Gravity Force and Life

Gravity Force and Life
Four fundamental forces impact our lives: electromagnetic force, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity force. We couldn’t live without them. More than that, we couldn’t live without them being exactly what they are and carefully balanced against each other.

Gravity is the weakest by far. For example, the strong nuclear force is 10 to the 38th power stronger than gravity. That is one followed by 38 zeroes. That strong nuclear force holds the nucleus of atoms together, but it acts over very short distances within the atom. The gravity force acts on larger objects over much greater distances.

If gravity were as strong as any of the other three forces, it would crush you and everything else as well! Because gravity is relatively weak, you can stand and walk. But it’s strong enough that you can also jump without flying off into space. Gravity holds our planet together. It also holds Earth in orbit around the Sun at the right distance to allow life to exist. Gravity keeps our Moon in orbit around Earth, and the Moon’s gravity stabilizes Earth’s rotation and causes the tides which clean our ocean shores.

Gravity is also a major force in our weather, causing air masses to move as their density changes. A stronger force of gravity would create strong and destructive winds. Gravity even makes plants grow upward no matter which direction you place the seed in the ground.

As matter moves around in the cosmos, it’s attracted to other matter by gravity. Gravity formed the stars and planets. Planets are spherical because gravity force pulls them into that shape. It is also the gravity force that pulls hydrogen molecules together to form stars. When the hydrogen molecules reach enough mass, the gravity force squeezes them tightly enough to cause nuclear fusion. The fusion of hydrogen atoms turns them into the essential heavier elements that make up planets and our bodies.

The gravity force is just right to make the universe, stars, planets, and life possible. If it had been slightly more or less, none of these things would exist. We think the precision of the forces of nature is not an accident, but the design of a wise God.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

How Many Moons Are Enough?

How Many Moons Are Enough?
When it comes to moons, it seems that Earth got cheated. We have only one moon while Mars has two. Neptune has fourteen moons. Uranus has twenty-seven. Saturn not only has rings, but it also has sixty-two moons. Lucky Jupiter has sixty-seven! To add to the embarrassment, puny little Pluto, which is no longer considered a planet, has five times as many moons as Earth has! The only bragging point we have is that we can say we have more moons than Mercury and Venus. (They have none.) So how many moons are enough?

Actually, one works very nicely. Our single moon is critical to the existence of life on Earth. It’s because of the moon that Earth has a stable tilt on its axis of 23.5 degrees. That tilt prevents temperature extremes on this planet. With no inclination, the area of the Equator would be extremely hot and the poles extremely cold and dark all year. With a greater tilt, seasonal weather changes would be extreme all over the planet. Because of the angle of the inclination, we have proper seasons, and the air gets mixed to temper the weather extremes.

Our moon has the right mass at the right distance to keep Earth’s tilt stable. The moon plays several crucial roles in making our planet a great place to live, but stabilizing the tilt is one that’s extremely important. So how many moons are enough? I would say that one moon of the right size and at the right distance is just right.

Oh, and those other planets with more moons — none of them are habitable. Guess who has bragging rights now? Thank God that he gave us a just-right moon, and we don’t need any more. We see evidence of God’s design in every detail of our planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Lights of the Seasons

Lights of the Seasons
Genesis 1:14 says that God allowed the “lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night” and to serve as “signs to mark seasons and days and years.” We can call them the lights of the seasons.

Although light is essential for our existence, the Sun, Moon, and stars are intended to serve an additional purpose. In Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the Earth. “Heavens,” or “shamayim” in the original Hebrew, would include the Sun, Moon, and stars. Genesis 1:14 tells us that God lifted the cloud cover (described in Genesis 1:2 and Job 38:9) so that the heavenly lights could be clearly seen to establish the circadian rhythm, give us a way to determine directions, and allow us to mark the passage of time.

Today (December 21) is the time when the Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the shortest daylight and marks the first day of winter. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the most extended daylight which marks the first day of summer. We call it the winter or summer solstice. The word “solstice” comes from two Latin words meaning “sun” and “stand still” because on this day the Sun appears to momentarily stop its southward journey and start back toward the north. (The opposite is true on June 21.)

When Earth has made one complete rotation on its axis, the Sun’s position shows us that one day of 24 hours has passed. When the Earth completes one revolution around the Sun (approximately 365 days), we can see that the Sun has finished one cycle of its apparent north-south swing. We know that one year has passed.

It’s the 23.4-degree tilt of Earth’s axis with respect to the Sun that causes us to have seasons as our planet makes its year-long solar revolution. That tilt makes it appear that the Sun is moving north and south through the sky each year and gives us seasons. Without seasons, only limited areas of Earth would be habitable. Without day and night, one half of the Earth would be baking in the sunshine while the other half would be continually cold and dark. When the Moon has made one revolution around Earth, we can see that it has completed all of its phases and we know that one lunar (or synodic) month has passed.

As we consider these lights of the seasons, keep one thing in mind. When Moses recorded the words of Genesis, people didn’t understand what caused “seasons, days, and years.” Now we do. We can see the full meaning of Genesis 1:14 when God opened the sky to reveal the lights of the seasons. Moses accurately recorded what God revealed to him, but he didn’t understand it. Science allows us to know how God did what He did. We believe that is what science is all about – discovering how God did it. True science and a correct understanding of the Bible are in complete agreement because God is the author of both.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Moon Causes Tides

Moon Causes Tides
Most people know that the Moon causes tides. The gravitational pull of the Moon mostly causes the ocean tides. The tides are essential for cleaning the coastlines and estuaries.

On average, the Moon is 238,900 miles (384,470 km) from Earth. What if the Moon were only half of its present distance from Earth? The Moon half as far away from Earth would create ocean tides eight times higher than they are now. At one-fourth the current distance from Earth, the tides would be sixty-four times higher than they are today. Imagine a world with tides like that! Coastal cities around the world would be in danger. Coastal lowlands would be uninhabitable. The coasts would be eroded away in a short time. Upflowing tidal waters would overpower rivers that flow into the oceans. Floodplains along the rivers would fill and drain with each ebb and flow of the tide.

With a closer Moon, all kinds of aquatic creatures living along the shore would not survive the destructive forces of the tides. In addition to those catastrophes, seawater would deposit salt on the fertile land along the rivers making them barren. Glaciers along the coast of Alaska and Greenland and the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica would be broken up. Icebergs would clog the Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs would sometimes wash ashore with the tides in places far from the cold climates, crushing whatever was in the way.

It all sounds like a plot for a science fiction movie! So the Moon causes tides, but don’t worry. The Moon is not going to move closer to Earth. We can be thankful that it’s is precisely the size and location where it is. It seems as if Someone designed it that way for a purpose.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Stronger than Gravity

Stronger than Gravity
Gravity controls the universe — at least on a large scale. Obviously, gravity keeps you and your possessions from floating away into space. Gravity also holds planets and stars together. It holds the Moon in orbit around the Earth and all of the planets in orbit around the Sun. Gravity holds the galaxies together. But other forces are stronger than gravity.

Four interactions make the universe work: the weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity. Gravity is by far the weakest of those forces. The weak and strong nuclear forces are limited to a very short range within the atom. Only the electromagnetic force and gravity reach out to the vast universe. Since the electromagnetic force is so much stronger than gravity, why does gravity control the universe?

Everything is made of atoms and atoms contain electrons and protons. Electrons have a negative charge, and protons have an equal and opposite positive charge. Electromagnetism causes opposite charges to attract and like charges to repel each other. Gravity, of course, pulls anything with mass together.

The reason electromagnetism does not overpower the much weaker force of gravity is a delicate balance between electrons and protons. For each electron in the universe, there is a proton, so the plus and minus electrical forces cancel each other, creating electrical neutrality. Without that balance, we could not exist.

The balance between electrons and protons is so delicate that if you were building a universe and accidentally put in one extra electron for each trillion trillion trillion electron/proton pairs (that’s one followed by 36 zeroes), it would be catastrophic. The electrical repulsion between those negatively-charged electrons would overpower the gravitational force. The result would be that gravity could not pull any mass together. If gravity could not pull masses together, there would be no planets, no stars, no galaxies. Electromagnetic repulsion would create a universe of dispersed particles and nothing else.

Each of the other forces is stronger than gravity. The weak and strong nuclear forces are confined to short distances within the atom, and the electromagnetic force is carefully balanced. Is it possible that this precision is merely an accident? Or do we see evidence of system design? We think this is one more example of fine-tuning in the universe which gives evidence of a Designer.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Moon Mass and Life on Earth

Moon Mass and Life on Earth
Our Moon is different from any other moon in our solar system. And as far as we know, it’s different from any other moon orbiting any other planet in our galaxy. The difference has to do with the Moon mass.

No other planet has a moon with a mass that is so large compared to the mass of the planet. While other planets have multiple moons, our single Moon is large enough in relation to our planet that it stabilizes Earth’s rotational tilt at 23.5 degrees in relation to our orbit around the Sun. No other planet in our solar system has such a stable rotation axis tilt. The stable axis allows us to have stable and reliable seasons.

Seasonal changes distribute the Sun’s energy over Earth’s surface allowing plants to grow and food to be produced over a large area. Without the seasons, much of the Earth would be too cold, and some areas would be too hot for advanced life. The Moon has enough mass at the right distance from Earth to make advanced life possible on this planet.

In fact, the Moon has almost too much mass. If the Moon had two percent more mass, it would destabilize the Earth’s tilt. Is there a reason for the Moon to be more massive that it needs to be to stabilize the tilt? Yes, there is. The mass of the Moon creates a pull on the Earth known as tidal friction. That force creates the ocean’s tides which refresh the coastlines.

There is another reason for the large Moon mass. It also slows the Earth’s rotation. In the early Earth, days were shorter. The Moon has put the brakes on our planet’s rotation slowing it to a 24-hour day. Slowing the rotation has affected Earth’s weather, reducing temperature extremes and distributing rainfall more evenly around the Earth.

These are some of the many reasons we need the Moon at its exact size and location. Is it merely another coincidence that the Moon has just the right mass and distance from Earth? No, we believe God planned it that way.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Sun Stand Still

Sun Stand Still
Many times when a skeptic attacks a biblical story, the problem is caused by misunderstanding a word. In Joshua 10 there is an account of a battle between the Amorites and the Israelites. In verses 12 and 13 of the King James translation, Joshua said, “Sun stand still” and the Sun and Moon stood still for a whole day.

There is no question that God can make the Sun stand still. He can do anything He wants to do, but the physical consequences of stopping the Earth from rotating on its axis are enormous. The inertia of the water in the oceans, the effect on the atmosphere, and even the impact on the land masses challenge the imagination. A careful study of the words used in the biblical account resolves what appears to be an impossible statement in the scriptures.

The New Testament uses the Greek word “helios” which means Sun, but there is no Hebrew word for Sun in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1:16, the word for lights is “maor,” and the Sun is identified as “gadol maor” usually translated “greater light.” In Job 31:26, the Hebrew word is the shorter version “or” and Job 30:28 it is “chammah” referring to the heat of the Sun. In Judges 8:13 and 14:18 the word used is “cheres” again referring to the Sun’s burning heat.

In Joshua 10, the Hebrew word used is “shemesh” which refers to a ministrant, a device to minister to a need. It usually refers to the Sun but could be any ministrant. The word for Moon is “yareach” which refers to a wondering object. There is another interesting point about the words in the last part of Joshua 10:12. The pronouncement of God’s provision for the battle to continue says in the King James, “Sun stand thou still upon Gibeon (El-Jib today); and thou Moon in the valley of Ajalon.” Ajalon is in Dan and Gibeon is 4 miles from Bethel. These two locations are less than 30 miles apart. That fact should suggest that these are not the celestial Sun and Moon.

The question is not whether God caused a “great light” to allow the battle to continue at Joshua’s request, but what was the method by which God did it. There are many ways God could provide a great light or series of lights as a ministrant. Verse 11 speaks of “great stones from heaven” cast down on Azekah which was a town in Judah near Gibeon. Many astronomical possibilities to provide light are worth considering such as an asteroid or meteor shower or an aurora.

If you read the rest of the chapter, the main message is that God fought for Israel. Verse 14 indicates “there was no day like it before or after.” If you are satisfied with assuming that “Sun stand still” was simply a miracle of God and no explanation should be attempted, that is your prerogative. But to the skeptic, there needs to be an answer, and the evidence gives several possible answers that enable the believer “to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks of the hope that is within us” (1 Peter 3:15).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

NASA Turns 60

NASA Turns 60
In 1957 when I was 19 years old and a junior at Indiana University, the Soviet Union placed Sputnik, the first artificial satellite into orbit around the Earth. The following year the United States established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with the goal of staking America’s claim to the cosmos. NASA turns 60 this year with an incredible record of accomplishment.

There have been 166 manned missions, 116 satellites which study the Earth, 70 missions to the moon and planets, 27 telescopes/observatories placed in space, and 17 satellites studying solar wind and interplanetary science. We now have robots making incredible discoveries at every turn, and plans are in the works for the first humans to land on another planet.

As a physics major and later as a physics teacher I have been enthralled with NASA’s accomplishments. I have had students who graduated from my high school and went on to have key roles in NASA. As those students come back and share their experiences and what they have discovered, I have been encouraged. I am excited by the fact that most of them see their discoveries, as I do, as a way of learning what God has done and understanding some of the methods He has used.

What an exciting time to be alive, and what a blessing it is to learn and grow in our faith and our knowledge! The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator. As NASA turns 60, I look forward to what lies ahead.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Time magazine, October 8, 2018, page 18-19.

Alone In the Milky Way

Alone In the Milky Way
Yesterday we mentioned an article by John Gribbin in Scientific American (September 2018, page 96 or online HERE.) The title of the article was “Are Humans Alone in the Milky Way?” Although Gribbin suggests that some form of life exists elsewhere in the galaxy, he insists there could be no sentient beings like ourselves. The reasons for concluding that we are alone in the Milky Way galaxy are these “amazing” and “implausible” “coincidences.”

SPECIAL TIMING. The elements that make up a terrestrial planet like Earth are produced from hydrogen and helium by thermonuclear fusion. We see supernova explosions producing the heavy metals that make up a terrestrial planet and life itself, but it takes time for this process to create the necessary elements. Most of the exoplanets we see have minimal amounts of the heavy elements because they are early in their stellar evolution. Even the sun itself is 71% hydrogen and 27% helium with only 2% metals. The timing of putting the materials together to make a terrestrial planet is critical.

LOCATION IN THE GALAXY. The location of a solar system in the galaxy makes a difference. The galactic habitable zone is the area where there is a freedom from the concentration of supernovae. Systems near the center of the galaxy have high levels of radiation in the form of X-rays and cosmic rays. There is a massive black hole in the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A which produces massive amounts of radiation. Gamma-ray bursts occur in certain places in the galaxy. In our area of the galaxy, sterilizing radiation bursts do not happen.

Recent studies of the galactic habitable zone tell us that it extends from 23,000 to 30,000 light-years from the center or only about 7% of the galactic radius. This zone contains only about 5% of the stars, because stars tend to concentrate toward the core of the galaxy. Our Sun is close to the center of the galactic habitable zone providing rare long-term stability.

TYPE OF PLANET. So far astronomers have discovered about 50 “earth-like planets.” What that means is that they have found rocky planets in the habitable zone that are about the same size as Earth. Venus would qualify as an “Earth-like planet,” but it is an excellent example of how misleading that statement is. Venus has a thick crust with no sign of plate tectonics, no magnetic field, no way to recycle materials, and no stabilizing moon. Our Moon keeps the tilt of Earth’s axis at 23 ½ degrees providing a stable climate.

Realize that all of these factors are just to have a ball of rock in the right place at the right time with the right materials with which to make life. Now we would need to calculate the odds of getting the right chemicals together at the right time in the right place with the right catalyst to make the first living thing. Books have been written about how improbable those steps are. The writers are not religious fanatics, but scientists who are doing the research.

The Scientific American article, concludes that we are alone in the Milky Way:

“As we put everything together, what can we say? Is life likely to exist elsewhere in the galaxy? Almost certainly yes, given the speed with which it appeared on Earth. Is another technological civilization likely to exist today? Almost certainly no, given the chain of circumstances that led to our existence. These considerations suggest we are unique not just on our planet but in the whole Milky Way. And if our planet is so special, it becomes all the more important to preserve this unique world for ourselves, our descendants and the many creatures that call Earth home.”

We must make one additional point. If an intelligent Creator was involved in this process, the probability of a habitable Earth with life on it is 100%. Perhaps we are not really alone in the Milky Way because there is a God who cares about us. For those who might want to consider this option, we encourage you to watch program #6 of the video series available free on doesgodexist.tv.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Design In Nature

Design In Nature
When a person says that the mindless forces of evolution can easily explain everything that appears to be design in nature, you have to wonder if that person understands the principles of statistics.

From a statistical standpoint the more parameters that exist, the less likely it is that a desired final result will occur. The odds of a single coin flipped into the air and landing on heads is one in two or 1/2. What are the odds of five flipped coins landing heads up? That would be 1/2 multiplied by itself five times. The answer is one in thirty-two or 1/32. If you throw fifty coins up at the same time, the chance of all fifty showing heads is so small as to be considered impossible. (Multiply 1/2 fifty times.)

In nature, we see situations where the odds would be equivalent to throwing a million (or more) coins up and having them all land on heads. There is no way that an open-minded, thinking person can begin to entertain the idea that blind chance can explain such events.

Books and movies on nature often use a phrase like “nature planned…” or “evolution engineered…” or “genetic forces created…” some natural phenomenon. If you truly believe that the forces that created and designed the universe with our planet and everything on it are “mindless, blind, mechanistic chance,” then you can’t attach words that indicate wisdom, purpose, design, engineering, or creativity.

The design in nature is hard to miss. It has to be rooted in the mind of a Designer. Some things are just beyond what mere chance can do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018