Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Climate Change Reprise

Climate Change Issues…. Why does the climate topic frequently assume front and center importance in today’s culture? In recent days we have experienced a reprise of this famous “topic du jour.”  Mark Twain’s old literary saw, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” was meant to be humorous homespun philosophy. The current obsession with climate issues relates to the common belief that current climate warming is heavily linked with humanity’s release of CO2, mainly from fossil fuel consumption. Contrary to Mark Twain, we must be committed to doing something about it. Therein lies “the rub.” CO2 is a trace gas in Earth’s atmosphere. It comprises a small fraction of 1% of our atmosphere—1/25 of 1%—0.04% to be precise. A societal fixation has gripped our global psyche assigning (1) how much of Earth’s warming is attributable to CO2, (2) whether increased CO2 and concomitant warming is good or bad for life on the planet, (3) whether or not climatic disaster awaits humanity if climate “projections” for the future really occur, (4) how much planetary temperature change would accrue from reducing CO2 to previous levels, or (5) if planetary reversal of average global temperatures is realistically possible.

Climate alarmists are certain of their answers. They cite their own versions of scientific support to prove their points, claiming 97 or 98% of the world’s scientists agree with their version of the analysis. (This claim is in considerable dispute). All of the five above issues are uncertain at best, unanswerable at worst. A substantial contingent of influential planetary residents, however, has been over-swept with certainty. We are told, therefore, that we MUST act regardless of the cost. Present and future costs are measured, however, in many trillions of dollars. Anyone opposed to this agenda earns the title of denier on whom rests the onus of sabotaging humanity’s chances for healthy survival.               

The US rejection of the Paris Climate Accord resurrected public reactions with renewed vigor. Politicians, journalists, and commentators of every stripe have weighed in since the announcement of our national withdrawal from the Accord on June 1, 2017. Our national withdrawal triggered much global and national discussion. Our current series of posts was inspired by the recurring exchanges. Our 6-13-17 post linked nine previous posts from 2012 which followed claims of global warming enthusiasts linking the 2012 midwestern drought to climate change/global warming.

We link nine more personal posts from 2014 in the interest of thorough treatment of this lively current topic. These posts were triggered by another remarkable weather event: the brutal midwestern winter of 2013-14. Many climate alarmists claim such weather is somehow linked to global warming in their production of extreme weather events. Our blog posits that these are normal extreme weather events, not climate change events.

The following posts were inspired by the extreme mid-west cold and snow of the 2013/14 winter. Our posts dealt with the hot button issue of climate change in general. Many journalist commentators embrace such events to advance their climate change agenda. We link ten relevant posts published immediately following that memorable winter with an introductory overview of each:

Overview: The brutal midwest winter of 2013-14 is part of a sequence of Earth’s weather events recorded for thousands of years. The Book of Job 37-38 credits God’s breath for production of awesome winter weather events (3-7-14)

Overview: Earth climate is always changing. In the past 8000 years there have been at least nine major climatic temperature fluctuations before man even became aware of the trace gas carbon dioxide (3-9-14)

Overview: The all-night Democratic Senate filibuster highlighting “acting before it is too late” would have been more productive had they affirmed that “Earth and its ecosystems…are robust, resilient, self-regulating and self correcting” and display God’s glory (3-15-14)

Overview: This post highlights the history of the Earth warming obsession which first crept into the nation’s awareness when the environmental movement achieved prominence about 1960. Prominent among the players was the intense global activism of the United Nations (3-21-14)

(5) Overview: Ecology is a relatively modern term. Deep ecology is an even more recent term. Deep ecologists advocate a radical view of humanity’s relationship with nature. The movement is sympathetic to the climate change agenda and heavy environmental extremism (3-29-14)

Overview: We deal with the often quoted “98% of the world’s scientists support anthropogenic climate change.” Many realistic analysts place these statements in perspective as carefully manufactured to promote political and ideological purposes. This quote stands in for unchallenged truth on the matter of global warming (4-4-14)

Overview: Often the discussion of whether or not harmful global warming is happening  distills to arguments whether or not we believe the claims are real rather than discussions about the supporting science (4-9-14)

Overview: As our series of 2014 climate posts neared an end we became realistic concerning the genuine fear provoked during a violent thunderstorm or windstorm.
But as we study Earth’s wonderful climate system, we acquire appreciation for the wide variety of life-sustaining weather over the long term (4-12-14)

Overview: A tragedy of our time is the fear engendered by the climate change lobby. Shining through is God’s higher purpose: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (4-22-14)

Overview: Natural climate variability is hardly ever assigned explanatory power by climate change enthusiasts. The “oversimplified cause” is a betrayal of straight thinking. This errant thinking occurs when an effect has multiple causes, but only one cause is identified. (4-26-14)

Earth’s climate is ultimately God’s gift for the physical sustenance of the human race. In this assurance, we thank him and rejoice in his goodness! “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1 NIV.)   



Friday, June 16, 2017

Climate Alarmism

Since President Trump withdrew our country from the Paris Climate Accord we have endured a storm of despair and criticism from climate alarmists. Many are famous people in government or the entertainment industry who commandeer the microphones and turn up the speaker volume. They loudly claim affirmation from scientists. Our populace is deluged by claims from   the authority of science on multiple issues without being informed of the possibility of ideological overlay in the science profession. Climate is a hot-button issue which parallels the lines of political ideology. Generally, citizens divide themselves politically along the lines of climate alarmism on the left and climate optimism on the right. We use the somewhat hackneyed, time worn example of perceiving the glass as half empty or half full.

Dissent on environmental, historical, philosophical, political, religious, lifestyle, or worldview matters often generates heat instead of light. Many disagreements boil down to personal opinion or preference. The climate matter is said to affect our present and future welfare or even survival of the human race. For example, we quote utterances of two prominent politicians, one astronaut, and one actor. These are mere samples; hundreds of famous ideologues offer their opinions. They are not scientists but often clothe themselves in the imprimatur of science. Theologians sometimes inappropriately enter the fray. John Kerry, former Secretary of State under the Obama administration and Democratic nominee for president in 2004 voiced several incredible claims in response to the president’s decision: “He is not helping the forgotten American, he is hurting them. Their kids will have worse asthma attacks in the summer.” In 2014 after a US Senate all-night “filibuster” by Democrats to highlight the dangers of climate change, majority leader Harry Reid implored the world to “act before it is too late,” claiming also that it is “the worst problem facing the world today.” Astronaut Scott Kelly has stated withdrawal from the agreement “will be devastating to our planet.” Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio intoned “This is the most existential crisis our civilization has ever known.”

Global attitudes toward our exquisite planetary climate system have now been linked by the EPA to the perception that CO2, a plant-sustaining trace gas in our atmosphere, is a dangerous pollutant. The effects of slight warming of the Earth’s atmosphere (1.3º C in the last 136 years) provokes environmental horror and predictions of planetary doom in the face of a seven-fold increase in Earth’s population and concomitant multiplication of world food supply in the past two centuries. Many weather disasters such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and heat waves have statistically decreased in their frequency and intensity in the last few decades. How then do we account for journalistic zeal touting global warming when ordinary contemporary weather events are reported by the media? We are ruled by a cadre of climate model enthusiasts predicting conditions far into the future. We posit that this negative enthusiasm is unscientific and unhealthy.

Respected meteorologist Roy Spencer has presented meaningful contrarian research to counter popular global warming enthusiasm. For example, he claims the “climate system is dominated by stabilizing processes rather than destabilizing processes.” Spencer is a signatory to “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming,” which states “Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by his faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying his glory.” Spencer believes most climate change is natural in origin, the result of long-term changes in Earth’s albedo (portion of incident radiation reflected by a surface) and  anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused some warming, but its warming influence is small compared to natural, internal, chaotic fluctuations in global average cloud cover.

Popular alarmist opinion poses release of CO2 from fossil fuel burning as a “destabilizing process” as mentioned in the above paragraph. CO2 is a divine favor supplied by the Creator of planet Earth. The tiny amount of warming experienced by Earth since 1880 should be considered a blessing, certainly not a bane. Moderate warming has been a boon to agriculture. A small increase in CO2 levels has been proven to promote better crop growth as have other man-made improvements in agricultural practices.

We would like to see the microphone transferred into the hands of reasonable climate scientists and out of the hands of unreasonable climate alarmists. Politicians and Hollywood entertainers feed on power and public adulation. Our perception is that the power of ideology has been manipulated by political parties and entertainers far too long. We pray that sound science and ordered thinking would predominate.                 

The climate system is exquisitely beautiful and productive in terms of its ability to supply our world population with food. Since world industrialization world population has increased dramatically. In 1900 world population was 1.5 billion; in 2000 population was 6.1 billion; in 2017 it grew to 7.5 billion. In 1880 fossil fuels began to be a major factor in the growth of humanity. In 1850 the world’s Little Ice Age came to an end and world temperatures began a slow climb. Shining through the haze of climate alarmism is the current obsession with CO2 emissions. Of course, CO2 contributes to some warming of the atmosphere, but likewise, so do many other atmospheric components. Often neglected in the climate change mania is the effect of stupendous world population growth and the rapid urbanization of the world’s elevated population. This elevated population has not always contributed positively as they densely wedged into urban areas, cleared the Amazon rainforest, and contributed to Earth warming in multiple other ways.  

Analysts have highlighted complex global weather oscillations which have existed since man inhabited this planet. These oscillations are not well understood or appreciated as many focus inordinately on fossil fuels. Not only have these weather oscillations existed since the Little Ice Age ended in 1850, but they were present to extricate Earth’s population from the Wisconsin Ice Age and launch humanity into the famous “agricultural revolution” when the Ice Age abated about 12,000 years ago. From the end of the Ice Age until the present there have been at least a dozen minor and major climate oscillations in which CO2 was not a major player.

In future posts we will develop the position that reducing the fossil fuel burning to a fraction of present levels in response to the perceived dangers of continued CO2 emission would devastate the health of uncounted millions of poor people in developing nations as well as shackle the United States with costs of trillions of dollars. These are financial resources which could be more appropriately expended to “subdue the Earth” and benefit humanity in other prudent and beneficial ways (Genesis 1:28).

The geologic history of Earth has provided hydrocarbons usable in modern times in great abundance. These are accurately described as fossil fuels. We now tap into petroleum, natural gas, and coal deposits produced tens or hundreds of millions of years ago as the result of decomposition of buried dead organisms originally produced by photosynthesis. Additional deposits are being discovered constantly. New methods are being discovered to recover these treasures of fossil energy. The Creator, timeless in his planning and provision had humanity in mind to provide wonderful stores of energy for our age of technology. For this, we offer humble thanks.        

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Climate Accord?

The Paris Climate Accord is woefully misnamed. President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the “accord.” In truth, there is very little accord. The lack of accord is only exceeded by the lack of wisdom manifested by the negotiators of the Paris agreement. I challenge readers to examine its fine print and the implications of compliance. Adherence by every nation to the Paris pact may promote economic disaster. Moreover, the trillions of dollars of costs in transitioning out of fossil fuels and into non-carbon renewables is projected to avert only 0.3º F of warming by the year 2100. That is less than 0.04º F per decade and would cost the United States multi-trillions of dollars. One must question the disordered thinking of the world’s globalists.

The climate change debate is grounded on certainty that harmful climate change has resulted in or would result from the addition of 50% more CO2, a trace gas in the atmosphere, since industrialization. This trace gas, a vital gift of God for sustaining plant life, has been labelled a pollutant by the EPA. The fraction of CO2 has increased    from 1/3600 of the atmosphere several hundred years ago to 1/2500 today, a mere difference of 1/8700. Climate models can only explain half of the warming that actually occurred. There was really not much warming: 1.3º C from 1880 to 2016. Intuitively, we perceive something is amiss with the global warming paradigm hanging over our society. We are sometimes obsessed with alarmist climate projections.

Many resources are available to promote diverse arguments from the climate discussion. In August 2012, I joined the discussion full force with respect to climate change. Our series of posts was triggered by a remarkable stretch of heat and drought in our midwestern states, the most serious in decades. Some observers proclaimed anthropomorphic climate change to be the culprit. My first two posts from 8-11-12 and 8-17-12 were written during the 2012 drought and heat wave. The following posts ensued with a more in-depth discussion of climate change arguments. We link nine posts below with an overview of each: 

Overview: Historically, our climate system is incredibly complex, albeit magnificent— too complex to assign a minutely increasing trace gas most of the blame for the vagaries of climate change (8-22-12)

Overview: The authority of science has been co-opted to highlight the ideology of climate change (global warming) advocates (8-30-12)

Overview: “Subdue” in this post connotes conscientious care for our planet, becoming sensitive to Planet Earth’s characteristics. Earth is incredibly dynamic. The Paris Climate Accord focuses most of its attention on curbing consumption of fossil fuels to reduce production of atmospheric CO2 at astronomical cost (9-6-12)

Overview: We deal with the unbending certainty of the effects of CO2 release from fossil fuel consumption among politically correct adherents of climate change in our global community (9-11-12)

Overview: The unrelenting dispute raging today on climate issues often ignores or fails to discover actual TRUTH (9-15-12)

6 -  Overview: What is the response of the evangelical community? The spectrum of opinion is very broad. Solutions from this community are sometimes at odds (9-22-12)

Overview: Concern over climate change may increase or decrease, depending on increasing or decreasing confidence in science and a realistic, unbiased appraisal of complex phenomena of climate (9-27-12)

Overview: Consensus is sometimes the enemy of truth discovery. Climate change relies on consensus but the issue is far from settled. At times our Christian worldview  competes with scientific consensus (10-2-12)

9 -  Overview: In brief, weather disasters are a small segment of Earth’s dynamic climate system. Every disastrous weather event is not an outcome of climate change (10-8-12)

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Our beliefs accord with those of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. In particular, we cite several items from their list of affirmations and denials:

We affirm that the Earth and all its physical and biological systems are the effects of God’s omniscient design, omnipotent creation, and faithful sustaining, and that when God completed his creative work it was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

We deny that an infinitely wise Designer, infinitely powerful Creator, and perfectly faithful Sustainer of the Earth would have made it susceptible to catastrophic degradation from proportionally small causes, and consequently we deny that wise environmental stewardship readily embraces claims of catastrophe stemming from such causes.

We affirm that by God’s design Earth and its physical and biological systems are robust, resilient, and self-correcting.

We deny that they are fragile.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Paris Climate Globalism

Climate change has become one of the most riveting political issues of our day. The climate issue has become not only a United States concern, but increasingly is becoming a global matter with intricate economic implications. 

At first glance, globalism seems to be a concept worth promoting. We desire collective benefit for the healthy well being of all nations of the world. But when we examine the concept we realize there is limited benefit in rampant globalism in climate and other issues. Of course, God’s people should be concerned about the welfare of all humanity. Globalism, however, is not a simple matter of seeking the benefit of all humanity altruistically. Complexity is inherent as we work out our altruism. Nationalistic traditions and pride in work and productivity are benefits gifted by the Creator to all peoples of the Earth. As we examine the diversity of humanity, we must maintain awareness of national differences while striving to live peaceably: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18 NASB).

The Paris Climate Accord of 2015 has a positive ring. Genuine “accord” on significant political differences between and among the nations of the world is a difficult standard to achieve. Political turmoil and conflict have been rampant since the rise of nations. The rise and fall of nations, often the title of a popular book or article, chronicles the unfortunate reality. Nations work for their own benefit and agree to actions which generally benefit themselves. Some of the most destructive “agreements” have been negotiated by our national leaders on dubious initiatives which could clearly harm our nation. For this discussion, we offer our analysis that The Paris Climate Accord exemplifies a dubious action. We are glad our president has turned us away from The Paris Climate Accord. The “accord” could harm our country and may not even benefit other countries for whom we profess concern.

We quote leaders within an organization which has gained respectability as an advocate of sound science as well as a champion of orthodox theology. I highly recommend The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. The following statement appears in virtually every one of their communiqués. “The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation seeks to magnify the glory of God in creation, the wisdom of his truth in environmental stewardship, the kindness of his mercy in lifting the needy out of poverty, and the wonders of his grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This Ankerberg Science/Faith blog attempts to remain faithful to sound principles and practices of science and prudent political actions of our government in response to advances in science. After all, our leaders must be committed to wise executive decision-making which protects the interests of our own citizens.  

Accordingly, we lead with several acknowledged scientific truths and their counterpart in “politically correct science.” The primary cause of global warming is not the burning of fossil fuels. Global warming (now renamed “climate change”) is the natural, historically acknowledged tendency of Earth to react to many phenomena of our complex climate system. Science “experts” may pinpoint a cause among any of multiple causes for slight climate warming. From 1880 to 2016 global temperatures have risen only 1.3º C. Many scientific experts have chosen to highlight primarily ONE cause—consumption of fossil fuels and their production of CO2 when burned—as the cause of climate change (global warming) we have already observed.

According to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, consumption of fossil fuels is identified as the primary cause of global warming. This perception is reinforced by national and global politics resulting in the Paris agreement. The production of CO2 by fossil fuel burners, according to the Paris Climate Accord, must be mitigated by signatories to the agreement. Upon examination, the agreement unfairly places the United States at a substantial disadvantage for many reasons. Full compliance by all nations would supposedly drive the GAT (Global Average Temperature) “below 2º C above pre-industrial levels, along with an effort to limit the increase to 1.5º C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

Our readers may have become confused by these statements. In our next posts we will examine how unreasonable these requirements are in the light of scientific uncertainties. Science is touted as proving that present emissions of CO2 are projected to harm our future environment in specific ways. Dubious climate models concerning future conditions stray outside the bounds of sound science and are limited in their claims of certainty.                   

Monday, June 5, 2017

James Clerk Maxwell's Apologetic

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) is a model for affirming the reality of God in a powerful way. This brilliant scientist masterfully promotes the dual reality of the existence of God linked with the reality of a divinely designed and wonderfully ordered physical world. Incredible human achievement is but a subset of the orderliness of the physical universe and the God who created it. Among brilliant scientists who present scientific discoveries as God-affirming, James Clerk Maxwell is a giant. On the scientific level, Albert Einstein enthusiastically pronounced his work “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” Were Einstein (1879-1955) still living, no doubt he would utter the same statement. A review of our previous posts featuring Maxwell is instructive before you read further:

With this post we conclude our series on “the usefulness of science to promote faith and belief in God’s realty, especially the promotion of a viable faith in young people. We present statements from James Clerk Maxwell’s fertile mind concerning the dual spheres of science and faith, linking Maxwell’s deep spiritual insights with his profound scientific gifts. We encourage prospective parents and teachers to embrace this challenge in order to enrich their children’s faith search according to their age and level of their ability.

Maxwell believed religious faith and science were partners. He saw the ordered uniformity, orderliness, and simplicity of nature rather than its peculiarity and complexity. He spoke of “…(impressing) his own mind with the extent, the order, and the unity of the universe.” Maxwell referred to “the book of nature…written by the finger of God, that is, created by divine power.”

“The Creator governs his material works by definite laws resulting from the forces impressed on matter,” Maxwell stated. “Every atom of creation is unfathomable in its perfection.” He claimed, “None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule.” Details of the structure of atoms were not discovered or publicized until decades after his death.

Maxwell believed the features of the universe were created, not eternally existent. He opposed the philosophy of some scientists in his day, and would have opposed many in our present day who lean toward philosophical naturalism: Nature is all there is. “We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to the operation of natural causes,” he voiced. He fits the definition of a theistic scientist without frequently endorsing a mysterious “God of the gaps” perspective in his practice of science. Natural laws were authored by the God of Creation.    

Maxwell’s Christian convictions were not threatened by the growing scientific materialism of the 19th century. Some Christians in our age struggle against this threat of materialism. Today’s scientists as a group tend to be less religious than the general population—a mysterious phenomenon. We posit that modern scientists rest in the perceived certainty and security of scientific laws. They derive, thereby, a satisfying personal effect. To them, the anchor of science knowledge is deemed more satisfying than the search for the so-called “mystery” of spiritual truths. I Timothy 3:16 refers to the “mystery of godliness.” Mystery connotes truths formerly obscured, but now more clearly manifest. Many other spiritual truths are classified as “mysteries” in Ephesians and Colossians, as well as in the gospels where some translators render the term as “secrets.”

We join with Maxwell in believing quality science is inseparable from faith. As the Creator of all things, God is also author of the science/faith duality. James Clerk Maxwell provides a reasoned, persuasive apologetic model for our Christian faith. His worldview is part of the legacy we strive to pass on to our young people.               


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Particle Reality

Our recent posts concerning air pressure did not address the sequence of scientific discoveries concerning the causes of air pressure. Only in the last two centuries were concepts of the particle theory of matter proposed. Ancients such as Democritus (430 BC) conceived of matter composed of particles. This was more a philosophical than a scientific discovery. Real progress was made just over two centuries ago when experimental evidence discovered by John Dalton (1766-1844) and Joseph Proust (1754-1826) showed that matter is composed of discrete particles—separate and distinct entities—and that all particles (atoms) of any one element are identical in mass and properties. The particles seemed indivisible and indestructible and could combine to form compounds. Experiments demonstrating that when one substance combines with another substance, mass proportions of the reacting substances are always constant. Scientists reasoned this would be true only if matter behaved as if composed of discrete particles.

Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) preceded Dalton and Proust in his proposal of particles, describing air pressure in terms of what was happening at the level of particles. More knowledge was gained later about gas, liquid, and solid particles. Bernoulli was ahead of his time, thinking microscopically instead of macroscopically. We quote Bernoulli as he described his experiments on the behavior of gases within closed cylinders: “Let the cavity contain very minute corpuscles which are driven hither and thither with a very rapid motion: so that these corpuscles, when they strike against the piston and sustain it by their repeated impacts form an elastic fluid which will expand of itself if the weight is removed or diminished…”

Preceding Bernoulli by many years, Evangelista Toricelli (1608-1647) invented the barometer to measure the strength of air pressure macroscopically. He did not explain  his barometer in terms of kinetic movement of trillions of particles. Rather, he described the behavior of the entire system and quantified the strength of air pressure. In this way he was more focused on effects rather than causes. Toricelli’s work with the barometer was initially suggested by Galileo for whom Toricelli worked briefly.

People attempting to pump water from wells have long observed that the water level  rises to a maximum level by creating a vacuum in a pipe above the water. The height of rise is approximately 34 feet. If water is raised to this level, in effect we have created a type of water barometer to measure the strength of air pressure. Toricelli developed a barometer using mercury instead of water. Liquid mercury is 13.6 times the density of water. Therefore, a mercury barometer is more compact than a water barometer and able to rest comfortably on a classroom lab table. The mercury barometer measures the identical force as the water barometer, but more conveniently.

A mercury barometer in my classroom was a special demonstration for observing daily changes in atmospheric pressure. We filled a narrow glass tube completely closed at one end with liquid mercury, inverted the covered open end of the tube, and placed it below the surface of mercury in the dish. When we removed our finger from the tube of mercury, its level dropped to an average height of 760 mm (29.92 inches) above the surface of mercury in the dish. Several inches of empty space remained above the mercury level in the tube. If we were successful in preventing an air leak into the tube, the space above the mercury was a perfect vacuum. If a small hole were drilled into the top of the closed glass tube to allow air inside, the mercury level would immediately fall to 0 mm. Our barometer would have become non-functional. In the classroom barometer the mercury level varied almost two inches during our weather unit study. Class members were able to correlate high readings with fair weather and low readings with storms and precipitation events.

In 1844 the first aneroid barometer was constructed with a movable needle attached to a small sealed flexible metal box which changed its size and shape with increasing or decreasing atmospheric pressure. Aneroid (non-liquid) barometers are more convenient than mercury barometers. Digital barometers may now be found in some smart phones!

The topic of air pressure is one of multiple examples of non-obvious causes affecting physical events in our environment. It is one of the most crucial phenomena in sustaining healthy function of Earth’s millions of different living creatures. A topic such as air pressure is able to inspire the imagination of young people and adults alike to express enthusiastic wonder at our unique planet’s hundreds of interrelated working systems. Science has enabled humanity to appreciate causes and effects of these many working systems. The Creator has enabled humanity not only to benefit by Earth’s working, life-sustaining systems, but also to understand how the systems operate.

Returning to the timeline of human discovery of the particle theory of matter, we remind readers of our previously discussed discovery pioneers: Toricelli, Bernoulli, Proust, Dalton. Each contributed to the logical sequence eventually culminating in our present knowledge of the particle nature of matter. Many other discoveries concerning components of basic particles ensued in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including identification of electrons by J. J. Thomson (1897), protons by Ernest Rutherford (1911), and neutrons by James Chadwick (1932). In 1964 Murray Gell-Mann proposed quarks as constituents of protons and neutrons. Our knowledge of the wonders of non-obvious causes has only begun. How many more discoveries about the wonders of physical matter are yet to be discovered in future decades?

We are surprised that in our day faith in the existence of the Designer and Creator of All Things sometimes seems diminished as scientists have increased our knowledge of how the world works. Should it not be the opposite? Stated a different way, increasing evidence of design and fine-tuning of our physical systems sometimes generates increased scorn for the concepts of intelligent design and divine creation in many quarters. It is the goal of this blog to reverse this trend with both our young people and with acquaintances of all ages.    




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Air Power

Our choice of “Air Power” for this post evokes multiple images. Are we talking about  military strategy, an aviation technology, or a cleverly named industry? Few search engines offer air power as a synonym for air pressure. When we deal with multiple aspects of the topic of air pressure, however, we suggest power is an appropriate alternate term. Air pressure is a dynamic, powerful force to be reckoned with in many aspects of human experience. Some do not understand the causes and effects of air pressure. The current post investigates the possibility of “Air Power” as a synonym for air pressure. 

Events in our world are explained with a healthy measure of questioning and investigation. Explanations rely on scientific method for answers to our questions. Natural curiosity of children and adults is not age limited. Answers are provided by experiments performed in the science classroom and in everyday life. Solid learning is provided by skillfully presented demonstrations and the help of the instructor to explain difficult or mysterious results.

The power or pressure of invisible air surrounding us provides fascination and wonder. In a physics classroom instructors may stress definitions and distinctions for terms they use. (One reference book listed 14 different definitions for power and a similar number of definitions for pressure—an illustration of the richness and sometimes challenging aspect of the English language.) Use of “power” in this context relates to the total output of energy available. In this sense, the “power” of air is almost unlimited on a planet such as Earth enveloped by an air blanket. In contrast, “pressure” could relate to an effect experienced at a specific location. For example, in describing the results of our “crushed can” experiment (4-30-17 post) we focused on the effect of air “pressure” at only one location—the spot where our can demonstration took place. The “crushed can” experiment, however, could be performed anywhere and everywhere on the Earth simultaneously.

A famous effect related to the pressure and power of air was discovered by Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), a mathematician and scientist. He reported on the phenomena that air pressure in fluids such as air is reduced when the fluid is in motion. The effect he described is known today as Bernoulli’s Principle. Bernoulli explained that air always flows from a region of higher to lower air pressure. We first relate several simple lab experiments or classroom discussions related to the principle.

In keeping with our preference for somewhat spectacular demonstrations, we describe several which seem to contradict common sense. We took an old fashioned thread spool with an open shaft through the middle and placed a piece of oak tag on the open end. After sticking a straight pin through the paper and into the spool to stabilize the cardboard, we forced our breath into the spool from the opposite end. Without an air flow gravity causes the cardboard to fall to the floor. When the air flow began, the oak tag defied gravity and remained on the spool. When we blew harder, the stiff paper oak tag adhered to the spool even more tightly. When the student stopped blowing into the spool, gravity took over and pulled the cardboard to the floor. 

A ping pong ball remained suspended indefinitely in a vertical stream of air above a hair dryer. The rapid air flow from the hair dryer possessed less air pressure compared with the motionless air outside. Higher pressure flowing from still air to moving air kept the ball within the moving, lower pressure air. A dangerous application of Bernoulli’s Principle occurs in city subway systems. Subway trains rushing by at high speed creates a moving air flow. Air pressure behind the passengers is higher in the motionless air. Therefore, one feels “pushed” toward the moving train. “Stay behind the line” is a multi-purpose safety warning. For a similar reason, drivers on interstate highways feel themselves being pulled toward a large truck if it passes closely at high speed.

Finally, our last example comes from modern aviation. Airplane wings are constructed with a slight curve over the top but are flat on the bottom. On takeoff, when sufficient air speed is achieved, the pilot pulls back on his flight control stick in order to begin the ascent. According to Bernoulli’s Principle, faster moving air exerts less pressure than slower moving air. Over the top of the wing the air is forced to travel a little faster than air at the bottom in order to rejoin as the wing slices through the air. Therefore, airplanes are “lifted” into the air by greater air pressure acting on the bottom of the wing. Many other complex issues are involved in the science of aeronautics. The principle described by Bernoulli was posed long before airplanes became a reality. I link the following post from 5-20-15 for our readers’ enjoyment. Bernoulli articulated a principle that may have preserved my life in 1952:

The phenomenon of air power or air pressure supplies a spiritual object lesson. The power of air pressure is available over the entire area of Earth. At any moment in time, the power of air and air pressure is virtually limitless. The God of Creation has designed hundreds of systems by which humanity and all other living things enjoy a rich physical existence. God also makes spiritual power available. His physical and spiritual power is limitless and independent of the constraints of time, space, matter, and energy in which we exist. God created our dimensions of reality, but he exists in a realm beyond our dimensions as well as within our temporal realm. 




Friday, May 19, 2017

Pressured and Sustained by Air

Air pressure is a subject of fascination apart from its relationship to the complex phenomenon of Earth’s weather system. Our planet manifests multiple physical systems worthy of investigation—systems ranging from small to large and simple to  complex. The subjects of air and air pressure are examples of systems which appear to become increasingly complex as we discover the interrelationships of multiple systems. Sub-systems interlock to form complex systems.

One example of a simple system begins with air. Upon study we discover simpler sub-systems: Air is composed of molecules of nitrogen (two atoms of nitrogen chemically linked) and molecules of oxygen (two atoms of oxygen chemically linked). Nitrogen and oxygen are two of eight diatomic elements. Even more simple is the system of individual atoms. Each atom of nitrogen or oxygen can be considered a system. Atoms are wonderful examples of fine-tuning and design, from the consistent forces holding their electrons to the nucleus, to the identical masses of each proton, neutron, and electron.

Our air blanket is held close to the earth’s surface by the force of gravity. If there were no gravity there would be no air clinging to the planet’s surface. In our atmosphere all of Earth’s weather occurs. The weather system would not exist without an atmosphere. Of course, virtually all earth life depends on the components of the atmosphere—oxygen for animal life and CO2 for plant life. The dynamic blanket of air must cling to the earth and be able to move, mix, and transport life sustaining water vapor from place to place. Moving air is termed wind. Dynamic connotes forceful, powerful, and energetic. Hundreds of physical requirements must be fulfilled and hundreds of processes must be completed successfully in order for human and other life to exist.

Changes in air pressure from one Earth location to another are a necessary pre-requisite for producing moving air. Air pressure varies according to temperature and altitude. Cooler air possesses higher pressure; warmer air possesses lower pressure. Several factors result in global temperature variability. The primary factor is varying solar radiation. When the sun’s rays strike Earth at a high angle near the equator, the earth receives more heat; it becomes warmer. In contrast when the sun’s rays strike the earth at a low angle at high latitudes, the planet receives less heat. We have contrasting temperatures—cold at the poles; warm at the equator.

Wind results from the tendency of higher pressure air to flow toward regions of lower pressure. Light winds result from adjacent areas with a moderate pressure difference. Strong winds result from substantial differences in pressure—there is a strong pressure gradient because strongly different pressure zones occur near each other.

Diagrams of Earth’s wind belts remind us of the importance of differences in air pressure existing from one location to another. Wind belts result from the tendency of air to flow from high to low pressure. A large portion of earth’s population exists in wind belts termed prevailing westerlies or northeast/southeast trade winds. Wind belts converge or diverge in their effort to equalize pressure conditions. In terms of our healthy, dynamic weather system, these effects are necessary. Absence of differences in pressure would result in the absence of wind, the absence of precipitation-producing storm systems and the absence of a mechanism for distributing life giving water where it is needed. It is not difficult to imagine that earth life would be very different if it would exist at all.

Looking back on my personal classroom teaching experience during weather units, we trust that after many years my former students may still relate the “wow factor” of our crushed can and vacuum pump demonstrations (5-11-17 post) to the importance of air pressure as that topic relates to the welfare and survival of life on this unique planet. Earth’s weather is a complex system for which success depends upon the effective working of many supporting sub-systems. Who could deny the supernatural design features of our weather system as well as thousands of other working systems enabling the existence of life on our Earth system

Earth’s life sustaining weather system is a marvel of complexity and beauty. Many other systems yield their secrets of design and the supernatural intelligence of the designer, the Creator of All Things. As parents and teachers of both young people and adults, we must first discover for ourselves the sense of wonder at the many operating systems surrounding us.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Non-Obvious Causes

When we think scientifically, we are acutely aware of the cause and effect phenomenon. Causes are easy to observe in some cases. For other situations causes are difficult to observe without devising appropriate observational strategies. Before the Scientific Revolution empirical observations were not systematically utilized. At the onset of the Revolution implicit powers of men’s minds yielded to a greater dependence on evidence, both experimental and observational, and rational analysis. Formal science methodology achieved prominence during the Revolution along with a heightened awareness of cause and effect. 

Science experiments in our classrooms depend on traditionally accepted methodology. Some experiments are designed with the “wow factor” in mind in order to capture the attention of our young scholars. In this day of graphic displays of contemporary technological wizardry, we sometimes “sell” our science based upon how spectacular our science demonstrations are. They may be spectacular indeed.

Example 1: (I plead guilty of appropriating the “wow factor” on some occasions in my science classroom.) The “Egg in the Bottle” experiment is a classic science classroom spectacular. Air at sea level (most locations are somewhat above sea level) exerts a pressure of 14.7 lb./sq. in. If this substantial pressure is enlisted to push a hard boiled egg into an old-fashioned milk bottle without touching the bottle, we reap the “wow factor.” Observation of this classic experiment may help us determine a non-obvious cause after we observe a startling obvious effect.

The diameter of a peeled, hard boiled egg is larger than the the diameter of the mouth of the milk bottle. We could have challenged a student to push the egg into the bottle manually. He may have succeeded using considerable force, ruining the egg in the process. Our teaching challenge was to instruct students concerning the presence and strength of invisible air pressure. We must permit normal atmospheric air pressure to accomplish the task without our help..

The teacher folds a strip of newspaper and lights one end. He drops the burning paper into the bottle; the paper burns and is quickly consumed. Smoke pours out of the bottle along with heated air which expands out of the bottle. We quickly place one end of the egg on the mouth of the bottle. The egg almost immediately pops into the bottle followed by student “oohs” and “aahs.” After discussion students conclude there is less air in the bottle after the smoke and hot air air are expelled. Consequently, there is less air pressure inside the bottle than outside. Students conclude that the pressure of normal outside air pressure forces the egg into the bottle toward the now lower pressure. Discussion generates reminders that air always flows from a higher pressure to a lower pressure region. The egg obeys this “rule” of nature. The pressure differential does not have to be great for the experiment to succeed. Many students propose that the egg enters the bottle by “suction.” I respond, “Suction never did any work.” The egg is forced into the bottle from the outside, not from the inside. 

Example 2: The vacuum pump demonstration was another spectacular attention-getter and a wonderful teaching tool. A bell-shaped glass cover (the bell jar) on a platform is sealed shut and the pump motor started. Most of the air inside the bell jar is removed after a few minutes. When invisible air is removed we notice no obvious change. But when we place various objects into the bell jar and turn the pump on, we notice remarkable effects from the non-obvious cause: removal of air and subsequent lowering of air pressure.

A partially inflated grapefruit-sized balloon maintains its shape inside the bell jar before the pump was started. Air pressure inside the balloon is equal to air pressure outside the balloon. The air pressure forces of both air regions are balanced, but when air was removed from the outside of the balloon, the forces of air pressure inside and outside the balloon became unbalanced; the balloon began to expand. Outside air pressure was diminished—air inside the balloon remained the same. The ballon soon expanded from the force of air pressure inside the balloon, stretching the balloon to its breaking point.

Students are challenged to stretch the rubber of an uninflated balloon by hand to resemble its size and shape before the pump motor was turned on. They discovered that assignment is impossible. A little bit of air inside the balloon however, accomplishes the trick with the greatest of ease. Students determine that “a little bit of air” inside the balloon exerts an exceedingly powerful force in order to expand and pop the balloon. We need only to reduce the external pressure to visually observe the effect of internal air pressure.

Several other vacuum pump demonstrations became classroom favorites. One was expanding a marshmallow to many times its normal size. When we allow air back inside the pump, the marshmallow gives away its secret: it is filled with multiple little air compartments acting initially like little balloons. The marshmallow ends up tiny and shriveled. A somewhat more difficult demonstration to understand is “boiling cold water.” We boil tap water without raising its temperature. Lowering the air pressure permits water molecules to escape more easily. (Water molecules are always “trying” to escape.) The water molecules burst through the surface of the water more easily unimpeded by normal air pressure. The boiling point of liquids relates to both temperature and air pressure.

Many non-obvious causes in our world result in startling effects. The Creator of all things authored all physical laws of our universe. This authorship results in an incredibly ordered world. God, therefore, is not only the Creator, but also the Lawgiver. We rejoice in the love and omnipotence of our Lawgiver.           




Thursday, May 4, 2017

A World Working Well

Our current focus on the wonders of air pressure directs us to some deeper questions. It is appropriate to backtrack somewhat to discuss a few questions about constantly moving sub-microscopic atoms and molecules. Children and adults fascinated by air pressure will profit from a discussion of the structure and characteristics of atoms and molecules. In the case of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, argon and all other atoms found in air, the atom is a marvel of structure and predictability. The nucleus, where over 99% of atomic mass occurs, is composed of tightly packed protons and neutrons held together by one of the four fundamental forces of nature—the strong nuclear force. Electrons swarming around the nucleus are kept in place close to the nucleus by another fundamental force—electromagnetic force.

How is our discussion related to air pressure? The atmosphere is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon, and other elements. Components of air molecules—protons, neutrons, and electrons—cohere by powerful forces. Two of the four universal (or fundamental) forces, the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force insure that these atoms hold together instead of generating a chaotic mass of protons, neutrons, electrons, and smaller particles such as quarks which compose them. Without the ever-present universal forces, our world’s matter would not exist as we know it. For example, some scientists humorously write that the protons in the nucleus of every atom in our universe have no business holding together in their densely packed condition. They are all positively charged particles in close proximity. Like charges repel. Why don’t the seven protons in nitrogen atoms and the eight protons in oxygen atoms fly apart? The answer lies with the strong nuclear force holding the particles together within the atoms’ nucleus.

For children and adults a discussion of the wonder of air molecules responsible for Earth’s ubiquitous air pressure phenomena may be appropriate. Diatomic molecules of nitrogen and oxygen composing 99% of our atmosphere each have nuclei which cohere by the strong force. In our last post (4-30-17) we stated there are 2.5 septillion air molecules in one cubic meter of air. Consider a smaller volume: In one cubic inch of air there are 440 quintillion air molecules at sea level. With either volume of air we deal with inconceivable numbers of molecules.

Especially curious older children and adults may understand that molecules of air are unlike simple sub-microscopic beads zipping around. Air’s uncountable billions of molecules zig-zag around at 1000 mph. Air possesses atoms whose components are held together by the strong nuclear force. When we discover the 14.7 lb. per square inch force of air pressure from air molecules colliding with any surface they contact, we have additional reasons to express open-mouthed wonder.

Children in Middle School learn basic atomic structure: protons, neutrons, and electrons. In subsequent years they study additional truths about the matter in air as reported to us by particle physicists. We trust that heavy scientific truths do not tire our young people prematurely. Parents and instructors must be alert for teachable moments. We propose that discussions or demonstrations of visible vs invisible forces are appropriate even for young children.

A startling New Testament passage occurs in the Book of Colossians. We do not quote these verses as a “proof text.” The Colossians passage may bring to mind a sometimes lively discussion of a little known term: Concordism. Some theologians believe that scripture provides explicit modern scientific truths. For example, they believe almost everything we wish to discover about creation events or the age of the earth is revealed by Bible passages. Such people are called “hard concordists” by astrophysicist/theologian Hugh Ross. In contrast, Ross describes “soft concordists” as less rigid. They “seek agreement between properly interpreted scripture passages that describe some aspect of the natural realm and indisputably and well-established data in science.” 

With the definition of “soft concordism” in mind, we quote from Colossians 1:16-17: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV.) These verses reference (1) the initial creation event, (2) two realms of existence, temporal and eternal, (3) visibility and invisibility, (4) purpose of creation (for him), (5) time frames (before all things), and (6) holding together (coherence) of matter. The Colossians passage is startling because centuries before the scientific revolution of the past 400 years, the Apostle Paul expressed these powerful scientific insights. Whether or not this is an example of hard or soft concordism, the passage reinforces our collective worship experience.

The concept of “a world working well” has broad significance. It could mean working well spiritually, socially, politically, or a host of other operational possibilities. In the context of our blog, we stress working well in a physical and scientific sense as affirmation of the past and present work of the Creator and to provide support for belief in the existence of God. If our world does not work well in a physical sense, our experience in other spheres of existence is weakened. Worse, If our physical world were to operate chaotically and unpredictably, the supporting framework of our physical existence may not exist. 

Depending on their age, children may be aware of protons and neutrons in atoms of air molecules. The mass of every proton and the mass of every neutron is identical and constant within their nuclei. The force binding protons together with neutrons in the nucleus, the nuclear strong force, is also constant. A slightly heavier or lighter neutron or a slight strengthening or weakening of the nuclear strong force would preclude life on Earth. Even one of hundreds of other slight changes in our working well world would make life on Earth impossible. 

We used Earth’s atmosphere and air pressure as a launch point of discussion. Each of quintillions of atoms in a single cubic inch of air obeys fundamental physical constants and universal laws of force.    

We link our post from 8-4-2008: