Saturday, 3 December 2016

God's amazing universe: 1. Space and Time

Prior to the discovery in the 20th century of the Big Bang creation event it had been assumed by people of all faiths,  even the Abrahamic faiths, that the universe was, is and so always would be eternal. It was not created. It just is.

The only real creation story, poem or myth that refers to the universe being created by God, rather than fashioned out of eternally existing chaos by various gods, was Genesis 1:1
Image result for nasa big bang
NASA image

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

According to Hebrew scholars the expression 'heavens and earth' is ancient Hebrew for everything, i.e. the universe. It is extraordinary that some 3 thousand years ago the author of Genesis could make this statement and others equally prophetic. He was writing in a pre-science culture. Genesis is not written as a scientific document. It is written poetically and historically to yield, when read with humility and after prayer, divine truths about humankind and its relationship to God.

It is now established by theory and observation that not only did all energy and matter originate from one infinitesimally small point which then expanded at an unimaginably high rate to give us the stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies which we see today on Hubble photographs, but something else had to be created. Mass and energy cannot exist without somewhere to exist in. They have to have extent; so God provided the three dimensions of space. For things to exist they had to have space to extend in. But for things to happen there needed to be time. Only with coexistent matter, energy, time and space could God bring about humanity and the universe we see today, 13.8 billion years later.

Our space-time realm is well named. Even what sight and touch deem solid, like the wall in front of you or the chair you sit on, is actually ethereal, consisting of well over 99.99% space permeated by configurations of energy. Things have been set up to give us the experience or illusion of living in a solid world. You could call it a stage, as did Shakespeare ('the world is a stage on which every man must play his part').

This space and energy filled universe is often visualised as the surface of an expanding balloon.  The curved surface  is a visual  metaphor of a mathematical equation, which is itself a kind of metaphor describing an underlying reality. It represents the fact that the actual space we are living in is curved, but because the scale is so large it doesn't directly reveal its curvature to us. In fact it is only in the last few decades that this has been measured and deduced by cosmologists.

In this model one could draw dots on the surface to represent stars. Every point in this universe, including the sun, is a centre, and as it expands (at an accelerating rate) all the surrounding stars move further and further away as this balloon universe expands. The beginning is represented by the completely uninflated balloon.
So we are a centre of the universe but not, in any visual sense, the centre.

However, as future posts will strongly suggest, we could well be the only centre with conscious observers. If that is the case, then humankind can go back to thinking of itself as the centre of creation.

How fast is this space-time regime expanding? The answer is very fast, several times the speed of light. When Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than light he was talking about entities inside the universe, not the edge of  the observable universe itself, some 46.5 billion light years from earth in any direction.

Beyond this boundary there is no time or space. It is the eternal realm where any human concept of cause and effect is meaningless and so beyond present or future science.

John Sears

John Sears

I am a layman who follows science. As far as I know the above is factually correct. Please let me know if you find an error or have issues.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Father James reflects on God's universe

Father James is a character from the novel 2077: Knights of Peace

Image result for universe

Travelling between Earth and the monastery on Mars I feel especially close to the Almighty God.

Why should this be? The environment of space is materially sterile as are all the stars within it. I get a similar but less intense feeling when I look at the Moon while standing in open country on Earth. Yet the Moon is a barren ball of rock, totally lifeless.

I look upon the Moon as part of God's creation illuminated by the Sun, the source of life's energy, to reveal its beauty to creatures that can experience it. The fact that it looks the same size in the sky gives a sense of everything being set up by a deity for some purpose. (As some cadets have pointed out during Enlightenment, the very existence of life on earth depends on the moon-earth system being exactly as it is. Praise the Lord.) 

 The ancients thought the Moon, planets and stars had something to do with God, and they were right. Today we understand the schemes and mechanisms by which they shine and are formed; we know how to describe them and even predict their movements and their critical role in allowing life on our planet; but why they should be there we can only wonder.

The panorama I get from the Confucius viewing port starkly places before me the celestial drama and omnipotence of the godhead. In the latter part the 20th and in the early 21st century many thought the very size and complexity of the universe earth showed we were of no significance in the scheme of things, that our planet was a pointless fluke in a meaningless universe, a mere grain of sand in the desert. Now we know that humanity is the whole point of God's creation. The home He has made for us, this Garden of Eden oasis, is uniquely beautiful, richly alive, wondrously intricate and fuitful beyond understanding. To create it he needed to create a universe. The universe, from flower to Milky Way, is made for us and is needed for our existence.

To quote from the introductory text used in the Enlightenment programme for both cadet Knights and dominophiles:

 Had the universe not been exactly this massive - to the weight of a coin - during its early expansion stage, had its initial degree of disorder not been exactly as it was, had the laws of physics been slightly different, the physical constants wrong by a hair's breadth, had not the celestial events leading to the earth's formation been orchestrated as they were and had life not been designed as it is, then humanity's origin and history could not have occurred. For this we must thank the Lord.

Technology, through the Grace of Our Lord, allows us not only to observe but to visit and experience other planets. It also allows us to delve further into the secrets of physics, life and the universe. By the creativity within us,being made in God's image, we invent new technology. As we do so, and stay humble, our faith in his benevolence strengthens, our wonderment at his majesty magnifies, our joy in the unfolding  dimensions of being is intensified, our praise of Him grows and we are eternally thankful to have this bountiful, beautiful planet to return to after experiencing the stark but faith affirming beauty of the worlds beyond.

Glory be to God the Father. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Click  here for the cumulative writings of Father James.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Climate change checklist

My belief is that climate change is likely over the coming decades and that we should prepare for it, both  by reducing emissions and taking measures to protect us from floods and extreme weather events. However, we need to retain humility and recognize that effects known only to the Creator could occur (e.g.:  the influence  of dark matter or some cosmic connection via quantum entanglement. As a layman I have already seen references to this in the literature.).

The list below is a reminder of the complexity of the problem of predicting climate change. Please contact me (John Sears) via

if you think it needs modifying.

NASA image

Radiant energy output of sun. This has increased by around 25% since the sun was formed, i.e. over more than 4 billion years.  Very small variations occur over decades and centuries and bear some relationship to the number of sunspots (which is related to solar activity). The Little Ice Age  included  a period of low sunspot activity, with no sunspots observed over 1650-1700, when the mean temperature was lowest.

Milankovitch cycle. The amount of sunlight reaching the earth varies according to the changing shape of the earth’s orbit (eccentricity), the tilt of the N-S axis and the precession of this axis. The crucial factor appears to be the amount of sunlight falling on the northern hemisphere in any one year. Milankovitch (1970s, Serbia)  showed that the coming and going of ice ages over the last 600,000 years was due to these factors.  If there were no other factors we would expect to be entering another ice age now, instead of a warm period.

Heat from below the crust. The biosphere has more heat going into it than can be accounted for by the sun. The difference is believed to be due to  radioactive decay in the earth’s core.

Gravitational effects.There are  gravitational influences on climate which could become large in certain situations (chaos theory shows that very small events, like the fluttering of a butterfly, can potentially have dramatic effects, such as a storm on the other side of the world). The gravity exerted at the earth's surface varies very slightly with time and position due to inhomogeneities in the crust, mantle and core. Even small changes in these factors could potentially set off major changes not allowed for by present climate models. Even small changes in the orbit of the moon and planets would have huge effects (E.g. If a large asteroid caused a perurbation in the sun-moon system. Jupiter's motion is also crucial to the stabiity of Earth's orbit).

Atmospheric composition. The importance of this arises from the way it affects the absorption and reflection of radiation coming in from the sun or being reflected back upwards from the earth’s surface. Carbon is the main gas responsible fo the greenhouse effect – it acts like the glass in a greenhouse to trap in heat. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, much more powerful than CO2 but also much less prevalent.

Plants.  While alive these take in carbon dioxide from the air, thereby cooling it through the reduced greenhouse effect. But as they decay they give it out again,  but over a longer period. Large areas of trees affect the climate not only in this way but also by their moistening effect on the air.The Amazon rain forest appears to have a pivetol role in determining the global climate.

Animals . The main effect of these is due to the methane from  their defecated waste and rotting carcasses. Methane produced in this way is more of a problem than automobile greenhouse emissions as livestock herds grow in response to the westernization of diets in China, India etc.

Microscopic life. Bacteria and spores living in  land, sea and air sometimes affect rainfall. E.g. spores in the ocean can be whisked up into the atmosphere by strong winds and dispersed. Here they act as condensation nuclei for the formation of the water drops and thence clouds. Insects can reduce the balance of combustible debris in a forest and this in turn means fewer and smaller forest fires emitting CO2.

Clouds. The type of cloud and its coverage affect the amount of sunlight striking the earth’s surface and the amount of radiation reflected back to its surface instead of radiated away into space. They have been and still are a problem in creating global warming models.

Atmospheric convection.  Heat from the ground boils up the air and the convection currents (i.e. wind) produced distribute warm air over the planet and also affect the cloud type, amount and global distribution. This in turn affects temperature, rain and snow.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, gales and the jet stream are all driven by atmospheric convection.

Ocean currents. The bulk of the heat in the biosphere which we inhabit is stored in the ocean and it the global currents in the sea (e.g. the Gulf  Stream) which determine the global patterns of temperature in the air over the sea.

Methane from seabed and tundra deposits. As the climate warms it releases large bubbles of methane trapped in fozen deposits under the ocean or in tundra.  This causes further warming. It is 21x as powerful as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is produced by a certain kind of bacteria.

Polar ice caps. Both Arctic and Antarctic  ice sheets reflect large amounts of heat from the sun back into space. Small reductions in area cause significant increases in the amount of heat absorbed from the solar heat reaching the earth’s surface. Similarly, the greater the ice coverage  the more incident radiant heat will be reflected.

Snow cover. As with snow in the polar regions the snow settled on large mountain ranges like the Himalayas and the Alps affects the percentage of sun radiation reflected or absorbed by the earth’s surface.  

Melting glaciers.  When a glacier melts it not only  causes flooding but reduces the area of earth which reflects incident sunlight away from the surface, i.e. the ground retains incident solar energy instead of reflecting it  back into space. When melt water flows into the sea it dilutes the concentration of salt in the seawater and this has a major effect on ocean currents which in turn affects the climate. (The more salt the denser the water.)

Volcanoes. Eruptions from these inject huge amounts of sulphur dioxide into the air and, like carbon dioxide and methane, this produces a greenhouse effect. The ash and dust from eruptions also affects cloud formation and directly blots out sunlight.

Meteor  impacts. Hits by large meteors can have global repercussions including climate change. If a large enough object hit the earth it would of course cause a mass extinction event, like the one which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Cosmic rays.  These  can also affect cloud formation , since the particles which make up cosmic rays can cause nucleation of water drops.  There does seem to be some link between them and average temperature/rainfall.

Human activity. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning and methane from livestock farming are the main human source of global warming gases which appear to be tipping the global balance towards warming rather than the cooling we would expect according to the Milankovitch cycle (see above).

John Sears
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