)

Carbon is the basic building block of all living cells. Nitrogen and oxygen, which are the next steps above carbon, bond with it along with other atoms to form living molecules. A little higher on the atomic scale are sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other elements which are essential to life. Iron, nickel, copper, and other metals are in molecules within our bodies, and we use them in pure form to build our homes, cars, and electronics. The heavier radioactive elements such as uranium deep within the Earth generate the heat that creates a molten iron core that generates a magnetic field which surrounds and protects us. This is a very simple explanation of a very complex system that makes it possible for us to be here.

Science is only beginning to understand how the elements were created and how they are continuing to be created. How did this amazing, complex system come into being with the precision that put life on this planet? We could declare a god-of-the-gaps to say that we don’t understand it and therefore, God did it. It is much better for us to learn HOW God did it. As we begin to see the wisdom required to put this incredibly complex universe together, we become more in awe of the Creator. We don’t have a god-of-the-gaps who “zaps” things into existence like a magician. Our God is an engineer craftsman who creates complexity and beauty that leaves us without excuse. (See Romans 1:20.)
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Chemistry of Water Is Essential to Life

Chemistry of Water Is Essential to LifeThere are many “pop-science” articles showing up in the media, suggesting that life on planet Earth is not unique. They are suggesting that there may be other chemistries with different molecular structures elsewhere in the cosmos. The truth is that the chemistry of water is essential to life.

The key to this question is a basic chemistry issue involving the water molecule. We have posted previously on the nature of the water molecule. You can also access articles from our printed publications by using the search engine on doesgodexist.org.

The main point is that the water molecule is polar. The bonding positions on the oxygen atoms in water are 105 degrees apart. Because of that, the two hydrogen atoms that bond with the oxygen atom are on one end of the molecule and oxygen is on the other end. That makes the water molecule polar, and it gives water unique properties, including the ability to dissolve most inorganic compounds.

Discover magazine (July/August 2019, page 82) carried an excellent explanation of why the chemistry of water is essential to life, making it possible for life to exist. Here is a quote from the article:

“For the chemical processes of life to happen, molecules must be able to connect, separate, and reconnect in specific ways. Think about DNA replication, for instance. The base pairs that make up the genetic code bond when their negatively charged hydrogen atoms are attracted to positively charged atoms in another nucleotide. Those bonds hold the two strands of the double helix together, but because hydrogen in water molecules also bond this way, it’s relatively easy for enzymes to ‘unzip’ the double helix for replication, then bind the two new strands together again. However, the molecules of life won’t work in hydrocarbons the way they do in water. That’s because most hydrocarbons don’t tend to form hydrogen bonds.”

In Genesis 1:2, the very first action of God on the newly created Earth is that His “Spirit moved on the face of the waters.” In Proverbs 8, wisdom speaks of the fact that in the creation process there was a time when there was no liquid water (Verse 24). We are finding water scattered throughout the cosmos, and it has become pretty apparent that water was a created and carefully designed tool to allow the basics of life. The chemistry of water is essential to life.

In baptism, we see water having a spiritual significance as well. Water is essential to much of God’s plan and compelling evidence of His wisdom and design in all areas of our existence.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic Table of ElementsOne of the great accomplishments of science has been the organizing of the elements into a form that allows us to use chemistry in amazing ways. In 1789 Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 elements grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths. For the next 100 years, chemists searched for a better classification system. As the understanding of the design of atoms improved, scientists developed the periodic table of elements.

In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev published the first table designed to show periodic changes in the properties of the elements. He was even able to predict the discovery of elements unknown at the time that would fill out his chart. As scientists further refined the periodic table of elements, it became even more useful. The horizontal rows are called periods, with metals on the left and nonmetals on the right. As you move from left to right in a period, the elements become less metallic. As you move from top to bottom, the columns, called groups, have similar properties. All of the elements in the last group on the right side of the chart are called noble gases, and they are chemically inactive. The next vertical column to the left of noble gases is called the halogens. They have similar chemical properties, such as the ability to support combustion.

We now know that the reason the periodic table of elements works is because of the electron configurations of the atoms. Chlorine, for example, has an electron configuration that leaves it one electron short of a stable chemical structure. It will exert tremendous force to get a single electron to make its electron configuration stable. Sodium has an extra electron that it would really like to get rid of to gain stability. Those two elements react so that sodium transfers its electron to chlorine and the compound that results is salt – NaCl. Every element in the vertical group with sodium will also react with chlorine in the same way, making lithium chloride, potassium chloride, rubidium chloride, etc.

We now have 118 confirmed elements in existence with 94 occurring naturally. Scientists have produced the remaining 24 elements in laboratories with nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson being the most recent. It is difficult to think about atoms and understand how their electrons control their uses and not be impressed by the mind that created this incredibly complex system.

This is a very brief over simplification explanation of the periodic table of elements. It just begins to suggest how the electrons are organized into shells and subshells. The system allows different methods of bonding elements together, creating a diverse population of new compounds that make our lives not only comfortable but possible. For a better understanding, enroll in a basic chemistry class at your local community college or university. “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NIV).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Gold Is So Precious

Why Gold Is So Precious
Have you ever wondered why gold is so precious? What is it about this metal that we can use it for so many things including the base of many national economic systems?

We think of gold as being rare, but it is quite abundant in the universe. Ten-billion tons of gold exist in Earth’s oceans. Scientists believe that near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros has more gold in it than has ever been mined on Earth. Gold is virtually indestructible. It is almost always recycled, and 85% of the gold ever found is still being used today.

The atomic structure of gold gives it an incredible range of applications. Because of its electron configuration, gold is not very active chemically. Gold is popular in jewelry not only because of its beauty but also because it is chemically inert and therefore does not tarnish. That same electron configuration makes it extremely malleable (able to be pounded into a sheet) and extremely ductile (able to be drawn out into a wire). A one-ounce piece of gold can be beaten into a sheet five-millionths of an inch thick or drawn out into a wire 50 miles long and 5 micrometers thick–one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Gold wires are also very useful in electronics because gold is an excellent conductor of electricity. In computers and other electronics, gold plating of connectors gives low resistance electrical contacts that don’t corrode.

For 70 years the standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis has been injections of a liquid suspension of gold salts which act as an anti-inflammatory, but scientists still don’t know why that works. A method of refining gold requires the use of highly poisonous cyanide. However, researchers have discovered microorganisms that eat trace amounts of gold and deposit them as larger nuggets. This can lead to gold processing that will be far less damaging to the environment than the old cyanide method.

As chemists look at the electron structure of gold, they see that it has been designed to do some amazing things. The design of the atom gives us some incredible materials that are of great value for many things. That is why gold is so precious. God has designed some amazing things for us, and gold is one that is high on the list.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Adding Nitrogen to the Soil

Adding Nitrogen to the Soil
We all know that lightning can be dangerous. Each year people are killed, and a great deal of property damage occurs because of lightning. We don’t usually consider the benefits of this powerful force. Nitrogen in the soil is essential for plants to grow and lightning is a natural method of adding nitrogen to the soil.

Although lightning can be dangerous, it also produces materials that are critical to life. All living things depend on the chemical element nitrogen. Your body contains molecules known as proteins. Proteins are made up of several elements, including nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for proteins, but it is very hard to make nitrogen into proteins. Even though nitrogen makes up 78 percent of our atmosphere, we don’t get any nitrogen from the air we breathe. With each breath, we inhale and exhale nitrogen without using it. The nitrogen in the atmosphere has three electron bonds between the atoms, and that is a very strong and stable chemical arrangement. It takes an enormous amount of energy to break those bonds to free the nitrogen.

When lightning slices through the atmosphere, it knocks electrons from nitrogen atoms. The atoms are then free to combine with oxygen and hydrogen in the atmosphere forming nitrates. Rain carries this new compound to the ground enriching the soil with nitrates which are the building blocks of proteins. Plants synthesize the nitrates into proteins. When animals eat the plants, they get proteins. When we eat the plants or animals, we get the proteins we need to build more proteins.

Without lightning and the other processes for adding nitrogen to the soil, life could not exist on Earth. There is a purpose in the design of lightning. The Designer has also given us the intelligence to avoid many of the adverse effects of this powerful force.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Electrons Are Essential for Life

Electrons Are Essential in the Elements of Life
Everyone knows that electrons allow us to have computers and other electrical devices, but you may not realize how many ways electrons are essential. The mass, charge, magnetic properties, and spin of electrons are all designed to make life possible. It is amazing that something far too small for us to see is so important.

The changing momentum of electrons creates light which is essential for life. Electrons are also the fundamental cause of all that happens in chemistry. Atoms bond with other atoms to make molecules by exchanging or by sharing electrons. The complex organic molecules in your body, including DNA, are held together by electrons. The properties of every element in the universe are determined by how its electrons are arranged around the nucleus.

The oxygen atom with eight electrons joins with two single-electron hydrogen atoms to form water. The arrangement of the electrons in the oxygen atom causes the oxygen/hydrogen union to form in a way that gives water its unusual properties. The arrangement of electrons and the way the atoms bond causes water to dissolve salts, freeze from the top down, form crystals when freezing, and have surface tension. Without these unique properties of water, life would not be possible on Earth.

The arrangement of the six electrons in the carbon atom allows it to form enormous numbers of carbon compounds in various patterns. Because carbon can build so many organic compounds, our carbon-based life can exist. Without the particular arrangement of electrons in oxygen and carbon, life would not be possible.

Add to carbon and oxygen more than 90 other elements and their electron arrangements, and you can see that the probability of all of this happening by chance is not reasonable. We can be sure that a Master Designer created this complex system in which electrons are essential.
–Roland Earnst © 2018