Protection from Incoming Space Objects

Protection from Incoming Space Objects - Jupiter and Saturn
Jupiter and Saturn

One of the exciting features of our planet and solar system is how they are built for life. The cosmos contains a lot of material left over from the creation process, and we have learned that volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts can eject material into outer space. Fragments that appear to be cast off from Mars have been found on Earth. The need for protection from incoming space objects like asteroids or comets is becoming more evident as scientists discover the enormous amount of damage done by the few collisions Earth has sustained.

Most people have heard of the asteroid collision scientists believe caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, evidence exists of earlier collisions that shaped and molded our planet. The recent experiment to alter the path of an asteroid by slamming a spacecraft into it shows the concern many have that an asteroid could crash into Earth and wipe out all human life.

During the last week in August of 2023, NASA’s Juno spacecraft confirmed an amateur astronomer’s report of seeing an object slamming into the surface of Jupiter. This is the third recorded sizable object impact on Jupiter, creating a fireball visible from Earth. In 1994, astronomers observed fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet hitting Jupiter, and in September 2021, astronomers observed another collision.

Jupiter is strategically located and so massive that its gravity draws in asteroids, comets, and other materials that would cause a major disaster if they struck the Earth. Some objects don’t actually hit Jupiter, but they come close enough that Jupiter’s gravitational field slings them out of the inner solar system. Journalist Passant Rabie wrote on Yahoo News, “The solar system’s gas giant certainly knows how to keep peace in its cosmic neighborhood.”

We suggest that when God designed and created the solar system, He gave Earth protection from incoming space objects, which has kept humans safe for our entire history. Between Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus, it is almost impossible for a large object from outside the solar system to hit our planet.

The number of things that had to be “right” for our planet to support life is enormous. The more we discover, the less likely it is that pure accidental chance can explain them. A better explanation is, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalms 19:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Preparing for Winter – How Do They Know?

Preparing for Winter – How Do Living Things Know?

The ability of plants and animals to achieve maximum survival success in changing seasons is quite interesting. Here in Michigan, our winters can arrive suddenly and forcefully. It may be 75 degrees one day and below freezing the next. It was quite warm in early September, but many trees were already preparing for winter. The leaves of our sumac trees became brilliant red and started falling off the branches. As we approach the end of September, some species of maple trees are changing colors and dropping their leaves.

Several species of birds have left Michigan, heading south for the winter. We live on a river where we see a massive increase in fish activity. There is also a significant increase in the activity of insects, with some butterflies, such as monarchs, heading south in groups. The number of cocoons in our bushes and in our house has accelerated, and some species of bees and wasps have become more aggressive.

The big question is how living things seem to know it’s time to start preparing for winter, even when there is no significant temperature change. There have also been no clues from other weather factors like humidity, rainfall, wind velocity, and direction. The scientific evidence shows that living things pick up on less obvious signals that say, “Winter is coming, and you need to prepare.”

Some living things sense the length of daylight, telling them to prepare for winter. Another factor is the angle of the Sun’s rays, which controls what kind of light reaches Earth’s surface. The Sun’s light contains a variety of wavelengths. The higher energy wavelengths are refracted and scattered more than the longer, lower energy forms. The sky is blue because blue light has higher energy than the rest of the visible spectrum and thus is scattered and refracted more. The next highest energy wavelength is green. Plants are green because they reflect that color, protecting them from the next highest energy of light that reaches Earth’s surface.

As the Sun gets lower in the sky, wavelengths we can’t even see, such as ultraviolet, are refracted and scattered away from the surface. Living things detect that change and start preparation for winter. Explaining how this system of life came into existence is a real challenge for those who deny God’s creation of our planet and the life on it. It’s a joy to see the things God has made testifying about His intelligence and design as they start preparing for winter (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Colonizing Space – Does it Make Sense?

Colonizing Space – Does it Make Sense?
Imaginary Lunar Colony Base

“Why We’ll Never Live In Space” by Sarah Scoles is the lead article in the October 2023 issue of Scientific American. This question is relevant with NASA proposing plans to establish colonies on the Moon and Elon Musk claiming that SpaceX will colonize Mars. Scoles points out that Biosphere 2, where people entered to live for two years, revealed that an encapsulated environment didn’t produce enough oxygen, water, or food for the inhabitants. Later experiments ran into psychological and personal conflicts for those involved. There are similar experiments planned in the United States, Kenya, Israel, and Oman. Does colonizing space make sense?

The problems of trying to survive in space are enormous. Scoles points out that studies of astronauts after spending some time in space show significant physiological damage. Immune systems falter, muscles shrink, and bone loss is so great that it outpaces bone growth. Eye damage, called neuro-ocular syndrome, is associated with space flight.

Radiation from various sources is the biggest problem of being in space. The Sun sends out a variety of radiations, all of which damage human tissue. The radiation of galactic cosmic rays is very difficult to stop. Followup reports on Biosphere 2 show many human problems in a self-contained environment. Those problems are not only physical issues of providing essentials for life but also psychological, social, and even re-entry issues. Medical studies of astronauts in the space station show significant physical and genetic damage. However, these studies involve fewer problems than would be faced in outer space. Biosphere 2 was on Earth, and the International Space Station is in low Earth orbit, where there is still some radiation protection.

When God created Earth, He gave us a more unique place than most of us realize. Science fiction ignores many issues involved in colonizing space. Even if we could overcome all of the obstacles, doesn’t spending tax money to address the challenges on this planet make more sense than sending a few people to Mars? We still have much to learn about life on Earth, and we need to work together to improve the lives of people on this planet. The teachings of Christ give us tools that enable us to do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Scientific American

Life Elsewhere in the Universe

Life Elsewhere in the Universe

A frequent obsession of modern Americans is the question of life elsewhere in the universe. In July 2023, Defense Department employee David Grusch testified before Congress, claiming government mishandling and deliberate misrepresentations about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) believed to be alien spacecraft. The media continues to sensationalize the idea of alien life and exaggerate the unexplained phenomena.

Alien life has no bearing on God’s existence. If there is life elsewhere in the universe, God created it. The belief that life from outer space could solve the problems of humans on Earth is unfortunate. Here are some erroneous assumptions people have recently made:

  1. Some people claim that objects from outside our solar system, such as Oumuamua in 2017, are sent by aliens to spy on us. Scientists have found meteorites with high abundances of beryllium, lanthanum, and uranium, which don’t match alloys found on Earth. These show no signs of alien creation, and no researcher claims any of these support alien life, even though they probably came from outside our solar system.
  2. India’s landing of a spacecraft on the south pole of the Moon was certainly a great accomplishment. However, scientists were interested in the south pole because of the possibility of frozen water there since direct sunlight does not reach that area. They did not expect to find life, and they didn’t.
  3. Concerns about the Cassini spacecraft contaminating Saturn with Earth organisms when it crashed into that planet and the landing of Huygens on Saturn’s moon Titan are not because of aliens. Saturn’s atmosphere and the cold on Titan make it impossible for life to exist there.
  4. Military pilot sightings of things they don’t understand can have many possible explanations, including reflections on the canopy or effects generated by military actions.

Looking for help from aliens to solve the problems we have on Earth is a waste of time and money. The solution to human struggles will not come from alien life elsewhere in the universe. We can find the solution to our struggles in the teachings of Jesus Christ who came to Earth two thousand years ago. He came from outside of space and time to show us the way, the truth, and the life. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Article by Eric Lagatta in USA Today and Astronomy magazine for October 2023, page 54.

Siphonophores – A Colony of Animals Living as One

Siphonophores – A Colony of Animals Living as One
Portuguese Man O’ War

The more science learns about the biological world, the more unique things we see. Most of us know about jellyfish, corals, and anemones. These ocean animals are members of the phylum Cnidaria. In that phylum, a strange order named Siphonophorae has 175 species. The Portuguese man o’ war is a member of the order of siphonophores.

Siphonophores may look like one organism, but they are actually colonies consisting of thousands of clones that function in different ways. Siphonophores start with a single “bud” called a zooid. The zooid replicates itself asexually, producing thousands of clones. Each clone has a specific job, such as eating, moving, or reproducing. 

The colony of clones functions together as if they were one animal. For example, the Portuguese man o’ war has gas-filled zooids, allowing it to float on the ocean’s surface. Other zooids capture prey, while others digest the food. The individual zooids rely on each other for survival as one large functioning colony we call the Portuguese man o’ war.

In 2020, scientists found a siphonophore that was 150 feet long, probably the world’s longest animal. Most siphonophores live in the darkness of the deep oceans and are bioluminescent, using chemicals to produce light that attracts prey. The Portuguese man o’ war is an exception as a siphonophore that lives on the ocean’s surface. 

The deep sea diving expeditions of the Schmidt Ocean Institute and the EV Nautilus have taught us much about the designs built into living things that allow life to exist in places totally alien to humans. Siphonophores make us realize that planet Earth is a wonderfully designed and unique place in the universe, full of amazing living creatures. We must treasure God’s gift and take care of it instead of abusing and polluting it.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Ocean Conservancy newsletter Splash for Fall 2023 page 2. You can learn more about the EV Nautilus HERE and the Schmidt Ocean Institute HERE.

All These Things Will Be Dissolved

All These Things Will Be Dissolved

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night when the heavens will vanish with a great rushing sound, and the elements shall be scorched up and dissolved and the earth also and the works that are upon it will be laid bare – seeing that all these things shall be dissolved what devout and dedicated lives you should live.” – 2 Peter 3:10-11 

As we study the creation and learn more about the mechanisms that guide natural functions, we realize that biblical statements of God’s methods are scientifically factual. The theologian may simply say that God does it and leave it at that. Those of us with a science background are interested to see how God designed a system to accomplish His purposes. 

The statement of 2 Peter 3:10-11 is theological, but the description matches the latest scientific understanding of the nature of matter/energy. Scientific American magazine published an interesting article titled “Disappearing Act.” The article goes back to Stephen Hawking’s research, which showed that event horizons around black holes can emit “Hawking radiation,” which causes the black holes to evaporate. 

Researchers in quantum mechanics have shown how the “Schwinger effect” can apply this concept of matter evaporating to any form of matter, not just black holes. If their calculations are correct, it means that anything with mass, which is everything in the creation, is designed so that it will eventually evaporate. Since God created time, the timing of this evaporation is not open to science. 

Amazingly, the comment in 2 Peter that all these things will be dissolved cannot be seen as science fiction but as a picture of God’s creative power and wisdom of design. Indeed, the more we know of the creation, the more we comprehend the nature of the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: “Disappearing Act” in Scientific American magazine, September 2023, pages 9-10, and “Gravitational Pair Production and Black Hole Evaporation” in Physical Review Letters

A Lesson from the Dart Experiment

A Lesson from the Dart Experiment
Double Asteroid Redirection Test – DART

In September of 2022, NASA steered the DART spacecraft into an asteroid named Dimorphos, attempting to alter its orbit. The experiment was designed to see if we could change the path of an asteroid moving toward a collision with Earth. We can learn a lesson from the DART experiment.

It sounded like a good way to protect our planet from an asteroid impact. Scientists believe an asteroid collision may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and a similar one might cause human extinction. The collision did alter the orbit of Dimorphos, which is comforting to know. However, it also caused more potential problems.

The Hubble Space Telescope observed 37 previously unseen objects accompanying Dimorphos in its orbit around the Sun. These are boulders probably blasted off from Dimorphos by the DART collision. They are not just little pieces of rock or dust. Some of the boulders are as large as seven meters in diameter. Calculations show that the weight of the 37 boulders adds up to 5,000 metric tons – the weight of 300 gravel-filled dump trucks.

This incident reminds us of the story of Frankenstein when a scientist created a being that turned into a monster. Dr. Frankenstein did not comprehend where his creation might go once it was out of his control. These boulders do not pose an immediate danger to the Earth but understand that meteorites striking Earth’s surface are generally quite small. The boulders caused by DART’s impact with Dimorphus would cause significant problems if they hit the Earth.

Humans can learn a lesson from this incident. We are not God, and our wisdom and knowledge are incomplete. As God said to Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) In our day of rejecting God and His Word, we must be reminded that altering the design God built into the creation of everything from galaxies to viruses can have tremendous consequences. We have seen that in COVID, and again, we can learn a lesson from the DART experiment.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Science News for August 26, 2023, page 10.

Purpose in the Evolutionary Process

Purpose in the Evolutionary Process

Evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins tell us that life has no purpose and results from mindless, unguided evolution. That is the accepted doctrine of evolutionary biology. However, Dr. Gunter Bechly writing in the Evolution News website, reports on a review by Dr. Richard Buggs, giving some hope of at least one scientist finding purpose in the evolutionary process.

British plant biologist Richard Buggs wrote in Ecology & Evolution about a BBC science series called “Earth” in which the host, Dr. Chris Packham, made some very “non-Darwinian” statements suggesting purpose in the evolutionary process. Instead of viewing evolution as a natural process without purpose, Packham expresses it as an intentional process with direction.

Packham anthropomorphizes plants suggesting that they “have agency and intention.” He says they don’t “give up easily”; they “developed a new trick” and “were ready to start conquering the world.” He also points out something we have discussed on this site, that plants communicate with one another.

Packham finds purpose in the evolutionary process of plants. He suggests the greening of plants was not a purposeless, unintended process, but early photosynthesis was “something miraculous.” He describes the world as a “bountiful, blooming miracle” and the symbiosis between plants and fungi as “a match made in heaven.” The BBC promotes the series Packham hosts by saying, “Chris Packham tells the miraculous story of how plants turned Earth from a barren rock into a vibrant green world.”

In my graduate work at Notre Dame, an atheist taught our class on the historical development of planet Earth. He repeatedly pointed out that it takes enormous faith to believe that the complexities we see in Earth’s biological history leading to humans resulted from mindless chance processes. However, he justified his atheist faith by maintaining that given enough time, it could be possible.

Dr. Bechly concludes his article by saying he hopes this is “a new trend that would feel like a breath of fresh air amidst all the materialist and atheist propaganda in popular science media.” The current theories of how life developed on Earth by chance are so complicated and unlikely that evolution has become a faith for many. Finding purpose in the evolutionary process is a step toward recognizing that life is not an accident.

For over 50 years, we have said that evolution is a tool of God, designed to allow life to exist on a changing planet. God has indeed built into living things the capacity to change, so we have many varieties of dogs, cattle, grains, and fruit trees. Without this capacity for species to evolve and adapt, humans would have long ago run out of food.

With the verified climate changes in Earth’s history, many global mass extinctions would have occurred. There is a vast difference between the fact of evolution and the neo-Darwinian theories of naturalism and macro-evolution. Many conflicts would be eliminated if both sides could admit to that fact.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “On the BBC, a New Openness to Teleology in Biology?” by Dr. Gunter Bechly In Evolution News and Science Today for August 2, 2023.

How Fast Are You Spinning?

How Fast Are You Spinning?

You may think you are sitting still as you read this, but you are actually moving at tremendous speeds in various directions. You are on planet Earth which is rotating on its axis. The planet is also orbiting around the Sun. More than that, our solar system is spiraling around the Milky Way. Yes, the Milky Way is also moving in relation to other galaxies. It’s enough to make your head spin but let’s just look at Earth’s rotation. How fast are you spinning?

Earth’s circumference at the equator is about 24,900 miles, and a day, the time when Earth makes one rotation, is 24 hours. Therefore, if you are on the equator, you are moving at about 1040 miles per hour. Where I am, on the same latitude as Chicago, I am spinning around at 773 miles per hour. That’s because the circle at that latitude is much smaller. Those who live in Anchorage, Alaska, are moving at a leisurely 504 miles per hour. How fast are you spinning if you are standing on the North Pole? I doubt if any of our readers are doing that, but if so, you are just spinning in the same place like a top every 24 hours. Try not to get dizzy.

This spinning of Earth creates centrifugal force, which works against the pull of gravity. At Earth’s present rotational speed, if you moved to the equator from the North Pole, you would weigh about one pound less. Not a very efficient way to lose weight.

What would happen if Earth’s spin increased by one mile per hour? Centrifugal force would raise the ocean’s water level at the equator by a few inches and lower it in the Arctic Ocean. More noticeable would be that geosynchronous communications satellites would be out of their proper positions disrupting GPS services, satellite communications, television broadcasting, and military operations. A ten percent increase in Earth’s rotational speed would make the days only 22 hours long. And you thought you were having trouble getting everything done now. How fast are you spinning, and is the whole universe and our place in it just an accident?

What’s the point of all this? We have often discussed the many things that make this planet suitable for advanced life. Abundant water, a just-right tilt of the axis, the right spin, and a just-right Moon to stabilize the spin and speed. Those are only a few of Earth’s remarkable features. It almost seems that it was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer who knew we were coming.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

How Can Clouds Float in the Air?

How Can Clouds Float in the Air?

The sky is falling! Well, not exactly. Actually, the clouds are falling, or are they? Clouds are made of water, and everyone knows water is heavier than air, so how can clouds float in the air? Have you ever wondered about that? Are clouds floating, or is it an optical illusion? I’m baffled. How about you?

Before we answer those questions, here is another one. What does the Bible say about clouds? Clouds are mentioned many times in the Bible. God gives us a creation story in the Book of Job that expands on the Genesis account. These are some of the words God used to challenge Job and his friends in Job 38:8-9:

“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!”

In this poetic account, when the early Earth was a water world, God shut up the ocean “with doors” and told it, “Here your proud waves must stop!” I love that word picture of the creation process! God speaks, and the seas listen! But we are talking about clouds, and how can clouds float in the air?

In this Job passage, God explains something we wonder about in Genesis 1:1, where it says, “darkness was on the face of the deep.” The garment of clouds explains the darkness covering the oceans. Otherwise, we have to wonder why the first part of Genesis 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens would have to include the Sun, Moon, and stars, as well as all of the galaxies and everything in them. Why, then, was there darkness on the water-covered Earth? God answers that question by saying: “I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band.”

Genesis tells us that God divided the water covering the land from the water in the sky, meaning the clouds. (See Genesis 1:9-10.) We read further in Genesis 1:14-18 that God caused the clouds to clear up enough to allow the Sun and Moon to be fully visible “for signs and seasons, and for days and years” and to “give light on the earth.”

We see that God’s description of the creation process in Job clarifies some questions that the Genesis creation account leaves unanswered. But that isn’t all God said about clouds in Job 38. He challenges Job with this question in verse 34:

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?”

God verifies that clouds are made of water, and as Genesis tells us, God divided the water on the surface from the water in the air. So how did God make the water float in the air? Are the clouds defying gravity, or is this an optical illusion? Is God breaking His own laws of physics, or is He fooling us? The answer is – we are out of time for today. But tomorrow, we will answer the puzzling question, “How can clouds float in the air?”

— Roland Earnst © 2023