Friday, April 26, 2024

Earthquake Experience

 Earth is a dynamic planet. The term dynamic means powerful and energetic. Physical processes have molded our planet for eons. On April 5, 2024 a 4.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in New Jersey a few miles from our former residence. This was the strongest earthquake to occur in New Jersey since 1783. This geographic area is not prone to earthquakes as are some other locations around the planet. This earthquake generated considerable anxiety for local residents. Authorities stated that no significant damage had resulted, but aftershocks, minor “readjustments” in the rock layers, did occur.

The recent northern New Jersey earthquake was an unusual phenomenon in that geographic region. By coincidence, the earth trembled just three days before the April 8 total eclipse of the sun provided totality in New York State barely 200 miles north of the earthquake locale. Earthquakes cannot be predicted in advance, but solar eclipse events are predictable with incredible accuracy many years in advance. Some residents assigned mystical significance to the conflation of two highly unusual natural events within three days of each other. 

Seismologists, scientists who specialize in the study of earthquakes, have explained detailed causes and effects of earthquakes. These earth scientists have identified forces present in Earth’s lithosphere—the outer layers of crust and upper mantle of our planet. When an earthquake occurs, reporters on television networks frequently refer to faults—breaks or cracks in the rock layers at the Earth’s surface. In the paragraphs below we offer a short primer on several types of faults and how rock breakage along faults results in earthquakes.

Earthquakes are ultimately related to heat from the interior of Planet Earth. Most planetary heat comes from the decay of radioactive elements. Unequal heating in the crust and mantle causes cyclical convection currents even in mostly solid rock layers. Over the long term, less dense material rises above more dense material. Convection currents form and cause the earth’s surface crust to break into sections called plates. 

Seismologists have enriched our knowledge of earthquakes, especially in the last century. Until the 1960s, the Continental Drift theory described the startling proposal that Earth’s continents appear to be slowly moving with respect to each other. German scientist Alfred Wegener popularized the theory. He presented evidence that continents slowly moved, but could not explain why the movements occurred.

A new theory about moving continents developed in the 1960s called Plate Tectonics theory. Great sections of Earth’s crust broke into slabs, or plates, and joined together with other plates like pieces of a giant jig-saw puzzle. Faults occurred where giant pieces of Earth’s crust met each other.

Forces in the Earth’s crust result in several types of faults. The NJ earthquake was related to the Ramapo fault, an ancient fault stretching across northern New Jersey. It is no longer an active fault zone but strong earthquakes sometimes occur in ancient fault regions. Three types of faults have been identified: (1) divergent, where plates are moving apart (2) transform, where plates are horizontally sliding past one another, and (3) convergent, where plates are moving toward each other. Faults at the boundaries of plates are more common.The edges of plates are rough. They get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. Finally, when the plate has moved far enough, the edges break apart and an earthquake results. A stretched rubber band can break—an illustration of the action of divergent forces. Matter can become deformed and broken by either twisting or convergent forces. 

Earthquakes are capable of producing damage and destruction. These quakes are ultimately caused by cyclical convection currents in the lithosphere of Planet Earth. Convection currents work for the greater benefit of humanity. A website from the American Museum of Natural History states: “The processes that shape the Earth and its environment constantly cycle elements through the planet. This cycling sustains life and leads to the formation of the mineral and energy resources that are the foundation of modern technological society.”

Many natural phenomena cause destruction and damage to our planetary environment. Damage caused by earthquakes is only one example. When we research this issue, we discover that many underlying physical laws and processes governing our world ultimately work to our benefit rather than to our detriment. God has provided mandates for humanity to exercise dominion over the natural world. For example, government authorities obey these mandates when they legislate building codes to prevent damage during natural events such as earthquakes.

The divine Creator is the author of all scientific laws in our physical world. God has intricately fine-tuned our dynamic planet during the eons-long process of creation. The Plate Tectonics theory is virtually universally accepted to account for earthquakes and continental plates moving on our planetary surface. This describes a divine transformational miracle.

For supporting information on miracles…..






Saturday, April 13, 2024

Post-eclipse Reverie

 Our country’s residents have experienced the highly anticipated 2024 total solar eclipse. Many observers of the long awaited event exuberantly pronounced it “life changing.” 31.6 million US residents live in the path of totality and millions more journeyed into the path. This was the second total solar eclipse to occur in the lower 48 in less than seven years. We must wait until 2044 for a similar astronomical spectacular when three astronomical bodies, Sun Moon, and Earth, are aligned with similar precision in relation to the North American continent.

Network television coverage often referred to the 2017 total solar eclipse and compared it with 2024. Both eclipses were mesmerizing, but there were a few more superlatives in 2024. Observers at the Earth’s surface were treated to totality which lasted about twice as long. Our lunar companion possesses a slightly elliptical orbit, resulting in increased apparent lunar size when the moon’s orbit is closer to Earth. In 2024 the moon was 4000 miles closer to Earth than in 2017. This slight difference in apparent lunar size provides for greater solar coverage and a longer time of totality. 

It is possible that the sky was darker in 2024 for a number of reasons. In 2017 we journeyed to totality in Carbondale, IL, and were somewhat surprised that totality produced deep twilight but not total darkness. In the days since 4/8/24 we discovered that people at the center of the path of totality experienced deeper darkness than people at the outer edge of the shadow. Dozens of YouTube posts recorded the thrill of the total eclipse experience for hundreds of people who experienced “an awesome few minutes” in person.

Other differences were well worth noting. The Sun’s corona, the glowing hot gas disc surrounding the Sun, is visible only during a total solar eclipse. Observers stated this corona was brighter and more beautiful than the 2017 event. This eclipse corresponded to the approach of a solar maximum when sunspots increase and the sun’s magnetic polarity reverses. This results in “dramatically more” intense auroras (northern lights) in the northern hemisphere.

Many television networks covered eclipse events as the umbral shadow raced southwest to northeast across our land. We found these broadcasts to be helpful in visualizing what we were unable to see in person. Included in the network programs were live shots of the progress of the moon as it gradually obscured the sun. When the sun was completely covered, we saw the beautiful corona and several bright spots around the circumference—solar flares we could not see in 2017. The diamond ring and Bailey’s beads phenomena were visible, however. Many observers noted a drop in temperature and changes in the behavior of animals.

Many personal reactions were offered in the dozens of YouTubes posted following the actual event. They reported how members of the public reacted to the spectacle:….an out-of-this-world experience….incredible….a surprising sense of zen….a visceral feeling….amazing….a spiritual experience….jaw-dropping….coolest thing I’ve ever seen….phenomenal….felt closer to God….my heart and soul were full….mother nature is beautiful….celestial event for the ages….we hit the jackpot….we’re still in awe.

Our personal reactions to the 2017 total eclipse we eyewitnessed in Carbondale IL and the reactions of 2024 eclipse watchers who viewed the event on a television screen at home were similar. Total eclipse events, especially those witnessed in person, inspire deep personal emotions. From our post of 8/23/2017 we gleaned the following phrases and terms:…an “Everest” experience…an incredibly ordered world…electric with excitement…reverential awe of cosmic orderliness…provided reverent wonder…experience of patient anticipation…profound and powerful personal emotions…nature displays God’s glory in meaningful ways…superlative event…we give glory and praise to God… gave glory to the God of Creation.

David, the author of Psalm 8:1 states “…You have set your glory above the heavens.” The same author declares in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Readers of scripture and observers of the heavens may now affirm the truth of these verses in a uniquely powerful way.    





Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Eagle Tales

 One of our past posts (5-14-21) dealt with many facts about eagles. Bald eagles are native only to the USA. The bald eagle has acquired a reputation of strength, persistence, and skill. For that reason, this bird was granted the title of our “national bird” in 1782. Below we link our previous detailed post on eagles:

We relate several startling facts about a bald eagle family nesting in our personal neighborhood. In 2021 an eagle pair successfully fledged two eaglets. The nest was apparently repurposed last summer (2023) by the same eagle parents. During a violent thunderstorm, the tree toppled taking the eagle’s nest with it. We believed our neighborhood eagle saga had concluded in failure when a mature eagle was struck by a vehicle on a nearby interstate highway. The eagle was transported to the local raptor resource center and later released by state authorities in the vicinity of its former nest.

To our surprise, since 2024 began, an eagle’s nest has been built in another tree a few feet away from the original eagle nest site. It was probably constructed by the original nesting pair. Our son observed nest building activities over the winter and noted when egg incubation began. Eagle eggs hatch about 35 days after incubation begins. As of this writing at least one baby eagle is visible through a scope. We have recent videos of one eagle parent repeatedly feeding its tiny hatchling small pieces of food; now the strong baby eagle observes the outside world from inside its nest. We observe this young eagle receiving food from one of its parents. Young eagles are known to gain up to a pound of weight per week.

In our midwest region nest building by bald eagles commences from November to January. By reconstructing our timeline, we calculate that our eagle pair was involved in nest building and raising their family shortly after a severe blizzard struck our area in mid-January. These facts testify to the natural ability of living things to survive and  thrive under difficult circumstances. Eagles are opportunistic concerning their food supply. Our neighborhood eagle parents were observed feeding fragments of a turtle to their young in 2021.

Do animals of prey such as eagles live a challenging existence? Eagles are equipped with superior vision, strength, and ability to adapt. What about other animals? The Creator of All Things has equipped living creatures with diverse adaptive ability. Isaiah  speaks of the strength of eagles: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) 

Consider the experience of humanity. Scripture is filled with exhortations to be morally strong. Our success in life depends upon not only our physical strength, but also our moral strength. How carefully do we walk according to the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23) and shun the works of the flesh? (Galations 5:19-21) We see that the eagle’s physical strength is a metaphor for other desirable types of strength—moral strength, for example. Our family has enjoyed the eagle family in our neighborhood for almost four years. Lessons on the science of animal behavior have transitioned to lessons on faith.