From hydrogen to iron is a long way

A man stands on the earth and looks up into the night sky. He sees the stars, the moon, the great expanse of space. He wonders at the immensity of it all, the brightness, the contrast, the arrangement of stars and heavenly bodies in the visible universe. He ponders it. He considers it all, from the perspective of one who knows a little something about how things seem to fit together here on earth. Could it have all just happened at random, or is there some grand design to it?

Yes.

I’m not the only person to have done this. Take, for instance, the famous progressive leader from antiquity, Moses. He started his best-selling book with this statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Let’s compare this statement to Robert Hazen’s statement in his brilliant best-selling book, The Story of Earth.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Story-Earth-Billion-Stardust/dp/0670023558

Mr. Hazen wrote, “In the beginning, all space and energy and matter came into existence from an unknowable void.”

So compare: What Moses calls “heavens and earth,” Robert calls “space, matter, and energy.”  They are both writing about the same thing, which is all that stuff out there that we’re not sure about exactly what it is and cannot really prove how it got there.

Faith and Science are equally clueless.

The scientific method, assuming we cannot know everything but positing that we can know some things, then proceeds to prove, by successive experimentation what we can know, one hypothesis at a time. Makes sense to me.

Faith, on the other hand says, there’s a lot out there I don’t know, but I do understand this: It didn’t all just happen. There is an order to it, and, Whoever designed it included in the program a personal conviction within me that I didn’t just randomly pop out of the stardust.

Pretty naive, nest ce pas?  I believe it.

So faith is one thing, and science, or knowledge, is another. One thing I like about science is: it is so very useful. Take, for instance, Mr. Hazen’s very instructive scientific book. His introduction and first chapter have communicated to me light years of knowledge about  the universe that I had not understood before. His explanation, based on the elements, and the Periodic Table by which we successfully contextualize their intricate interactions in the physical world, starts with the simplest element, hydrogen. Mr. Hazen then guides us very simply and concisely through the mysterious process of nuclear fusion. Fusion combined small quantities of  the original, simplest element–hydrogen–to produce helium.  Then, by continuing fusion, other more complex elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen were created, and ultimately life itself.

That last phrase, “life itself” is where misunderstandings between us Faith-holders and some Scientists tend to arrive at different conclusions. No problem for me though. I believe that Moses could stand on a sandy beach, as I did yesterday, and know, yes know, that indeed “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. But hey, even though I’m a person of faith, I can still move on, and learn some stuff. I wish I could have seen this cumulative hydrogen/fusion stuff in sixth grade instead of starting our science class with the atom, which was like starting a great story on page 7 instead of page 1.

But back to the future, or excuse me, to what is happening just now. . .here is something I learned yesterday, after standing on a Hawaii beach and contemplating the universe, and then reading Mr. Hazen’s fascinating book:

“Iron is as far as this nuclear fusion process can go. When hydrogen fuses to produce helium, when helium fuses to produce carbon, and during all the other fusion steps, abundant nuclear energy is released. But iron has the lowest energy of any atomic nucleus. As when a blazing fire transforms every bit of fuel to ash, all the energy has been used up. Iron is the ultimate nuclear ash…”

In other words, after all that high-heat nuclear goings-on after Big Bang but before earth, a big hunk of iron was left over when things cooled down a bit. And that chunk of mineral/rock was (and yes, I am vastly oversimplifying this) our earth!

Praise God! What a piece of work is earth.

Glass half-Full

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