Benefits of Trees

Benefits of Trees

We take for granted many things that God has built into the Earth so that we can survive. Among those are trees. World Ark magazine for the spring of 2019 published some interesting data that demonstrate the benefits of trees:

One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide in a year. That is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

One acre of forest produces six tons of oxygen a year. That is also enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

A single average-sized tree produces 260 pounds of oxygen a year, which is enough for two people.

Large areas of asphalt or cement attract and retain the Sun’s heat artificially boosting local temperatures. Trees are the only cure for this overheating.

Trees are the most efficient way to reduce urban noise.

Planting a tree on the west side of your house can block enough of the Sun’s heat to save $25 on your air conditioning bill every year. Trees also serve as natural windbreakers to reduce your heating bill in winter.

Some trees, such as apple trees, attract birds which eat invasive caterpillars.

Property values are increased up to 15% by having trees in yards and throughout neighborhoods.

Joyce Kilmer’s wrote, “I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” That is even more true when we realize the multiple hidden benefits of trees.

“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit whose seed was in itself after its kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).

The last verse of Kilmer’s poem says:

“Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

–John N. Clayton © 2019

CLEVER Planets

CLEVER Planets Include Earth
We have often mentioned many of the conditions that must exist to make a planet habitable. The number is large and growing as science learns more about Earth’s special life-supporting features. Now NASA has awarded $7,700,000 to Rice University to conduct a five-year study to see what it takes to create a “recipe for a habitable planet.” The project has been named CLEVER Planets, an acronym for Cycles of Life-Essential Volatile Elements in Rocky Planets.

The award comes from NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NexSS). The research team will include experts in astrophysics, atmosphere and climate science, geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and organic chemistry. The investigators are from Rice University, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the University of California-Davis, UCLA, and the University of Colorado-Boulder. This will be the most in-depth study of what it takes to create a habitable planet.

The lead investigator of CLEVER Planets, Rajdeep Dasgupta of Rice, wrote: “A recipe for life as we know it requires essential elements like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.” Of course, that is not all that is required to create a recipe for a life-supporting planet. There are also many other conditions including liquid water, the right temperature with stable conditions, a proper atmosphere, and shielding from dangerous radiation. Having an atmosphere requires a planet of the right size to have the right amount of gravity to sustain an atmosphere. To have liquid water and the right temperature requires that the planet must be the right distance from the right kind and size of star. The planet needs a magnetic field to shield from dangerous particles coming from the star. To have a magnetic field, there must be magnetic elements inside the planet. The list goes on and on.

We look forward to seeing the results of the CLEVER Planets study five years from now. The bottom line is that it is very, very difficult to get all of the right ingredients required to create the recipe for a habitable planet. Earth is an exceptional place in the universe.

It seems doubtful that we will find any other planet similar to Earth. But as we have said before, if there is any form of life anywhere else in the universe, that has nothing to do with the existence of God. We believe in a God who can do anything He chooses to do in keeping with His nature.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Why Such a Huge Universe?

Why Such a Huge Universe?
Here are some questions that are often asked by those who are skeptical of the existence of God: Why such a huge universe? How can we believe that a Creator cares about us when we are so insignificant in this vast cosmos? Those questions are worth considering.

There is no doubt that the cosmos is fantastically large. The Hubble Space Telescope aimed at a small area of sky no larger than one-tenth of the diameter of the Moon to take this Hubble eXtreme Deep Field photograph. The few bright spots with points of light radiating are stars. All the rest are galaxies—more than 10,000 of them in this picture! Some of them are as far away as 13 billion light-years, meaning that they were among the first galaxies formed.

If there are 10,000 plus galaxies in this tiny area of sky, that means there are 200 billion galaxies in the visible universe. Each of those galaxies contains an average of 200 billion stars. So why such a huge universe?

There were two critical factors at the beginning of cosmic existence—mass and expansion rate. If the total mass of protons and neutrons had been any less during the first moments of creation, hydrogen would not have fused into any elements heavier than helium. Then the nuclear furnaces of the stars could not have generated the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, which are essential for life. If the mass of protons and neutrons had been any greater at the cosmic creation, all of the original hydrogen would have fused into heavier elements like iron, and life would not have been possible.

The mass also affects the expansion rate. If the cosmic mass density had been less, the expansion rate would have been too fast to form stars like the Sun and planets like Earth. If the density had been greater, the expansion rate would have slower and all stars would have been much more massive than the Sun and would give off radiation too intense for any orbiting planets to sustain life.

In other words, the universe was fine-tuned from the moment it began! Why such a huge universe? Because it had to be. It has just the right mass and expansion rate for us to be here. We don’t think that was an accident. Through the study of astronomy and astrophysics, we can see HOW God created the universe we live in, and HOW He made it possible for us to live in it. The creation of the universe is not magic. It’s a feat of astounding engineering from the very moment of creation.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Oxygen Atom Design and Water

Oxygen Atom Design and Water
In our post for yesterday (July 7, 2018) we dealt with oxygen as a designed feature promoting life by allowing us to breathe. Another interesting design feature relates to the oxygen atom design and water. The oxygen molecule’s design allows water to have the properties that it has.

The oxygen atom has eight electrons in orbitals based on their energy with the electrons paired so that their magnetic polarities are balanced. Each electron is essentially a little magnet with a north and a south pole. When the electrons are together in a pair, one electron’s north pole matches up with the second electron’s south pole. In oxygen, the first two electrons are in what is called the S orbital. The next energy level out is also an S orbital with two electrons. The third energy level out from the nucleus is the P orbital. This orbital can hold six electrons, but oxygen has only four electrons left. Two of the electrons are paired, but the remaining two are unpaired. They orbit in a pattern at right angles to one another. These orbits are not spherical but in the shape of a dumbbell.

What is the importance of oxygen atom design and water? A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms attached to the oxygen atom in such a way that they pair up with the two unpaired electrons. That means the water molecule is polar in nature with the hydrogen atoms on one end of the molecule and the oxygen atom on the other. The bond angle of the hydrogen atoms would be 90 degrees except for the fact that they repel each other. The repulsion forces the angle out to 105 degrees. This design allows water to have its unique properties which allow life to exist on Earth.

When water freezes, the molecules spread out due to the polar nature of the water molecule. Because of that, ice is lighter than liquid water so lakes freeze on top instead of on the bottom. If lakes froze from the bottom up, life in the water would not be possible. Also because of the polar nature of the water molecule, water dissolves things like salt.

The unique properties of water are due to the design of the oxygen molecule. As a high school chemistry teacher I always enjoy teaching about the oxygen atom design and water. Students are enthralled at the design built into such a simple thing as an oxygen molecule. Almost every time I teach this unit I have some kid say something like, “Wow! Who thought this up?” But this is not the product of a human engineer. An Engineer far wiser than any human created the design of oxygen and built a world that can support life.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
The illustrations are from John N. Clayton’s book The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? The book goes into much more detail and is available HERE.

Breathe Easy with Oxygen

Breathe Easy Oxygen Molecule
Life requires certain elements–one of which is oxygen. To live, we must have energy and our life-energy is produced by chemical reactions requiring oxygen. Because of the oxygen level of Earth, we can breathe easy.

When oxygen combines with other elements and compounds, we call the process oxidation or combustion. Oxidation results in the release of energy. Oxidation can be slow as when oxygen combines with iron to form rust. Oxidation can be fast, as when oxygen combines with chemicals in wood, producing fire.

The rapid combustion process releases energy in the form of heat and light. In our bodies, oxygen combines with other chemicals more slowly. As oxygen combines with sugar (glucose) in our cells, energy is released warming our bodies and powering our cells. The by-products of this oxidation are carbon-dioxide and water, which can be safely eliminated from the body.

The design of the oxygen molecule with its ability to pull off electrons from other elements makes combustion possible. Are there other chemicals which can produce combustion? Yes, chlorine, fluorine, and bromine can also produce combustion. However, the by-products of that combustion, such as hydrochloric acid, would be harmful or fatal to living cells. Oxygen has just the right properties to combine with carbon-based sugars in our cells to release energy and sustain life without producing compounds harmful to life.

The fact that one-fifth of our atmosphere is oxygen enables us to breathe efficiently. A lower level of oxygen would make breathing difficult. A higher oxygen level would lead to a greater danger of rapid-combustion fires. Replacing oxygen in the air with other combustive elements would be destructive to life. Oxygen has the right properties and is available in the right amount to allow us to breathe easy and live. We think a Master Engineer designed this system.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Electrons Are Essential for Life

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

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

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

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

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

Life Needs Phosphorus

Life Needs Phosphorus
The element phosphorus is used to make matches. Molecular phosphorus has two common forms. There is white phosphorus which is dangerously combustible and is used to make fireworks and weapons. The more stable red phosphorus is used on the side of any box of safety matches. When you strike the match against the red phosphorus, a small amount of it is changed to white phosphorus to ignite the match. But phosphorus has more important uses than starting fires. Life needs phosphorus. The average human body contains about 26.5 ounces (750 grams) of phosphorus. Most of it is in our bones.

Phosphate is a compound of phosphorus and oxygen. It combines with sugars in living tissue to form the backbone of DNA, which is the blueprint for life found in every living cell. Phosphate is also part of a complex organic chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) found in every living organism. ATP releases energy so that cells can function. Life needs phosphorus and could not exist without it in an abundant supply.

Recent research presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science on April 5, 2018, indicates that phosphorus may not be widely available in the Milky Way. The research indicates that it is more random than scientists had previously thought. That means even if one of the recently discovered exoplanets had all of the conditions required to support life, it still might be lifeless without phosphorus.

We have often referred to the many conditions required to make a habitable planet. Here is one more to add to the list. Life needs phosphorus, and apparently phosphorus is less widely distributed than we thought. Phil Cigan, one of the astronomers involved in the study, said, “It’s not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking. It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this.”

Is it just one more chance coincidence that planet Earth has the phosphorus needed for life? We don’t think it is a matter of luck. We think this is another evidence of God’s design for life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Oxygen Level Factor and Life

Oxygen Level
The atmospheric oxygen level in Earth’s early history allowed life-forms to grow much larger than they do today. We find fossil remains of insects that grew to incredible sizes. There are wonderfully preserved fossils of a dragonfly called Meganeura which was the size of a modern-day hawk. Ants a foot (30 cm) long and centipedes that were as long as two feet (61 cm) show up in the fossil record. There are also fossils of mammals that were larger than any land mammals living today.

A major key to the huge sizes is the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere at the time those animals lived. New laboratory techniques in nuclear chemistry give us accurate methods of determining the oxygen level of the atmosphere in the past. Ice cores and tree rings confirm the measurements. Studies show that Earth’s atmosphere has had oxygen content as high as 35 percent in the past compared to 21 percent today. This higher oxygen level would have some negative consequences, with fires burning much hotter and faster and corrosion happening faster. Its effect on some living things, however, would be very positive.

Laboratory experiments have also shown us how oxygen content affects the size of living things. Insects do not breathe with lungs since oxygen diffuses into their bloodstream directly. Dr. Robert Berner at Yale has shown that a 35 percent level of oxygen in the atmosphere would increase the diffusion rate of oxygen in an insect’s bloodstream by as much as 67 percent. Body size varies directly with oxygen concentration, and experiments with fruit flies and mealworms consistently show high growth rates with increased oxygen. Studies done on alligators have shown that variations in egg development and growth are in direct proportion to the oxygen in the atmosphere. It is the same for mammals. Dr. Paul Falkowski of Rutgers has said, “Pound for pound, mammals typically need three times as much oxygen as reptiles do.” An oxygen level that would support reptiles might not support mammals.

All of this is very helpful in understanding a variety of issues relating to the Bible and the evolution/creation controversy. It is increasingly obvious that dinosaurs and humans could not survive together on this planet. At the time of the dinosaurs, the oxygen level was too low for mammals to survive. Competition for food and living space between humans and dinosaurs would be most difficult. Domestication of reptiles is impossible so humans would not be able to train dinosaurs to help with heavy chores.

The Bible does not mention dinosaurs, and no Hebrew word in Genesis 1 could legitimately be interpreted to mean dinosaurs. The emphasis that the Bible gives to the breath of living things as seen in the Hebrew word “nephesh” becomes more and more relevant as we learn more about how vital that concept of breath is. (See Genesis 2:7; 7:22, etc.)

Many people seem to feel that dinosaurs were unnecessary to human existence and that their presence denigrates evidence of God’s creation. The balance between the composition of the atmosphere and the abundance of life on Earth is critical. For plants to grow, there has to be soil, and soil is not as simple as it looks. Dirt must have the critical elements for food chains and cell reproduction. The production of all of those resources is not simple. As plants take in carbon dioxide and lock carbon into the soil, they release oxygen into the atmosphere. The ecological system of the planet at the time when the dinosaurs lived allowed not only the formation of soil but also the massive amounts of coal and fossil fuels we need.

We take air for granted, but what we see of the past in the laboratory and the fossil record tells us that the biblical emphasis on the “breath of life” is a special gift of God, and is not to be taken lightly.
–John N. Clayton © 2017