Science

Creation Science

Parableman put up Christian Carnival CXXXVI yesterday and one of the posts caught my eye: Dr. Hovind and the Age of the Earth from Imago Dei. I wanted to write my thoughts on it here for a few reasons: firstly, Christianity and science are very near and dear to me, and secondly, the writer was getting a decent amount of persecution from non-Christians about the subject and I wanted to throw out my Christian perspective on the subject that (hopefully) won’t be seen as persecution but an alternate position. Also, I have written on some of this way back in my post Science vs. Religion (with the original post and comments at my old blog here), so feel free to check that out as well. I will be linking to many different sources in their post including Wikipedia. I recognize that Wikipedia is not the best source for information, but it is often easier to understand than other sources and they have links to other sources if you want additional information.

Before I start, I feel I should make this disclaimer. I am a devout Christian. I am a Bible believing Christian. I also have degrees in Physics and Astronomy. I am perfectly okay that some Christians will reject this, that is their prerogative and salvation does not depend on what we think about these things. However, I think that, as Christians, we are called to use the things that God has given us, this includes our minds and our “powers” of observation. Science is a wonderful thing and it can be used to tell us about the amazing universe that God did indeed create (just maybe not in the way that some Christians think). On with the post!

Amanda’s post starts with a look at different forms of evolution:

1. Cosmic Evolution – the origin of time, space, and matter. This is the big bang. 2. Chemical Evolution – the origin of higher elements from hydrogen. (If the Big Bang produced hydrogen and some helium, how did we get the others? 3. Stellar and planetary Evolution – the origin of stars and planets. (No one has ever seen a star form. What you see is a spot getting brighter and you assume a star is forming. It could be the dust is clearing and there’s a star behind it. No one has ever proven the formation of a single star. Yet it’s estimated that there are enough stars for every person on earth to own 2 trillion stars.) 4. Organic Evolution – the origin of life. Somehow life has to get started from non-living material. (But spontaneous generation was proven wrong 200 years ago.) 5. Macro Evolution – Changing from one kind of animal into another. (Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. Big or small it’s still a dog. Dog, wolf, and coyote may have had a common ancestor, but they’re still the same kind of animal.) 6. Micro Evolution – Variations within kinds (big dogs and little dogs). Only this one has been observed.

I would like to take a look at each one of her statements.

“1. Cosmic Evolution – the origin of time, space, and matter. This is the big bang.” Yeah. And numerous independent studies lead in the direction of supporting the big bang. This isn’t just one group suggesting the big bang is what happened. This is numerous physicists and astronomers showing that their work supports a singularity some 13-14 billion years ago.

“2. Chemical Evolution – the origin of higher elements from hydrogen. (If the Big Bang produced hydrogen and some helium, how did we get the others?” This is “simple” nuclear physics. Happens all the time. This is called stellar nucleosynthesis. (Info links: Wikipedia, Astronomy Notes, Science Week, and there is lots more out there.) The larger scale of this would be Big Bang Nucleosynthesis. (Info links: Wikipedia, Berkeley Astro, Berkeley Cosmology, and many more.) Also check out Wikipedia’s articles on the Proton Proton chain and the CNO cycle.

“3. Stellar and planetary Evolution – the origin of stars and planets. (No one has ever seen a star form. What you see is a spot getting brighter and you assume a star is forming. It could be the dust is clearing and there’s a star behind it. No one has ever proven the formation of a single star. Yet it’s estimated that there are enough stars for every person on earth to own 2 trillion stars.)” This is also a very well evidenced science. There are numerous places where star birth can be seen, check out The Eagle Nebula (and Proplyds on Wikipedia). I am not really sure what the number of stars has to do with anything, but yes, there are lots of them. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars in it. Even looking at a TINY sliver of space thousands and thousands of galaxies can be seen. The number of stars in our own galaxy and the number of galaxies in the universe suggests that there are easily 2 trillion stars for each person (some 70 sextillion are suggested).

“4. Organic Evolution – the origin of life. Somehow life has to get started from non-living material. (But spontaneous generation was proven wrong 200 years ago.)” I am no biologist and have not studied this extensively. It seems to me that evolutionists have yet to suggest how life actually started. What supposedly caused amino acids to combine for form proteins and then eventually form DNA? I understand that there is a chemical process there, but what makes something go from inert to life? How did life actually start?

“5. Macro Evolution – Changing from one kind of animal into another. (Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. Big or small it’s still a dog. Dog, wolf, and coyote may have had a common ancestor, but they’re still the same kind of animal.)” While simplistic, I tend to agree with Amanda here. Macro Evolutionary theory seems to be lacking in support. I think that any honest evolutionist would admit that this is just a working theory and that it has a long way to go.

“6. Micro Evolution – Variations within kinds (big dogs and little dogs). Only this one has been observed.” Yes this has been seen. But it is not the only one that has been observed. #4 and #5 are the ones that lack scientific support.

Amanda goes on to say: “There are two options: 1. Somebody made the world (In the beginning God…) 2. The world made itself.” Okay, that is fine. But I am not sure why believing in the Big Bang automatically puts me as a #2 believer. That doesn’t follow.

Then: “So…we all came from a dot and the dot came from nothing. This is what they teach in schools. All of the dirt in the universe was in the little dot and it started spinning faster and faster until one day it exploded. The pieces became galaxies and stars.” There was nothing, then God created the universe: how is this different from “we all came from a dot and the dot came from nothing”?

“I believe that 6000 years ago God created everything” – but on what basis do you ignore scientific evidence? “I believe In the beginning God… (Gen. 1:1) You believe In the beginning dirt…” No, I believe that In the Beginning God… and God created dirt.

So where did the laws come from? Gravity, centrifugal force, intertia, etc. Where did the energy come from? It takes energy to make something move. And what about the conservation of angular momentum? That means that if a spinning object breaks apart in a frictionless environment (like the big bang) the pieces that fly off are going to spin in the same direction as the original object because the outside is moving faster than the inside. If the universe began as a spinning dot, shouldn’t everything be spinning the same way? Venus and Uranus spin in different directions than the other planets. 8 of the 91 known moons are spinning backwards. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune have moons orbiting in both directions. Some galaxies spin backwards.

Firstly, I am not sure why she thinks that the Big Bang would be frictionless, it wasn’t. If nothing had interacted with anything, then yes, everything would be rotating the exact same way. But that is not that case at all. Everything interacts with everything else. Gravity is an extremely small force, but will still have a huge impact. Microscopic variations in the smooth early universe caused clumping to occur. Clumping of matter eventually caused it to coalesce into larger bodies. As the continued to occur, the smooth early universe became more clumpy with voids.

“Dr. Hovind believes things are spinning backwards because God created everything and He did it on purpose to make the big bang theory look stupid.” That makes me sad. That statement just makes me think that Dr. Hovind (whom I have had no experience with) hasn’t actually studied astronomy or physics.

I am not going to comment on her mention of the 2nd law of thermodynamics because it doesn’t really make sense. Nor will I comment on her look at macro evolution, not because I agree with everything she says, but because I by and large agree with her conclusions (that macro evolution is lacking and doesn’t seem to work).

I know I am picking on this particular blogger. I do not doubt her faith or salvation, I just think she is off the mark in this belief. It seems like the rejection of science often completely stems from a literal reading of the beginning of Genesis. I cannot see any other reason to reject a 13 billion year old universe (cosmic evolution, #1). (And I don’t see any reason to reject chemical [#2], or stellar and planetary [#3] evolution.) But why is it seen that a literal reading is to be had? It seems that many Christians are perfectly willing to use a poetical reading at some times but not others. It comes down to good exegesis. We can’t blindly say one passage is literal and one is poetical. We have to find intent and purpose. Genesis was not trying to give a science lesson: six days of creation was never meant to literally be six days. Genesis is a narrative of how God brought us into being, the details of how long that took are not included because they were not relevant. I want Christians to understand that their reading of the beginning of Genesis is a particular interpretation that not all Christians need to follow. In my view, it is actually inappropriate for Christians to follow that reading. Science and the scientific method came out of Christianity and Christians’ desire to know more about the world that God gave us, why would we reject that now just because it happens to go against your particular interpretation?

In summary: Christians can and should embrace science, they are not opposing belief structures. Believe the Bible, yes, but don’t reject science out of hand. God has given us glimpses into how the universe was made and what goes on there, embrace those things as gracious gifts from God. Again, I also want to point out that salvation is not dependant on your take on this issue. I just want you to move beyond a rigid understanding of what you think the Bible says, it probably was not intended that way. Exegesis is a good thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

MACHOs and WIMPs

This is something I wrote a while back, if it is too long, that’s ok, don’t read it. :)

When thinking of our universe, there are a few things that people normally think of: galaxies, planets, gas, nebulas, and maybe even black holes. All these objects seem pretty normal and complete. Astronomers were perfectly happy with trying to figure out how all the above-mentioned things worked and interacted together when a large kink came into all the theorizing. Why were the velocity curves of galaxies showing that there should be more mass than was seen in all the “normal” or baryonic matter? All the data did not make sense. To most people, it still does not. After analyzing data from velocity curves and studying the dynamics of how galaxies interact with each other, it was determined that approximately 90% of the mass of the entire universe can not be seen. What does that mean and how is that possible? This indicates that previous notions about what the universe was made of must be rethought. The only way for this to be possible is if there is some form of baryonic matter that we cannot see or some new from of exotic matter that has not been thought of before. A few of the current theories about what the missing matter is in the universe are MACHOs, WIMPs, neutrinos, and annihilating particles. Until final proof about what dark matter is virtually any of the theories could be right, wrong, or a mixture of both. As time progresses theories will change, fail, and new ones will arise. Current theories are very interesting and many astronomers feel very strongly about one theory or another. Evidence for and against should be looked at in a case-by-case matter in order to formulate new postulations that can in turn be tested and researched.

After realizing that the majority of the mass of the universe is unseen, it became the task of many astronomers to figure out what this missing mass is and where it resides. There has been much debate about what the mater really is between astronomers. Those supporting MACHOs, Massive Compact Halo Objects, and those supporting WIMPs, Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, have strong ideas and both hold true to their theories and will continue to do so until they have been completely disproved. MACHOs are exactly what their name suggests, massive objects that reside in a galaxy’s halo. The halo is a spherical region centered at the middle of a galaxy’s bulge. Globular clusters (large groupings of up to hundreds of thousands of old stars within in a small volume of space) that are already seen in this region of a galaxy are letting astronomers know that matter can and does exist in that area. Velocity profiles suggest dark matter is present and lead astronomers to believe that there could be a large amount of mass in the halo region. Since the globular clusters in the halo, in addition to the stars and other visible material in the plane of the galaxy, are not enough mass to account for the velocity curves, there must be some other mass somewhere in the galaxy, including the halo. MACHOs are what astronomers have come up with to account for this matter.

What is needed is normal baryonic matter that could be very massive and reside in the halo. The first thing that comes up is a star that did not have enough mass to ignite. A brown dwarf is a star similar to the sun, but less massive, made of hydrogen but could not ever get the nuclear furnace going. If they aren’t brown dwarfs, MACHOs are most likely black holes. (Lewin 1997) A black hole is a star that has collapsed down from sizes larger than our sun to smaller than a small rock. A black hole is so dense that not even light can escape from it. Black holes have been theorized to exist in many places and there is a theory that suggests that there could be many so-called primordial black holes left over from the Big Bang. A black hole is a great example of what dark matter could be as no light can escape from it. As a result they are impossible to directly detect (but can be detected in other ways). So how do astronomers go about detecting objects that give off no or very little light? The first method is to just look into the sky. It is much harder because objects like brown dwarfs are very faint. With newer technologies such as adaptive optics and newer generation space telescopes it is easier to directly observe these objects. Data taken from the Hubble Space Telescope suggests that brown dwarfs only make up around 6% of the matter in the halo. This is a good start, but obviously not the 90% that should be there. Consequently astronomers must move on to another detection method. The primary method being used and studied currently is strong gravitational lensing. Sound like optics? It is actually a very good analogy to optics in that mass, and therefore an associated gravity, can bend light to a point, effectively lensing starlight.

Gravitational Lensing

Figure 1: Gravitational Lensing

As seen in the image (Fig 1), light from a very distant galaxy emits light in all directions, some straight at us, some away from us. Since matter causes gravity, very massive objects are able to bend light. The next image (Fig 2)
shows the effects of this light bending.

Gravitational Lensing of a Galaxy

Fig 2: Gravitational Lensing of a Galaxy

Instead of seeing one bluish galaxy in the center, a bluish (because of the color of the galaxy) light or smudge will show up in a ring pattern around the center. So what does this do for the search for dark matter? After studying the images of candidates for this lensing, density maps can be plotted. By studying how the light has been bent and by how much, these plots are created. When the mass distribution has come out of that it can be compared to what is actually seen visually. If there is a discrepancy between how much mass we physically see there and how much mass should be there to cause the lensing, dark matter has been found (in theory). From this lensing exact placement of the dark matter can be determined even if it is not known exactly what it is (i.e. a back hole, brown dwarf, etc.). In the pictures the dark matter of the central cluster outweighs all of the combined mass of the cluster’s galaxies by 250 times. Similar to strong gravitational lensing, weak lensing is another method to detect dark matter MACHOs. The presence of an unseen object can distort the light coming directly from a galaxy. The warping of a distant galaxy is a good indication that there is some gravitational force acting on the light between the galaxy and the earth. There are other methods for detecting MACHOs but the three mentioned above at current time are the most interesting and the most promising for actual detection and finding much of the missing mass. (Bell Labs 1999)

The next interesting possibility are new, exotic particles called WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). WIMP theory is currently the most popular among astronomers. To many it has the most promise to account for all the missing matter. Astronomers suggest that these new particles do not interact with matter like other particles do. However, if they have a slight amount of mass (on order of a few hydrogen atoms), because of suggested amounts, they could account for much of the missing mass in the universe. (Lewin 1997) The hard part, once again, of this theory is to figure out how to detect particles that very rarely interact with normal matter. Particle physicists now get involved to help astronomers determine what these particles are and how to detect them. Since WIMP interactions are very rare in normal matter the idea is to set up a very sensitive instrument that can detect the slightest interactions and also be able to get rid of data from cosmic rays that have slightly similar interactions. One such project involves cooling a crystal to near absolute zero (to reduce motion of the atoms) and registering interactions in the crystal by detecting a heat rise. (Miller 1995) So detection of WIMPS will come with updating and inventing newer and better detectors that can discriminate between the new, rarely interacting, particles and particles that we already know the physics for.

Astronomers have opened up a very popular and extremely interesting new area of study with advances in dark matter research. MACHOs and WIMPs are only two of the theories surrounding the enigma of where all the mass is. Even if it can’t be decided which theory is correct, the drive to figure it out will keep bettering theories and inspiring people to come up with new ones. Down the road it will probably be figured out that the dark matter in our universe is made up of many different things, probably incorporating aspects of many different theories. The striving for understanding about how our universe will ultimately lead to better and better theories that will hopefully bring us closer to the truth. It is now known that dark matter is out there, but now the task is to pinpoint what it is.

References

“Bell Laboratories Physical Science Research: Dark Matter” 1999. http://www.bell-labs.com/org/physicalsciences/projects/darkmatter/darkmatter1.html (29 Nov. 2000)

Lewin, J.D. “CLRC RAL Open Days 1998. Dark Matter.” April 1997. http://hepwww.rl.ac.uk/ukdmc/pop/galactic-dm-exhibit.html (4 Dec. 2000)

Miller, Chris. “Cosmic Hide and Seek: the Search for the Missing Mass.” 1995. http://www.eclupse.net/~cmmiller/DM/ (4 Dec. 2000)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

Lunar Eclipse

I finally remember that I took pictures of the lunar eclipse last week so I figured I would post a few of them. They were taken with an Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom camera – 5.1 MegaPixels and 4x Optical zoom with a 1.7x telephoto lens attachment (along with some digital zoom and cropping). If you want to know any more details about the pics or see any others let me know.

Here is the Moon at totality. The red of the moon is caused by refraction of the sun’s light around the earth. Essentially looking at all the sunsets of the Earth all at once.

Here the Earth’s shadow is receding and the sun’s light can be seen again.

Most of the the sun’s light can now be seen reflected off the moon with a small portion of the Earth’s shadow remaining.

View of Stanley Park in Vancouver with North Vancouver in the background.

Hope you enjoy. If anyone needs a lesson about what is going on during an eclipse, let me know!

Shalom

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

Science vs. Religion

This is something I wrote quite a while back but thought I would post it here and see if anyone else has anyone to say. :) (If you want to read any of the previous comments, head over here. [Sorry, the post and comments are no longer available]) [EDIT: I have made some additional remarks at my post Creation Science]

Since physics and astronomy have been a big portion of my life and interest, I enjoy thinking and writing about such subjects. The String Theory post was the first attempt at such a discussion on my blog. There is much discussion in and out of the Christian community about such things as the age one the universe / earth, evolution, big bang, “creationism” and other such scientific (and un-scientific) theories. This will be my first attempt to tackle such issue all at once. Obviously I won’t be able to address everything and I will try and be as concise as possible (I tend to ramble and I will apologize for that now). This will probably be a long post so bear with me (or not, your choice). Also, one thing to say before people jump on me for not supporting some of my claims with specifics: I will try and do the best I can to make references but I am moving soon so my books are packed up and are not at an easy reference point. If need be I will reference them after I move. So here it goes.

There are many Christians who believe in Creationism or Creation Science. I am not one of those people. This in NO WAY implies that I doubt their salvation. This merely means I disagree with some of their beliefs, these beliefs are not primary to salvation and therefore essentially DO NOT MATTER. That being said, I am a science guy and enjoy discussing such things and believe that people should always be furthering their understanding of God and His universe. What I have learned and believe does not fall in line with some of the main tenants of Creation Science. I guess the purpose of this entry is to suggest to both Christians and non-Christians that someone who is saved can still believe in the Bible as well as what science tells us.

It seems that most Creation Science is primarily used to go against evolutionist ideas as well as big bang theories (among others). The goal of Creation Science, I think, is good. It is an attempt to ratify things seen in the universe and to mingle them with ideas in the Bible. The problem that I see is that they don’t always really look at everything seen in nature. I suppose I should start with evolution. Evolution is the subject that I know the least about as it has not really been part of my studies so I will attempt to keep this brief. There has never been any proof that macro evolution (the changing of species from one to another) actually happens. This theory is followed like a religion and takes just as much faith to follow. Micro evolution (the adaptation and genetic changing of a species) has had reasonable evidence to suggest that it is possible and does indeed happen. Logically speaking it would be a fallacy to suggest that because micro evolution happens so does macro. On this topic I would probably be siding with the Creationist as there is little evidence to support this theory. The problem that arises is that evolution is often associated with the age of the earth because it takes millions and / or billions of years for evolution to take place. It is at this point that I generally break with beliefs of both evolutionists as well as Creationists. I do believe that the earth is approximately 4 billions years old but not because evolution mandates that. The evidence collected from both the earth and moon in a variety of ways suggests this age. I do, however believe in the timeline suggested in the Bible since the birth of Adam. The Bible puts forth that there is about 6000 years from Adam’s birth to current day. I have no reason to believe that the Bible would not be literal about these ages.

So why do I believe that humans have been since Adam about 6000 years ago while I do not believe that the age of the earth is similar? Because I believe in the Bible and in science. Let me start with the Bible.

Genesis 1.5: God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The Hebrew yom is translated primarily as “day” and is from a primitive root meaning day, but it is also translated as many other things such as age, always, Chronicles, completely, continually, eternity, forevermore, lifetime, period, some time, years, and multitudes of others, but you get the idea. To me it is clear that the mere use of the word yom does not necessarily imply a single day. It must be read in context in order to correctly translate the word. So how do we read Genesis in context so we can understand what “day” should actually mean to us? The Creation narrative tells us where we come from and that we are under God’s authority. I think ultimately the usage of “day” comes from the fact that it is something we can understand. The 7 day week we are used to, we understand the Sabbath and that there is a division between the days. I think that this usage helps us follow along with the narrative. There doesn’t seem to be anything explicit about the passage that would let us know exactly. It is not a simple matter of taking the text literal or not it is a matter of listening to the narrative and the narrative is not explicit about what a “day” means. I suggest, then, that we should turn to science to see when the universe did begin.

Research into the age of the earth yields an age of around 4.5 billion years. Determining this age can be difficult because of the earth’s molten core that causes surface features to be replenished. Even though many features change there have been rocks found that date to around 3.5 billion years using different radiometric dating methods. This therefore establishes a lower limit on the earth (which is much older than many Creationists assert). Because it is hard to directly measure the exact age of the earth, indirect methods must be used. The best way to do this is determine the age of the Solar System which should roughly have the same age as the earth. Meteorites that have fallen to the earth can be used to find the age of our system and generally turn out to consistently be between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years (I know I am not citing sources, I apologize, you can find them for yourself.). Also, magnetic “markers” at the mid-Atlantic ridge show an age of around 80 million years. This follows from the fact that as magma emerges from the mid-Atlantic ridge the earth’s magnetic field essentially imprints its signature into that rock. As is spreads away from the ridge on either side there are locations where the magnetic field drops to 0 and then comes back with the opposite polarity (Magnetic north becomes magnetic south and viceversa). This reversal has been observed some 170 times. There is some inaccuracy here because it is not completely know how long it takes for the earth to change its magnetic field (meaning the 80 million years is essentially an estimate). This age is definitely not the best in determining the age of the earth because of replenishment of the earth’s core as well as the inaccuracies of determining how long it takes for the magnetic field to flip. That being said, it still seems to suggest that it is older than what Creationists suggest. (note: it has also been directly observed on the sun that magnetic fields do flip)

What is my point? My point is simply that scientific evidence cannot be ignored. It is also that when you don’t ignore scientific evidence you don’t have to throw the Bible out. They can indeed coexist. Even if you want to argue the age of the earth it is now nearly impossible to argue the age of the universe (at least a minimum age). The Big Bang theory has significant evidence to suggest that it (or at least a form of it) is correct. Direct observations in the sky lead to an age of the universe of about 13 billion years. The big bang theory always blows my mind because to me it fits perfectly with Christian theology. It always confuses me when it is used by scientists to suggest that it shows Christianity is wrong and thrown away by Christians because they say it doesn’t fit with the Bible. To me, both parties are blind to what the big bang really tells us about God’s creation.

Big Bang theory suggest that at a quantum singularity (normal physics breaks down at a singularity, it should also be noted that this did not happen IN space as there was nothing at all before the big bang, not even space) 13 billion years (or so) in the past “exploded” (which is not the best description as it didn’t really explode, it just became and started to expand) and the universe came into existence.

Genesis 1.1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Ummmmm… These two beginnings seem remarkably similar. The age can be extrapolated from current expansion of the universe as well as ages of stars and galaxies. All measurements of expansions lead to a singularity where density and heat are essentially infinite (check the Hubble Law as an example of such evidence). Cosmic microwave background radiation also points to a single creation event as the radiation is fairly smooth and even in all directions.

Personally, everything I have learned about physics and astronomy have drawn me closer to God and given me even more reason to believe. It blows my mind that some scientists can study the same things and not see a divine creator. It would be too much to go into here, but the complexities of the universe, cosmologically speaking, are so amazing that to deny a divine creator seems ludicrous. Similarly, it seems blind to me that many Christians can deny what legitimate science indicates. The science supports the Bible, it does not change it or challenge it.

There may have been a few more subjects I wanted to discuss, but it is getting late and I have forgotten what they are! I know this is a bit long, but I hope it has at least made sense. I really look forward to any comments that are out there. I will try and respond to them as I really do enjoy discussion. I probably won’t post another blog entry for a while as this is pretty involved and I do need to focus on getting ready to move to Canada, so possibly in another week I will try and get something else up. I named this entry “Science vs. Religion” because that always seems to be the argument, but indeed, they can coexist. Science cannot prove a religion but it can definitely support it.

I look forward to hearing from you! Shalom!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

String Theory Primer

I am not completely sure how to write this blog as I am not really an authority on the subject. I have immensely enjoyed Brian Greene’s book “The Elegant Universe” and I highly recommend it to anyone (not just those savvy in the area of advanced physics). I do feel that I can talk about it some as I do have a degree in physics and astronomy and have dealt with it some both in and out of classes. I suppose I will try and give a “primer” on what String Theory is and tries to accomplish. If this entry ends up being too long, I am sorry, I really enjoy physics and it is fairly complicated and even more complicated to explain it on a somewhat non-technical level. I will apologized now for switching tenses throughout my writing, I tend to do that a lot and I don’t really plan on editing this very much for perfect grammar – sorry!

A large majority of physicists believe that there should be an “Ultimate Theory” or “Theory of Everything (ToE).” This means that there would be a somewhat “simple” set of equations that would account for all the forces that we see in the universe. Progress in this area has been going on for many years with periods of great advancement and periods of sweeping it under the carpet. There are 5 forces that essentially hold the entire universe together: magnetic, electric, gravitational, weak and strong nuclear. As many of you are aware, the magnetic and electric forces have been successfully combined into the electromagnetic force. The four remaining forces are still waiting to be united into this ToE. The problem that arises is essentially scale. Gravity is EXTREMELY weak. For example, the gravitational attraction of two like charged particles is 10^42 times weaker than the electromagnetic repulsion. That is a HUGE difference in strength. Scale also comes into play in the physics used to describe different events. It had appeared that special relativity was incompatible with Newtonian gravity. Einstein was able to resolve the inconsistencies by showing that, as opposed to what Newton thought, gravity actually manifests itself at the speed of light and not instantaneously as previously believed. This was a great advancement because it brought Newtonian physics up to speed with the more modern experimental physics. It didn’t completely replace Newtonian physics, just modified it so it would not only describe classical physics but also relativistic physics. The next problem that arose was different in that it couldn’t be simply resolved with modification of an existing theory (like Einstein did with Newton’s gravity). General relativity is understood very well and predictions have held up in experiments but it seems to break down at the quantum level (quantum mechanics has also be very consistent with its predictions matching experiments). One thing string theory hopes to do is to resolve the incompatibilities between general relativity and quantum mechanics.

String theory essentially was born in order to describe how everything worked together, at both large and small scales and more importantly, incorporate gravity. Gravity has always been somewhat of a “black sheep” in the world of forces. It seemed like it was never really able to mesh well with any theory and any existing theory that it was added to seemed to break down.

Here is the basic idea of what a string is: every elementary particle is actually made up of a vibrating string, similar to that of a guitar or piano string. Each particle is a different note or different vibration. This helps support the merging of quantum mechanics and general relativity because string theory does not require events to occur at a single point as in particle physics.

Ok, there is MUCH more to this, I haven’t even really scratched the surface. This is already probably too long and I am kinda all over the place so I should stop now. I will hopefully get back to the subject and delve a little deeper into the elegance of string theory. I would recommend checking out PBS’ Elegant Universe page . It has a lot of Brian Greene’s stuff there from his NOVA series. Sorry if I was all over the place!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

The Religion of Environmentalism

This is a post I wrote in another forum:

Here is another article that I think you should all read. It is, again, a lecture by Michael Crichton. He says a lot of really good things in there that I really like and he said a few things that I did disagree with. Being a very rational, scientific person I liked that he pointed out that science and religion should not be the same but I did not like that he thought that they were mutually exclusive. I did think his analogy of Environmentalism to religion was somewhat fitting.

His article is about Environmentalism and how it is pretty off base. He parallels it with religions belief as it is based in faith and not fact (which is something that I don’t really agree with when it comes to Christianity as I think both fact and faith are extremely crucial, but his parallel still has value.) Here is something he said towards the end of the article:

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There’s a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren’t true. It isn’t that these “facts” are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all—what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

Now he is not saying that religion is bad in this article, he is saying the religion of environmentalism is bad.

I know it is another long article, but I think that both of his lectures are quite interesting and have a lot of great things to say and talk about. I like to read so I definitely enjoyed hearing his thoughts. I would love to hear what you all think about his stuff.

Here is the link

Now, I do believe not only that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, but indeed they really are mutually inclusive. Although, while mutually inclusive, they are not the same and cannot be defined in the same terms. One thing that pisses me off so much about secular (and often Christian) writers/scientists/whatevers is that they either completely have Christianity and science at opposing ends of a big fight or they try to equate one with the other. Science supports Christianity (and the other way around) and that is an amazing thing and it seems people always want to either ignore it or not give it enough credit.

Hope you are listening!
Shalom

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.

Aliens Cause Global Warming

Yes, that is right, they do. Well, ok, maybe indirectly. This is actually a serious article (actually a lecture) by Michael Crichton. Everyone should go read all of this: Aliens Cause Global Warming.

I thought this was pretty insightful.

Quoted from somwhere else by a friend:
“I think that this is an excellent article and an excellent insight, but I also think that Crichton is overly optimistic about the past of scientific endeavor. Sientists are people, and people are not objective beings. Now, we can train oursxelves to be more objective, but at the very point that you begin to claim pure objectivity-which scientists have been prone to from the beginning of science-you betray a big ole blind spot. ”

Many of the topics raised I think are interesting things to research, such as the search for ET, but I think the problem that arises is that people become blinded by what they are looking into. Ideally we should all be completly objective, but it doesn’t always work like that. If someone starts to call themself completly objective (which I think a lot of really intense scientists often do, possibly evolutionists…. another issue completly) they are fooling themselves, the scientific community, and the (often ignorant) genearal public who have no reason to think the scientists AREN’T completly objective. It seems that policy can often come from those who consider themselves completly objective but really have no (or little) clue about what they are talking about. Science should be left to scientists and policy should be left to policy makers. The former should inform the latter but not the other way around.

Anyone read it and have any thoughts?
Shalom

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.