Archive for September, 2008

Lighter Matters

September 28, 2008

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; He made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the 4th day.“–Genesis 1:14-19

The message being communicated in this King James Version passage seems so obvious, yet it causes so many people to question the timescale provided by the rest of Genesis, namely, that God created everything only several-thousand years ago. Why? Because we know from measurements of the speed of light using modern equipment, that the lights we see from distant stars must have begun their journey billions of years ago, not thousands of years ago.

Really?

Every student who’s taken a high school Science class has been taught that the speed of light (especially in a vacuum such as outer space) is a constant. E=mcc. If you change c, it changes our universe. “Constant” means that it is what it is, & it doesn’t change. Like Sarah Palin’s patriotism, you can count on it.

But I can’t figure out why so many Bible fans have bought into this concept of long timespans though, when the vast majority of those same fans believe God created Adam fully grown, & also believe Jesus changed water into wine instantly. God made the stars on the 4th day far away from Earth on the 4th day to shine light on the 4th day on Earth on the 4th day … And it was so.

Millions of Bible fans & millions of Bible haters believe with 100% confidence that the stars, their light, space, & Earth are all billions of years old, yet they don’t put enough thought into their belief (& I was guilty of this for decades), because if they did, they’d realize that the same competent scientists who proudly profess their belief in these long ages, also inform us that the known universe is composed of only 4% of things we vaguely understand (i.e., ordinary baryonic matter), but 96% of stuff we don’t understand at all (22 or 23% “dark matter”, 73 or 74% “dark energy”; see “Evolution Science” p. 41).

If you’re not a young-Earth creationist, you place more confidence in dark matter/energy than in the Bible. For an atheist, that’s admirable; for a professing Christian, that’s an embarrassment.

Well, in recent years, the separation between faith & fact is getting fuzzier, & the definitions of facts are changing. More & more, what we thought was true & proven & constant/unchanging, ain’t so. Yet Genesis 1 & Exodus 20:11 still inform anyone with an open mind that God created everything (including the stars) in only 6 otherwise-ordinary days.

In the past decade, scientists have successfully slowed down light tremendously. In nature it may appear to be constant (with only trivial decreases in speed when it travels outside of a vacuum), but in photonics laboratories, t’aint so! Harvard issued this press release way back in 2001:

Researchers now able to stop, restart light … ‘Two years ago we slowed it down [20 million-fold] to 38 miles an hour; now we’ve been able to park it then bring it back up to full speed.’ … Less than five years ago, the speed of light was considered one of the universe’s great constants. … [Lene] Hau, [then] 41, a professor of physics at Harvard, admits that the famous genius [Albert Einstein] would ‘probably be stunned’ at the results of her experiments.

In this month’s issue of Laser Focus World comes another interesting report of a practical application for slowing down the speed of light … to help you surf the Worldwide Web faster:

The ability to route, switch, and store information in broadband telecommunications networks typically depends on electrical signals, but a new optical technique to slow down and trap light may offer a 1000% speed-up of Internet traffic.

OK. So if you’re the type who normally laughs at the notion of the universe being only several thousand years old instead of billions of years old, you’re probably laughing even harder right now, because it’s obvious to any school child that even if dark matter & dark energy could somehow make light travel slower, that would be even worse for young-Earth creationists.

True. But the point I’m making is not that light can travel faster than its typical “constant” value, but that it’s not necessarily constant everywhere in space, particularly in regions way outside of our puny little solar system where we’ve never been; & if it’s not constant, why would you want to express faith that it is constant (or possibly slower) everywhere in the universe all the time, rather than trust whoever wrote Genesis & reported on the miracles that Jesus performed?

But alas, we’re actually getting closer to demonstrating that the speed of light can be increased! And it makes sense that if it can go much slower under certain conditions, it should theoretically go much faster under others. Last month, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported:

Scientists [there] have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light that bound across chains of tiny metal particles to well past the speed of light by altering the particle shape. … An interesting conundrum arises from the work. The theory of relativity prohibits anything from moving faster than light. ‘But what is a thing?’ [Dr. Vadim A.] Markel said. … It is predicted that the superluminal properties of these pulses are much bolder than anything previously observed.

As the article states, currently the advance is only theoretical. But if it’s theoretical, it may very well be possible some day. Some day when school students conduct experiments speeding up & slowing down light, & if 96% of the path along which light travels from a distant star to Earth remains “dark”, will they stop & wonder if God could’ve done something special on day #4 to make light travel faster, & then slow it down to only 186,282 miles/second?

Who is as the wise man, and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.“–Ecclesiastes 8:1

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.“–Acts 4:13

Song of the week: “I’m Beginning To See The Light” by Bert Kaempfert (CD not available on Amazon; click here for a 25-second sample; 328kb).
G.M. Grena

Chephirah–The Biblical Village Roars Again, 186 views
Royal Banquine, 79 views
ASOR 2007 (p. 6), 59 views

Advertisements