Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Smaller Than a Breadbox and Larger Than a Car

I don't know how much you have read about the ingredients making up the recipe known as The Universe. You got your quarks and leptons making up the fermions. Then you got your bosons and a host of predicted particles, none of which have been observed as yet, based on theoretical considerations. Quarks come together to form neutrons and protons, which in turn come together with electrons (a type of lepton) to form atoms of the elements such as hydrogen, carbon, iron, etc. Atoms come together to form molecules, which in turn combine together to form different molecules or amalgams. Interestingly, carbon has the ability to form extremely long chains with various elemental offshoots. Also, carbon can form closed loops. Ultimately, long chains of carbon loops are what make up DNA, the backbone of all living things.

Say it with me: "THAT IS INCREDIBLE!!"

Also, the elements make up everything that exists in the Universe. Stars start out primarily consisting of hydrogen. The pressure exerted on these atoms by gravitational forces are so great that the hydrogen fuses together to form helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy. This is known as fusion.

Before hydrogen fusion was discovered, it was a mystery as to what the sun's energy source was. It was easy to believe that the Universe was quite young, such as about 6000 years, because if it were older the sun should have burnt out long ago. However, once fusion was discovered, it became clear that the sun could generate intense heat for many, many years. In fact, based on the size of the sun and its current ratio of hydrogen to helium, it is estimated that the sun could have been burning for five billion years and still have five billion years worth of life left in it. The question to young Earthers is why would God create a sun of such tremendous size that uses a fuel source that can last for billions of years if the whole Universe was only going to exist for 10,000 years or less?

Still, on the whole, the Universe is a intricate work of art. Starting with its infinitesimally small building blocks and stretching to seemingly infinite size. Forces delicately balance all the movement and transformation of these elements in apparent miraculous fashion.

Is the Universe just the way it has to be for some as yet unknown reason? Or is our Universe just a fortunate one among many Universes? Or has our Universe existed for an infinite time with the laws governing it gradually changing in favor of the one we see today? Or does it absolutely require an intelligent God for anything so stupendous as our Cosmos to exist? Profound questions that have been asked by many for a long time. Perhaps science will be able to answer these questions someday, but then again perhaps such answers are inherently unknowable. After all, our minds consist of the very things were are trying to understand. Is it possible for the constituents of the Universe to come together in such a way as to become conscious of themselves and understand their own ultimate behavior? I just don't know. But I am not alone. No one else does either.

The Shape of Space and Relativity

I like to read physics books for laymen. I would like to be able to read the ones for scientists, but hey, come on. How much additional math would I have to learn and how long would that take? No matter. I have trouble understanding the layman books. I would like to have a better understanding of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. However, from what I understand, even theoretical physicists have trouble understanding these. They may have a deep understanding of the mathematics involved, but have difficulty comprehending the actual physical workings of the Universe that those mathematics describe.

Even the relatively simple Special Theory of Relativity (about which Einstein wrote in 1905) is problematic for me mentally. Actually, I do understand the concept that if two people are moving at a constant rate of speed relative to each other, it is impossible for either person to know which is moving. But, hey, when I am told that for person A, the clock hanging around the neck of person B will appear to be running slower than his own clock, but for person B, the clock hanging around person A's neck will appear to run slower, my brain begins to tangle up like spaghetti in boiling water.

I recently began re-reading Brian Greene's book "The Elegant Universe". When I got to the part about the mutually lethargic clocks, I realized I could not comprehend this like I thought I did the first time around. The question always arises as to what happens when the two meet up. Who will be younger? I mean they can't both be younger simultaneously, right? The answer is that the only way for them to meet up is for one of them to accelerate by turning around and chasing after the other. That acceleration is what makes time run slower for that person in reality and thus cause that person to be younger than their counterpart. Okay, but what happens if the two meet up again without either one of them accelerating. This may sound like lunacy, but if the Universe is a closed system like a hypersphere, this is possible. Think about the Earth, If you start moving in any direction and another person starts moving in the opposite direction at the same speed, you will meet back up again after about 12,500 miles of traveling even though neither of you ever had to turn around and chase the other person down. Some scientists conjecture that space is curved in a similar way. This would obviate the need to wonder about the wall at the end of space and what's on the other side. There would be no end to space, even though its volume is finite. If you travel long enough in one direction, you will end up where you started.

But isn't this form of curved space incompatible with Special Relativity since we would have a paradox when the two space travelers meet up for the second time. Neither one of them would have accelerated, so the other person's clock, from either perspective, was always running slower than their own. Wouldn't this mean that, from both perspectives, when they meet up the other person will appear to be younger and their clocks will be be lagging their own? This just doesn't make sense.

So, am I right that either closed space does not exist or there is something wrong with Special Relativity? Or could it be that some sort of acceleration is necessary for an object to navigate the curvature of space?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Salvation Unrevealed

In yesterday's post I presented Finch's Salvation Equations. As a reminder, here they are again:

1. Faith + NoWorks <> Salvation
2. NoFaith + Works <> Salvation
3. Faith + Works = Salvation

By way of clarification, I do not intend these to be as set in stone as, say, Maxwell's Electromagnetic Equations (which I have on a t-shirt; it says, "And God said: [four vector equations, some involving partial differentiation] and there was light." I love this shirt!) My equations are simply the best solution I have found to the multitude of salvation formulas presented in the New Testament. But I freely admit that I do not know with certainty what the Bible teaches as being required for salvation. Further, I do not believe anyone else does either, and thus do not and cannot know with certainty that they are saved.

Proof That No One Knows With Certainty That They Are Saved:

1. When a saved person is asked, "Are there any people in the world that truly believe they are saved, but are in fact lost?", the answer is "Yes!"
2. Response to the saved person: "Then perhaps you are one of those people."

I am being a bit facetious here, but my point is that most people who know with certainty they are right with God also believe that there are others who know with as much certainty as they, yet are lost. These people negate their own case for certainty with such beliefs.

I grew up as an only child with parents that respected the Bible, but rarely went to church. My mom would have gone more, but did not drive, so was dependent on rides from family and friends. As a young adult, I was quite certain that the Bible was strictly the work of men, not God. Later, I came to believe that the Bible was the word of God and accepted Jesus as my savior. But within two years, I was beginning to doubt. This was a result of studying the Bible more deeply and questioning those things I did not understand or made no sense. Over the following five years, my faith faded away to be replaced by Deism (the belief that there is a Creator God, but he is not necessarily the God presented by any religion, and may in fact be an impersonal God). I now consider myself an agnostic (I freely admit that I just don't know if God exists). There are aspects of the Universe that scream to me "I was created!" Yet, there are other aspects that scream "I am eternal, not created!" Which screams do I listen to? In case you don't know, the correct answer is "BOTH!" Hence, agnosticism.

I will speak more of these screaming voices in future posts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Fine Non-Revelatory Day

Do you ever have one of those days where you think deeply about life, yours and others, and wonder what, if any, purpose is behind it all? I do. But today was not one of those days.

In Sunday School this morning we discussed faith vs works as presented in the book of James. Generally Baptists believe that salvation is based on faith plus nothing. This has always been problematic for me since it would seem to me that that would mean that there are faith people who do no works that will be saved. But James says that faith without works is dead. Generally this is explained by saying that a saving faith will lead to works automatically, but it is the faith that's important, not the works. Isn't this just semantics? If the only kind of faith that saves is one that results in works, are not the works just as important in the salvation equation as is faith. To put my interpretation of the Bible into mathematical formulas, I get these:

1. Faith + NoWorks <> Salvation
2. NoFaith + Works <> Salvation
3. Faith + Works = Salvation

Of course many people worry that if 3 is true, then one might become overly concerned that they are not doing enough works to be saved. Understood! But if no works are present, won't they worry that their faith is dead? Won't some workers still fear that their faith is not strong enough? In other words, there's always something to worry about if you want to worry.

The student minister at our church preached today. WOW! He was on fire. He had that right balance of humor and seriousness that most people enjoy in a preacher. And to top it all off, at the end of the service, he asked his girlfriend to marry him. Yeah, right there in front of the entire congregation. That's risky in my book, but fortunately she said "Yes."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Long Time, No Post

Well, I created this blog almost two years ago and only posted two test messages (which I have now deleted). Pretty pathetic. Oh well, a person doesn't have time to do everything one would like to do. Here's some of the things I would like to do, but end up doing other more unproductive things.

1. Learn to play piano.
2. Re-learn playing my guitar and banjo.
3. Become an expert in Photoshop, Lightroom, Flash, and Illustrator.
4. Spend more time taking photographs.
5. Brush up on my calculus and physics.
6. Take classes that ultimately lead to understanding Einstein's relativity theories.
7. Come to a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics.
8. Ultimately blow relativity and quantum mechanics apart with much more sensible theories.
9. Bring about world peace.
10. Eat anything I want and still lose 30 pounds.
11. Become a world renown computer artist.
12. Become a world renown author.

You do see my dilemma, don't you? With all these highly time consuming activities, it's simply easier to watch TV.

"And the whole congregration said, 'Amen!'"