Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe

Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe
The Associated Press released an article on Friday, September 13, 2019, that read, “Study Finds the Universe Might be Several Billion Years Younger.” The news story sites a study released in the journal Science on September 12. In the study, Inh Jee of the Max Planck Institute in Germany used a new method to measure the Hubble Constant, which scientists use to calculate the age of the universe.

Right away, we have seen some fundamentalists jumping to the conclusion that the headline means the Earth is 6,000 years old after all. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old the creation is. The age of the Earth is a denominational issue for those whose human doctrines won’t work if the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Our concern is that people understand that this is not an issue about whether God exists or whether the Bible is true.

We can measure the age of the universe by determining the expansion rate of the cosmos, which is the Hubble Constant. Measuring that expansion has been incredibly difficult, and that is what the headline refers to. In previous years the Hubble Constant has been estimated to be 70. Inh Lee and her team used a new technique called time delay gravitational lensing which gave a value for the Hubble Constant of 82.4. That would reduce the age of the universe from the currently accepted 13.7 billion years to 11.4 billion years. Other scientists using other techniques earlier this year have given a Hubble Constant of 74 and 73.3. Previous methods have given a value as low as 67. A lower value means an older universe, and a higher value of the Hubble Constant means a younger universe.

If you know the value of the Hubble Constant, the calculation of the age of the universe is very simple. We all know that travel time depends on two things. If I go 100 miles at 50 miles per hour, how long did I travel? The obvious answer is two hours. Distance traveled is equal to the speed at which you travel multiplied by how long you travel at that speed. We can measure the size of the cosmos by several techniques. Triangulation is difficult because the size is so huge that the apex angle of the triangle is too small to measure accurately. However, triangulation does give us an idea of the vastness of space.

The further light travels through the cosmos, the lower the frequency of the light. That effect is caused by dust particles in space scattering the higher frequency blue light. The effect is called interstellar reddening, and it gives us a good measure of the size of the cosmos. Several other methods involve complex energy production by various stars. All of those methods provide a reasonably consistent measure as to how big the cosmos is. Applying the Hubble Constant to the size of the cosmos provides us with a measure of the age of the universe.

The point of all of this is to get values that science can use to study astronomical processes in deep space. The problem is that our measuring devices are primitive in terms of what we need for such distant objects. What it means to those of us who marvel at the size and complexity of space is that more than ever, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?
How can we investigate the questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” Many go to an atheist website or read a book by an atheist to decide. A vast majority of people who attack our position on the Bible follow atheist websites. The problem here should be obvious. If a person’s religious view is that there is no God, then obviously, the Bible cannot be the word of God since God does not exist! If you tell anyone something often enough and long enough, eventually they will believe it.

The same kind of problem could come up in the opposite way if one were to read only a book on the truth of the Bible written by a Christian minister. We are not saying that you should not read books written by atheists or ministers. What we are saying is that you cannot stop there and be satisfied whether the Bible is true or false. To answer the questions like “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” by reading what people say, you need to read both viewpoints. You also have to learn how both sides answer the questions posed by people whose views conflict with theirs.

A more direct way to answer the question “Is the Bible true?” would be to explore the evidence yourself. Is the Bible accurate in its statements of a scientific nature? Are the principles of psychology used in the Bible practical and worthwhile? Is the Bible’s approach to human relations valid? Can following the principles of the Bible bring peace, harmony, unity, and positive things to human beings? The way to answer these questions is to read the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself about these issues. It can be helpful to listen to the objections of an atheist and listen to a Christian apologist respond to those objections. But, take the time to look at the evidence and ask questions yourself. Starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will show you clearly the answers to many of those questions.

Another approach worth considering is the cosmological evidence. The argument we make is very simple. We ask three questions: Was there, or was there not a beginning to the cosmos? If there was a beginning, was it caused, or was it not caused? If it was caused, what or who caused it?

The evidence for each of the steps in this logical discussion about origins comes from a variety of sources. In the first question, we can look at evidence from cosmology. The fact that the cosmos is expanding, strongly suggests that the expansion had a specific point in space and time from which it started. Any astronomy textbook will point this out. There is chemical evidence in the cosmos in terms of hydrogen, the fuel that powers the cosmos. If the universe had always existed, there would be no hydrogen left because it is the element from which all other materials are made. The power of the Sun and stars comes from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. We also see evidence from physics in the form of the laws of thermodynamics. We know that, in closed systems, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. If the cosmos had always been, it would be totally disordered because the cosmos is a closed system with no energy being added to it.

The point we are making is that evidence comes from different fields. Experts in the fields of cosmology, physics, and chemistry have written about these processes. The evidence gives predictability to the cosmos and has many practical uses in space travel and astronomy. There is a wide range of support from a variety of areas for the argument that the cosmos had a beginning, that it was caused, and that it was intelligently caused.

Being confident about your beliefs cannot be rooted in what someone else tells you or what is popular. There are always problems with any biased belief systems passed on to you by others. You should be open to new evidence even when you have formed an opinion about something. The lesson of history on matters related to faith is that new discoveries support and confirm faith in God and His word.

We do not have to be consumed by doubt and paralyzed by uncertainty. The Bible speaks confidently, and we must work to build a dynamic faith that allows us to meet the needs that we were put here to address. The questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” are probably the most important questions you will ever ask. Do the research and think!
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

This post was adapted from an article by John N. Clayton in the Does God Exist? journal. You can read the complete article HERE.

Arranging Books on a Shelf

Arranging Books on a ShelfMy wife recently did some major rearranging of the books in our library. We have a large number of books, and we needed to downsize and make it easier to find what we are looking for. She asked for my advice about arranging books on a shelf. This brought to my mind a column in Astronomy magazine in January of 2013. In Bob Berman’s “Strange Universe” column, he often presents some interesting facts, and we have referred to his articles previously. In that particular column, he wrote about what random events or “chance” can or cannot accomplish.

The connection with library books goes like this. If you have 4 books on a shelf, how many ways can you arrange them? The answer is “4 factorial,” which is 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply it out, and you find that there are 24 possible ways. However, what if you have 10 books to arrange? That would be 10 factorial, which is 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply those numbers, and you will find there are 3,628,800 different ways to arrange 10 books on a shelf. We have way more than 10 books in our library, and I am not going to compute how many possible arrangements there are. Neither my calculator nor my brain could handle it.

When my wife asked for advice on arranging books on a shelf, she didn’t realize what a difficult question she was asking me. However, I had no problem giving a suggestion because I have enough intelligence to know what books should go together by topic. But if you were to put 10 books on a shelf at random, the chance that they would all be in alphabetical order would be about one in 3.6 million. Try it blindfolded and see how long it takes for you to get it right.

Why am I talking about arranging books on a shelf? What’s the point? There are many more than 10 options when it comes to designing any part of the complex universe in which we live. What are the chances that they all came together without any intelligent direction? The possibility would be far lower than for all of the books in our library to be in alphabetical order, or even in topical order, if we just randomly put them on the shelves. The question then becomes: “Can anyone believe that this universe, our solar system, planet Earth, life, consciousness, and intelligence all happened by chance?” My library disproves that theory.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Storm Area 51 Craziness

Storm Area 51 CrazinessFor many years UFO and alien proponents have maintained that in the government is hiding aliens from outer space at a U.S. Air Force Testing Range in a remote area of Nevada. The believers call it “Area 51.” The story goes that there are secret discussions about elaborate plans for our planet. For most people, this is just a big joke, but for many others, this is their religion. It is their hope for getting away from the struggles of life and the violence and sickness around us. An internet meme called “Storm Area 51” has attracted people to come and celebrate the area.

Promoters have planned a three-day September music festival called Alienstock. They expect 10,000 people to come to Lincoln County, Nevada (population 5,200). The Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nevada, (population 110) plans an exposition in September. The internet post is inviting people to trespass into the military’s remote test area. They are hoping for 35,000 to 40,000 people for that. If that happens, a confrontation with the military is possible. There are only 184 hotel rooms in the entire county (over 10,000 square miles), so local officials are concerned about how far local resources will go.

You can laugh off “Storm Area 51” as a crackpot waste of time and money, but it has received wide publicity. The Associated Press ran an article on it on August 21, 2019, and it has been featured on web news outlets. You can be sure that significant numbers of people will be there. Many others who will not go still believe the propaganda barrage that has accompanied it. The old saying “If you don’t believe in SOMETHING you will believe ANYTHING” seems to be in order here.

Let us say once again, that the Bible doesn’t tell us that this is the only place where God has created life. However, there is no evidence of alien visitation or manipulation in the entire history of our planet. Spending money on a PR program like “Storm Area 51” is merely a foolish waste of money which could be used in far better ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Nazca Lines and Birds

Nazca Lines and BirdsOne of the enduring UFO claims has been the massive drawings on Peru’s Nazca desert plateau. As far back as Eric Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, there have been those who claim that people on the Earth could not have made the drawings. They claim that the lines marked out landing strips for alien space crafts. It has been proven that people CAN, in fact, make huge drawings visible from space. However, there have not been good explanations as to what the Nazca drawings represent. Masaki Eda, a zooarchaeologist from Hokkaido University in Japan, seems to have found some clues in his recent study of the Nazca Lines and birds.

The large hummingbird drawing, which has been popularized, is an excellent portrayal of a bird known as the long-tailed hermit. Two other drawings that Eda has identified are a pelican and a guano bird. This doesn’t answer all of the mysteries of the Nazca lines, however, because those birds are rainforest or coastal birds, and the Nazca plateau is a desert. Social anthropologists studying the religions and myths of the people of the area may tell us more. There is still much to be learned about the Nazca lines and birds.

As we have emphasized before, the question of life in space is not a biblical issue and has no bearing on the scientific evidence for the existence of God. It is essential to realize that we live in a world that is as God describes it in the Bible, and He has given us the responsibility to care for it. Aliens are not our creators. The evidence does not support substituting UFOs or alien abduction theories for honoring God and living the life Christ calls us to live.
— John N. Clayton ©

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11Every once in awhile, I get to sit back and think about what I have witnessed in my life’s journey. A reminder of one of the highlights of that journey is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

My time of being involved in scientific events of significance began when I was fortunate enough to win the Westinghouse National Science Fair competition for Bloomington, Indiana, in 1954. That program allowed me to spend a few days with some of the top scientists in the country. I got to hear about what they were doing and what lay ahead in their particular disciplines. I was a high school junior at the time and totally entrenched in atheism. I believed that I had two choices. I could reject all of science and immerse myself in the senseless traditions (as I saw them) of religion. The choice I preferred was to be an atheist and participate in the wonderful possibilities of the future molded and made possible by science.

The most distressing part of the National Science Fair was that several of the best-known scientists of that day both publicly and privately expressed belief in God. My science teacher named Wayne Gross at University High School in Bloomington was a man of deep conviction that God was the creator of all things. He believed that science was just a way of understanding what God had done and using that knowledge to improve the lot of all humanity. The seeds of doubt in the religion of my parents (atheism) had been sown.

Many years later, as a science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I sat glued to the television on July 20, 1969. I was watching Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they traveled to the Moon, landed on it, and returned with massive amounts of data and samples. I had left atheism and started my ministry just a year before the Moon landing, and I had been encouraged and tutored by many people in the space program.

As a teacher, I was able to attend numerous meetings with all of the scientists who contributed to that incredible accomplishment. I was even allowed to give a lectureship at the Space Center in Houston, which was attended by a large number of the people involved in the Apollo success. The man who introduced me at that lectureship was the man in charge of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) from the time it left the mother ship until it returned. He began the program by suggesting that there would be those who would think that I would be talking to a group of atheists since nearly everyone there was involved in a scientific way with the Apollo program. He then asked everyone who worked in the program to stand, and virtually everyone in the room stood. He then asked everyone standing who believed in God to sit down, and only four people remained standing. I know there are all kinds of objections to that action, but it underlined the fact that as Dr. Frank Baxter has said: “The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” We don’t have to put our brain in park to be a Christian.

July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing, and we are talking about returning to the Moon. Morgan Stanley estimates that the net worth of the United States space economy by 2040 will be 1.1 trillion dollars (Astronomy magazine, July 2019, page 19). There are good reasons, both politically and economically, to go to the Moon and on to outer space. As we do so, one lesson we must in mind is that every discovery we have made in space has supported the biblical record. Science and faith have a symbiotic relationship in space as well as on Earth. All of this goes beyond astronauts reading Genesis 1 as they orbited the Moon.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Algae Solutions to Human Problems

Algae Solutions to Human ProblemsWhen you hear the word algae, negative thoughts may come to your mind. You may have problems with algae growths in your pond or birdbath. You have heard about toxic algal blooms that have hit seafood industries on the Pacific Coast. Many of us have viewed the red tide in Florida first hand. There are lawsuits in progress against companies that allowed chemical runoffs to trigger the destructive growth of algae in lakes and the ocean causing economic hardship for fishing trades and seafood producers. Unlike human-caused algae problems, there is a promise of algae solutions to human problems.

Consider the following facts:

Algae is probably our best tool for reducing greenhouse gases. Algae take carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. More than half of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere comes from converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and algae is the primary agent for doing that. There is good evidence that excessive algae growth in the past caused global cooling.

Phytoplankton algae grow world-wide and make up the base of aquatic food-chains, eventually leading to most of the seafood we eat.

Giant kelp, which are algae, provide food and protected ecosystems for ocean creatures.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, such as spirulina contain proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. People in many countries have been harvesting spirulina for nutrition since the 1940s. Japanese cooks use algae in soups and sushi wrappers. The additives agar and carrageenan from algae are used in ice cream and jellies.

Symbiotic relationships exist between algae and coral, helping to prevent storm damage to coral reefs that house sea life and protect shoreline structures. Algae solutions to human problems are many.

Research continues into how we can use algae to produce fuel. New foods made of algae are being developed. Most recently sea grapes, which are algae, have been used as green caviar because their texture and appearance looks like caviar and they are very nutritious.

God has provided for us in so many ways that it has taken our entire human history to discover them. For many years people did not eat tomatoes because they were considered to be poisonous. That seems silly to us today when whole industries are built around the tomato. In the future, perhaps we can say the same of algae. These rootless, leafless plants have incredible potential to provide algae solutions to human problems both here on Earth and as we travel into outer space.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science Digest, July 2019

Solar System Design

Solar System DesignAstronomers today use technology to examine areas of the cosmos far removed from our solar system. The fact that they are finding the other systems are very much different from ours should tell us something. In fact, the more we study those other systems, the more we learn about our solar system design and why it is the way it is.

One interesting fact about other systems is that even though some planets are very large and obviously gaseous, they can exist very close to their stars. Astronomers in the past explained the fact that the inner planets of our own solar system are rocky and hard by saying that the Sun burned off the gases and left the rocky material. That may be partially true, but in 2002 astronomers discovered a planet they named OGLE-TR-56b. It is about the same mass as Jupiter but over 30 percent larger. It has to be a gaseous planet to have such a low density.

The surprising thing is that OGLE-TR-56b orbits its star at an average distance of only 2 million miles (3.2 million km). Our innermost planet Mercury is 36 million miles (58 million km) from the Sun. The outer atmosphere of this planet must be around 3000°F (1650° C). It is evident that gaseous planets can exist very close to their stars, so our old explanation of the inner planets in our solar system design is vastly oversimplified.

Most of the planets we see around other stars are very large, which is not surprising since it is easier to see a big planet than a small one. One extra-solar planet is 17 times as massive as Jupiter. The strange thing is that many of the giant planets are closer to the Sun than Venus. Old theories of planet formation suggested that due to the large gravity values of stars, it was impossible for planets to form close to the stars. We now know that is not true.

Science programs on television have delighted in proposing that the cosmos is full of planets and that every galaxy has literally millions of planets. The hope is that if you have enough planets, the chance of having another Earth is improved. We now know that many galactic systems do not have planets at all. The composition and age of galactic systems obviously have a major impact on whether planets can exist, but claims of billions of Earth-like planets in the cosmos are highly exaggerated.

The type of star also has an impact on whether planetary systems can form. Most stars in the cosmos are binary systems containing more than one star. A planet can orbit the stars at a great distance, but shifting gravity fields make planets unlikely if the stars are close together, as most are. How much metal there is in a star system affects planet formation. Metal content varies within galaxies as well as between stars. A part of space dominated by gases like hydrogen and helium are not as likely to produce planets as areas where there are large amounts of iron, manganese, cobalt, and the like. Solar system design requires the right kind of star.

Perhaps one of the most exciting lessons we have learned from other solar systems is that the shape of the orbits of planets in our solar system is very unusual. Most of them have very circular orbits meaning that their distance from the Sun does not vary a great deal. Venus has an orbit that is .007 with 0 being a perfect circle and 1 is a straight line. Pluto has the most elliptical orbit, but even Pluto is less than .3 on the 0-1 scale. Our solar system design is unusual.

Circular orbits like ours are very rare in other solar systems where .7 is a very common orbital value, and virtually all orbits exceed .3. If a planet swings far out from its star and then comes much closer, it should be obvious that temperature conditions are going to be extreme. Not only will such a planet have extreme conditions itself, but it will have a very negative effect on any planets that do have a circular orbit in the system. If Jupiter came closer to the Sun than Earth with each orbit, imagine the conditions on Earth as Jupiter went by us.

We now know that our gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are essential to us because their gravitational fields sweep up any debris from outer space. Without those planets, comets and asteroids would pound Earth and life here would be difficult if not impossible. The fact that they are outside Earth’s orbit at a considerable distance and in a circular orbit allows us to exist in a stable condition for an extended time. The comets that do enter our system by avoiding the gas giants do not come in along the plane of the solar system called the ecliptic. Coming in from other directions, they have no chance of hitting Earth since they are not in the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Like everything in science, the study of the cosmos and other solar systems speaks eloquently to us about the design and planning that is part of everything in the creation. As we discover more data, other factors will surely tell us how unique our solar system design is. In the twenty-first century, we have more reasons than any humans have ever had to realize the truth of Psalms 19:1.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Jupiter Is in Opposition

Jupiter Is in OppositionJune 10, 2019, is an excellent time to observe the largest planet in our solar system. The reason is that Jupiter is in opposition to our Sun.

When astronomers say that Jupiter is in opposition, they mean that planet Earth is passing between the Sun and Jupiter. At this time, Jupiter will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west, and it will set in the west as the Sun rises in the east. In other words, Jupiter will be visible all night long, and it will be at its highest point in the sky in the middle of the night.

The picture was taken by the JunoCam on NASA’s spacecraft Juno which is currently orbiting Jupiter. NASA posts the raw images online and encourages individuals to download and process them. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill enhanced this one. You can find access to the raw images and see the work of other citizen scientists by clicking HERE.

When you see Jupiter in the sky tonight, it will not look like this picture, but it will be the brightest object in the sky. Jupiter is not a rocky planet like Earth. It’s a gas giant which if were 80 times more massive, would be hot enough to set off nuclear reactions in its core. Then it would be a star giving off its own light instead of just reflecting the Sun’s light. However, if you could lump all the other planets in our solar system together (including Earth), Jupiter would be 2.5 times more massive than them all.

Why do we need such a huge gas giant in the outer solar system? As we have said in previous posts, Jupiter is a comet sweeper. With its massive size and gravity, Jupiter protects us from objects such as comets coming from outside our solar system. In the 1990s, NASA observed Jupiter pulling apart and destroying comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. You can read about that in our previous post HERE. Jupiter also affects Earth’s climate cycles, which you can read about HERE.

Jupiter is in opposition about every 13 months. Last year opposition occurred in May. Next year it will be on July 14. If you miss seeing Jupiter tonight because of cloudy weather or any other reason, don’t despair. Jupiter will be closest to Earth on June 12, and it will continue to be visible, but right now it’s visible all night long.

While Jupiter is in opposition, or at any other time, look up and thank God that He has created such a marvelous and unique solar system to make life possible.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

How Far Away Is the Sun?

How Far Away Is the Sun?Does it matter how far away the Sun is? Absolutely yes. The picture shows the order of the planets in our solar system, but not their distance from the Sun. So how far away is the Sun from Earth?

Any star that has planets orbiting it may potentially create a “habitable zone” where the light and heat are just right for the possibility of life to exist. Earth resides in the middle of the Sun’s habitable zone with Venus and Mars near the edge of the zone. Of course, there are many other factors required to support any kind of life, and it appears that Earth is the only planet in our solar system that has all of those factors. Earth has everything needed to support not just primitive life, but advanced life.

So what is the range of the habitable zone? That depends on the star. The size and brightness of the star are critical. Another essential factor is the type of radiation emitted by the star. Our Sun has the just-right radiation. Other stars may emit x-rays, gamma rays, or other deadly radiation in amounts that would destroy all life and prevent a habitable zone from existing.

Back in the eighteenth century, scientists determined the distance to the Sun by watching a transit of Venus across the Sun. Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun twice every hundred years or so. By measuring the time of the transit of Venus from two locations on Earth, scientists were able to use triangulation and simple math to calculate the distance to the Sun.

But the question was, how far away is the Sun? The Sun is about 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 km) away from us. Since the speed of light is 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second, it takes about eight and one-third minutes for the light from the Sun to reach the surface of the Earth. The energy the Sun delivers to our planet is just right to make life possible.

If someone asks you “how far away is the Sun,” you can say it is the “just right” distance. There are so many “just right” features of our planet that we can genuinely say we are in the “Goldilocks Zone.” Some think it was all just an accident, but we believe it was God’s plan and design.
— Roland Earnst © 2019