Properties of Light

Properties of LightWhen you open your eyes in the morning, take a minute to thank God that you can see. We should reflect upon how good it is to have light instead of the darkness of night. The properties of light make it unique and special.

I am keenly aware of my gift of sight because of a long association with Glynn Langston, who is blind and manages our outreach to the visually impaired. In my lectures, I frequently refer to Edwin Abbott’s book Flatland to help people understand dimensions and how the spiritual is different from the physical. Glynn was born blind, so he is unable to visualize the concept of a sphere crossing a plane and leaving the outline of a circle. He has been kind about it, but my wife once said to me, “How do you expect a blind man to visualize anything!” Even those of us who can see have trouble understanding the properties of light beyond what meets the eye. Radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and infra-red rays are all light!

The properties of light make it difficult to comprehend. The most general definition of light is that it is the energy released when a charge changes momentum. The bundle of energy released is called a photon, and the amount of change in momentum determines the energy of the released light. Even in the visible spectrum for humans, the different colors we see are determined by how much energy the light has. Violet has much more energy than red. Ultraviolet has more energy than violet. X-rays and gamma rays have even more energy, but they are still light. Infrared, and radio waves have lower energies than red. That is why infrared warms you and ultraviolet gives you a sunburn. It is also why radio waves can pass through the walls of your home without causing damage and gamma rays can also pass through things, but they will do significant damage.

In the creation process, there had to be special accommodations for the properties of light coming to Earth from the Sun and from outer space. The ozone layer had to be in place to absorb ultraviolet and avoid damage to life. The eyes of every living thing that uses some form of sight had to be designed to function in the part of the spectrum that fit its diet. Rattlesnakes, for example, have specialized sight organs to see in the infrared. Because they eat rodents whose bodies give off radiation in the infrared, a rattlesnake can see its prey on the darkest night. Nearly every insect sees some part of the spectrum other than the colors visible to humans. That is how a mosquito finds you and how insects navigate at night.

Not every star in the sky gives off the properties of light that are needed for life to exist. Some stars radiate in the X-ray part of the spectrum, and others radiate energies too low to be useful to life. Even our trees and shrubs require light in the green part of the visible spectrum to know when to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. In Job 38-41, God spoke to Job to show His wisdom and design and convince Job of his ignorance. Many of the designs God pointed to are connected to light. “Where is the way where light dwells, and where is the location of darkness?” (38:19) “By what process is light parted which scatters the east wind upon the earth?” (38:24) “How does the eagle seek the prey and see that which is afar off?” (39:29)

The Bible speaks of light that is not produced by the acceleration of an electric charge. The most important of these is described in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world … let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Let those of us who are Christians not only be amazed by God’s design of the properties of light and the world in which we live, but let us also strive to be the light Jesus calls us to be.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Heat Transfer Design

Heat Transfer Design
During this time when record cold temperatures have covered much of the United States, we should consider the design of heat transfer. One of the evidences for the existence of God is the wisdom built into the physical creation that makes it possible to move energy. God created a system of heat transfer design that is far more complex than most of us realize or can imagine.

The primary source of heat for the surface of our planet is the Sun. The question is how heat from the Sun can travel 93 million miles to Earth through what is essentially a vacuum. Realize that there is no substance between the Sun and us, so the heat can’t travel by contact. Atoms are constructed in such a way that they release excess energy by generating small energy packets called photons. Photons from the Sun carry the energy to Earth.

Photon particles are very strange. They have an electric property and a magnetic property, so they are called electromagnetic radiation. Photons have no thickness. They are two dimensional, vibrate with a frequency, and can exist only if they are moving. If you stop a photon, it disappears, and its energy is absorbed by whatever it struck.

Because photons are particles, they can travel across the vacuum of space from the Sun to the Earth. Their vibration frequency determines how we perceive them. We have different names for the frequencies. Xrays, gamma rays, ultraviolet, infrared, radio waves, and visible light are different only in their frequencies. The higher the frequency, the more energy is involved. Gamma rays have a much higher frequency than visible light, so they pack more energy.

Everything radiates some energy, even our bodies, but this is just one way heat is transferred. Besides radiation, heat transfer design also involves conduction and convection. We take for granted the various ways in which heat is transmitted in and around us, but the complexity of heat transfer design is amazing. It is that design which allows us to exist on this planet. We will look at the other two heat transfer methods tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism

Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism
The human eye is an incredible creation. It not only allows us to sense the visual world around us, but its connection with the brain is amazing. The image that falls on the back of your eye is inverted, and your brain turns it over so that you see everything right side up. Most animals have eyes that do unique things, but not all of them use visible light. Ultraviolet light has a higher frequency than the light we can see. That means it is more energetic than the human eye can detect but less energetic than Xrays. Many animals use ultraviolet light as tools to enable them to survive. Some birds can see in the ultraviolet as do monitor lizards, some foxes, and some snakes. Sometimes ultraviolet vision helps them to find food. Other times prey use it as an ultraviolet defense mechanism.

Among the things those ultraviolet-seeing predators eat are lizards. A lizard called the blue-tongued skink lives on the ground throughout much of the continent of Australia. This lizard would seem to be an easy target for predatory birds and ground-dwelling animals. However, it has an ultraviolet defense. The tongue of the blue-tongued skink is highly efficient at reflecting ultraviolet light. When threatened by a predator, the lizard will open its mouth wide and stick out its tongue. The tongue will give off a blast of reflected ultraviolet light. Experiments show that birds and ground animals that see in the ultraviolet are startled by the sudden burst of ultraviolet radiation and veer away from the lizard.

One of the problematic things in designing any natural environment is building a system where living things can survive over the long term. If there is not a balance between predator and prey, the result is disastrous. Many years ago someone introduced rabbits to Australia. They had no natural enemies, and they reproduced so rapidly that soon the whole continent was overrun with them.

God has designed prey and predators in such a way that, if humans don’t mess it up, the environment and all of the living things in it can survive indefinitely. We are only now beginning to understand how difficult that is, even involving ultraviolet defense mechanisms. We need to allow the Earth to continue to be fruitful.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology journal and reported on CNET.com

Toxic Martian Cocktail

Toxic Martian Cocktail
Mars researchers have discovered a new issue in their attempts to find life on Mars—a toxic Martian cocktail.

One reason scientists believed that life might be possible on Mars was that tests from Martian soil samples show chemicals that are a potential energy source for bacteria. However, because Mars has such a thin atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation levels are very high. A Recent sampling of the Martian soil has also shown that it contains perchlorates, which are toxic to living cells. An article in Scientific Reports on Nature.com said that the UV rays combined with perchlorates as well as iron oxide and hydrogen peroxide together give what the researchers are calling a “toxic cocktail.” The bacteria Bacillus subtilis, which is often found in spacecraft and can survive extreme conditions of space, is wiped out in 30 seconds when exposed to this cocktail.

In other words, the surface soil on Mars can kill living cells. On July 6 Popular Science reported on these findings and indicated that you would have to go six feet below ground to get away from this toxic mix. Surface expressions of life on Mars are almost certainly not going to be found. Deep underground testing is the only possibility for finding life on Mars.

The mass media often oversimplifies what it takes to make life possible on a planet. This oversimplification continues to be bombarded by the facts. Just being in the zone where water can exist as a liquid, called the “habitable zone,” doesn’t qualify a planet as a dwelling place for life. The “uninhabitable zone” keeps getting larger.

The number of variables that have to be tweaked to allow life continues to grow as scientists make new discoveries. The toxic Martian cocktail is another factor that has generally been ignored. God’s creation shows the hand of a Master Engineer arranging all of the variables that make life possible to create the unique planet on which we live.
–John N. Clayton © 2017