Interdependent Factors in Statistics

Interdependent Factors in Statistics and BMWs
BMW Z4 Cars

Yesterday, we considered the wise saying, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” We said that one problem with statistical arguments is that they often don’t include all the variables. A second problem with statistical arguments is that they don’t ensure that all of their variables are independent. Therefore, we must consider the interdependent factors.

For a trivial example, let’s suppose I ask, “What are the odds that I will buy my grandson a BMW for his birthday?” The first question we should ask is, “Is he old enough to drive?” A second question might be, “Can he get insurance?” A third variable would be, “Do I have enough money to buy the car?” Finally, a fourth variable might be, “Would he be happy with a used BMW?”

Since I love my grandson, I might say that the odds of me buying a car for him are 100%. However, as we consider each of those variables (plus many more), the probability becomes less. Are these variables independent, or are they interdependent factors? If he is not old enough to drive, he is also not old enough to get insurance. The probability of him being able to drive and being able to get insurance are not independent because both depend on his age. His being happy with a used BMW is not independent of my having enough money to buy a new one.

If we look at the question of life on Mars, we might be inclined to say that the odds are very high that life does exist on that planet. It has a mass similar to Earth. Mars has an atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, and water. Mars is tilted on its axis, it has a magnetic field, and the length of a day is roughly 24 hours. Are all of these variables independent? The answer is no because if the planet has volcanic eruptions, it will have an atmosphere, and volcanic eruptions always involve some amount of water. Both the water and the atmosphere are interdependent factors that depend upon volcanic eruptions.

The tricky part of this subject for both believers and atheists is knowing what is dependent and what is independent. As our knowledge of a topic improves, we are likely to find more dependent factors. For example, we recently discussed the importance of hydroxyl radicals in cleaning Earth’s atmosphere of pollutants. What are the odds of hydroxyl radicals being in a planet’s atmosphere? What may appear to be a separate and independent variable is the presence of lightning. Science has known for a long time that lightning helps produce nitrates which are essential for plant growth. In June of 2021, scientists announced a recent discovery that lightning produces hydroxyl radicals. Any planet that has lightning will have hydroxyl radicals, so the presence of hydroxyl radicals is not independent but is dependent on lightning.

This discussion has practical value in today’s world. Yesterday we said that we would examine some other statistical issues involving God’s existence. Think about this. Considering the millions of interdependent factors that must be in place to allow us to exist, could they all have come together by chance? Consider it on various levels—the creation of a universe from nothing—the creation of a life-supporting planet—the creation of the first life from inert matter—the creation of advanced life. We could go on. But considering all of the interdependent factors at each level, is it more logical to assume they came together by mere chance or guided by an intelligent Designer?

— John N Clayton © 2021

No Lake On Mars

No Lake On Mars

In 2018 the European Space Agency announced that their subsurface radar had discovered what they thought was a lake on Mars. It was about 20 Kilometers across and beneath 1.5 kilometers of ice at the South Pole of Mars. This discovery set off media speculations about creatures living in the lake that could be similar to the deep sea creatures in Earth’s oceans.

A study in the July 16, 2021, issue of Geophysical Research Letters does not support the lake on Mars. It turns out that the radar images were mirages caused by either clay minerals or frozen brine. Furthermore, the proposed lake was at the South Pole, making it even more unlikely that it is a water lake. 

We learn several lessons from this incident. The first is that you cannot rely on news of sensational scientific discoveries in the popular media. They are interested in anything that will attract readers or viewers. The original report by the European agency gave data and made one possible explanation of what their data showed. Science, unlike religion, has built-in methods to explore whether a proposal is reasonable. In other words, it is self-correcting. Changes in religious understanding usually result in name-calling and polarization. 

The second point is that we often interpret research data in terms of what we see on Earth. For example, the original radar data did not show just one possible lake on Mars. Other researchers have pointed out many radar plots like the one detected by the European satellite detected. Scientists speculated that this could be a lake because they have detected lakes deep in the Earth where pressure and volcanic activity keep the water in a liquid state. 

The possibility of a lake on Mars is not a biblical issue. However, this incident does give us insight into the workings of research in astronomy and how the media report it. The more we learn about Mars, the more we realize what a wonderful place Earth is. While Mars has a few conditions similar to those on Earth that allow life to exist, other Martian parameters would not support life. The unique design of planet Earth becomes more apparent as we study Mars and other objects in space. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: Geophysical Research Letters July 16, 2021, and Science News, August 14, 2021 page 8.

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

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.

Water in the Milky Way Galaxy

Water in the Milky Way Galaxy

We recently reported that there are massive amounts of water in the cosmos. Now, more evidence points to water in the Milky Way Galaxy.

An asteroid belt exists between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers believe that this belt of material is either a planet that disintegrated or one that never formed because of the gravitational pushes and pulls of Jupiter and Mars. In 2007, NASA launched a probe called Dawn. In 2015, it arrived at one of the largest asteroids named Ceres. The Dawn probe revealed several strange white spots, especially in the Occator Crater. In August of 2020, astronomers presented several papers dealing with evidence that the white spots are ejections of salty water produced from holes punched into Ceres’ surface by space rocks.

Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute was involved in the NASA research on Ceres. He is quoted as saying that this discovery is “one of the most profound discoveries in planetary science in the space age.” The Occator Crater is 57 miles (92 km) wide. The material erupting through fractures looks very much like Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

Astronomers suggest that our solar system has large amounts of water stored in the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and Pluto’s surface. Trying to put together a model that explains the formation of wet moons and objects like Ceres is proving to be quite difficult. It appears that whatever the cause, our solar system has a unique water signature.

The abundance of water in the Milky Way Galaxy may turn out to be very important if humans venture into space and start establishing colonies on other worlds. Did God prepare a stepping stone for humans to move beyond Earth’s limitations by placing essential water in our solar system? Perhaps, but as we have said before, we face many other challenges as we venture away from our home planet.

— John N, Clayton © 2021

Data from Discover magazine, January/February 2021 pages 58-59.

Potential Health Problems of Space Travel

Potential Health Problems of Space Travel

More and more data shows that leaving Earth and venturing into outer space away from Earth’s constant gravity and the protection of our atmosphere and magnetosphere is much more destructive than anyone imagined. One of our regular readers sent us a quote from NBC News about the potential health problems of space travel. Here is what it says:

“The number of deaths due to heart disease among the Apollo lunar astronauts is almost five times greater than that in non-flight astronauts, or astronauts who never flew missions in space, researchers from Florida State University found. Compared to astronauts who flew only in low Earth orbit (LEO), the heart risk among Apollo astronauts is four times higher. There were no differences between LEO and non-flight astronauts.”

We recently reported on the astronaut twin study, which showed physical changes even in low Earth orbit. We don’t yet know what potential health problems of space travel may become evident in the long-term.

Micro-gravity and exposure to radiation seem to combine to cause bodily harm. Earth’s magnetic field is more protective than science has understood. Working in the International Space Station is less of an issue because the LEO means that some of Earth’s protections still function. Going to Mars may be impossible with the present spaceship design.

We will be interested in future data on travel to the Moon and prolonged existence in outer space. We know that God’s design of planet Earth makes it suitable for life, but we are not fully aware of the potential health problems of space travel. You can read the full NBC report from HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Massive Amounts of Water in the Cosmos

Massive Amounts of Water in the Cosmos

One of the things that has entered the debate about life in space has been the presence of water. Astronomers have found methane, ethane, and other compounds in oceans on other planets and moons in our solar system. Unlike water, they are not polar molecules. The polar structure of water makes it an apparent necessity for life. Scientists have debated about whether water has existed or does now exist on Mars, our Moon, or one of the many moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Now there is evidence of massive amounts of water in our solar system.

We have posted before about NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” website (apod.nasa.gov). On January 15, 2021, the page showed this picture taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015, as it flew by Pluto. The photograph shows areas of frozen nitrogen and carbon monoxide. It also shows massive amounts of water ice frozen into mountains reaching up to 11,000 feet (3,353 m), which is comparable to mountains on Earth.

There is more and more evidence that, at least in our solar system, water is quite common. Because of the temperatures in the outer planets, that water is in a frozen state. Liquid water has a very narrow range of temperatures, and that means the zone in which a planet can have liquid water is very small. Because of that, life on another planet is improbable, but the potential for humans establishing or supporting life elsewhere is relatively high.

Verse two of Genesis 1 tells us that the early Earth had water in the liquid state: “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Massive amounts of water apparently dominated the planet. Verse six tells us that there was “a firmament in the midst of the waters” that divided the waters. It isn’t until verse nine that dry land appears. The keyword in these verses is the word translated firmament in English. The Hebrew word used here is “raqia.” It is used nine times in Genesis 1 and eight times elsewhere in the Old Testament. Four of those eight are in the visions of Ezekiel 1:22-26.

The Bible’s economy of language leaves us to understand the “firmament” from its context. The most accurate understanding is what, in modern terms, we would call an “interface,” a zone of change. In many cases, that zone is the atmosphere, so in verse 20 of Genesis chapter one, we have birds flying in the firmament. Genesis 1:14-15 tells us that the Sun and the Moon became visible as the darkness (Genesis 1:2) of the cloud cover (Job 38:8-9) in the firmament cleared. Ezekiel saw his chariots in the firmament.

The discovery of mountains of frozen water elsewhere in the solar system indicates that the original cosmos had massive amounts of water, as Genesis 1:6 implies. It also tells us that when the Earth’s temperatures settled to between zero and 100 degrees Celsius, the water became seas covering the planet. This is one more evidence for the integrity of the Genesis account as it describes the creative design of God, simplified so that all humans can understand it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Planetary Atmospheric Pressure

Planetary Atmospheric Pressure

The media often overlook how many things have to be “right” for life to exist on a planet. Planetary atmospheric pressure is one factor.

By “life,” we mean the standard textbook definition of organisms that can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli, and reproduce. The problem is that many conditions make other terrestrial planets (planets with hard surfaces) unlikely to harbor life. Life is even less likely on Jovian planets that are primarily gaseous. You can postulate balloon-like living organisms in Jupiter or Saturn’s atmosphere, but radiation and electrical problems make that unlikely as well.

Planetary atmospheric pressure depends on the weight of the gases above a planet’s surface. The air pressure on Earth’s surface is 14.696 pounds per square inch a sea level. That pressure allows water to exist as a liquid, and it will enable various gases to dissolve in the water. We all know what happens when you shake a bottle of carbonated beverage and then quickly remove the cap. The sudden drop in pressure causes an explosion as the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes from the liquid. For organisms to absorb oxygen dissolved in water, which fish do, the atmospheric pressure must be high enough for the oxygen to dissolve. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars is .01 of the pressure on Earth. That means water on Mars would contain no oxygen or dissolved gases.

There has been discussion about finding water on the Moon or Mercury, but those atmospheric pressures are considerably lower than those on Mars. That means water would not be in a liquid state. On the other end of the pressure spectrum is Venus, where atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than on Earth. At that pressure, toxic gases would be dissolved in any water that existed on the planet.

Planetary atmospheric pressure is just one more variable that must be carefully and precisely chosen when constructing an environment that will support and sustain life. The creation is far more complicated than most of us realize. As we learn more, we must stand in awe of the God who created our planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Astronomy magazine, February 2021, page 10.

Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

One of the problems with space travel is that the human body was designed to live on Earth. When people are in weightlessness for an extended time, they lose muscle and bone mass. This loss can be as much as 20%. A possible solution might be called the “mighty mouse drug.”

Dr. Se-Jin Lee of the Jackson Laboratory at the University of Connecticut has published findings of a drug that blocks a pair of proteins that typically limit muscle mass. When scientists treated mice with this drug, they maintained their weight and muscle mass even when they were in the International Space Station for a month.

The application of this research can do more than provide a way for humans to survive a trip to Mars. It may also benefit people who are confined to a bed or a wheelchair.

This research reminds us that God designed our bodies to function in Earth’s gravity, just as He designed Earth to support life. Problems occur when we subject our physical bodies to forces they were not designed for. These problems require extreme solutions, and God has given us the ability to use science to find solutions such as the mighty mouse drug.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Associated Press 9/12/20, and Fierce Biotech.

Planetary Atmosphere Variations

Planetary Atmosphere Variations - Earth

The dominant theory for the origin of the planets in our solar system assumes that they all evolved from a single mass or nebula. Several factors support that idea. Those factors include the fact that the planets lie roughly in one plane, that they all revolve around the Sun in the same direction, and that there is mathematical predictability to their location. Most of the irregularities that might indicate against a common source, such as variations in planetary tilt, have reasonable explanations. However, new planetary atmosphere variations are difficult to explain.

Recent studies of the atmospheres of the terrestrial planets have shown wide variations. Our atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, but nitrogen on Venus is 4%, and on Mars, it is 2.7%. Both Mars and Venus have atmospheres that are 95% carbon dioxide, while Earth is 0.1%, and Mercury has none. Earth and Mercury have oxygen in their atmospheres, 21% and 42% respectively, but Venus and Mars have less than 1%.

Astronomers theorize that they can explain these planetary atmosphere variations.
They suggest that the atmospheres are not original to the planets, but were produced by processes that took place after the formation of the planets. The best guess now is that impacts and outgassing formed the atmospheres. This is not a trivial matter because life is not possible without the proper combination of atmospheric gases.

The Genesis account describes the production of Earth’s structure in a sequence. Genesis 1:6-9 indicates separate creations of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere. The new data support the idea that once Earth was created, continued activity prepared it for life. Once again, we find the scientific evidence in support of the Bible’s description.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Astronomy magazine, August 2020, page 12.