1.10.2012

Prometheus

Update (1.14.2012): Another Prometheus. From Ridley Scott, of Alien fame. It's a prequel and it looks awesome. Please don't let me down.

1.09.2012

The Burning Deluge

*This ended up being much longer than I had originally planned and sort of went off on a tangent at the end.  I was going to add a part about radiative heat loss; I still might, but it will be later.  If you find any errors in the calculations or assumptions, please let me knowExcept for the assumptions about Halo, I'm pretty sure that those are correct*

Why a world-wide flood would have melted the Earth

I know that this argument has been made before by others, but I just personally want to run through the reasoning and calculations for my own amusement.

Given the present-day sea level and the highest point on Earth, we can estimate the approximate volume of additional liquid water required to flood the entire Earth, covering the highest peak.

We will first assume that the Earth is perfectly spherical, which it isn’t, but it’s close enough.  It actually more closely approximates something known as an oblate spheroid that bulges at the equator and is flattened at the poles; an exaggerated version of which would resemble a beach-ball being compressed by your hands on opposite sides.   But, back to the sphere approximation; the distance from the center of the Earth to sea level, which we will call the “mean radius,” is 6,371.0 km.  Using this number, we can calculate the approximate volume of the Earth, if all features on Earth averaged out to sea level:

The highest point on Earth is the summit of Mt. Everest, at 8.848 km above sea level.  Using a similar approach from before, we can calculate the volume of water required to cover the entire Earth.  First, we must calculate the volume contained in the sphere with a radius of the Earth plus the added distance of Mt. Everest’s height.  The radius in this case will be the “mean radius” from before plus the 8.848 km:

Next, subtracting the Earth’s volume from sea level and the Earth’s volume at the top of Everest will give us an estimate of the total volume of water required to cover the entire Earth:

This is 4.5 billion cubic kilometers of additional water needed to flood the entire Earth.  A single cubic kilometer is equivalent to 264.17 billion gallons.  Keep in mind that the total amount of water on Earth, as estimated by the US Geological Survey, is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometers.

As an aside, if we added up all the water from the hypothetical flood and the water presently in the oceans, put it in space, it would create a giant sphere of water with a radius of 1,115.9 km.  For comparison, the Moon has a radius of 1,738 km.  That’s a lot of water.

For water to transition from a liquid phase to a gaseous phase, it must absorb a certain amount of energy to heat up, and then vaporize.  The amount of energy needed to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius is 4.184 Joules.  This is called the Heat Capacity of Water, or Specific Heat.  Once the water is at its maximum temperature before evaporation, it must absorb a specific amount of energy to make the transition to a gaseous phase.  This is called the Heat of Vaporization and requires 2,260 Joules of energy per gram of water.  Its corollary is the Heat of Condensation, which is the same magnitude but opposite sign.  In other words, when water makes the transition from a gaseous phase to liquid, it releases energy.  The important point here is that rain, which is water condensing in the atmosphere, releases energy when it forms.  This is of interest to us since the Biblical Deluge was initiated by 40 days and 40 nights of constant downpour.

Armed with this information, we can now calculate the total amount of energy released from the massive amounts of water condensation.  I suspect that the number is going to be extraordinarily high, and that we will have to represent the total energy release in terms of thermonuclear weapon detonations.

Let’s first figure out how much all this flood water weighs, in grams:

Next, we can calculate the energy release from condensation using the value for the Heat of Vaporization/Condensation:

I have no idea how to even say that number.  To get a better idea of what it means, we need to talk about nuclear bombs.  Modern nuclear bombs, also referred to as thermonuclear weapons or hydrogen bombs, measure their explosive power in an energy unit called a “megaton”.  This unit is equivalent to the amount of energy that would be released by setting off 1,000,000 tons of dynamite.  For comparison, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War released an amount of energy equivalent to 15,000 and 21,000 tons of dynamite, respectively.  The largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Former Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba, yielded an energy release equivalent to 50,000,000 tons of dynamite.

1 Megaton is equivalent to 4.184 quadrillion joules.  Using this conversion, we can calculate the energy release, in Megatons, of the flood water condensation:

The most powerful bomb in the US arsenal as of 2012 is the B83 nuclear weapon with a maximum yield of 1.2 megatons.  The total stockpile of all nuclear-capable nations in the world only amounts to approximately 20,000 weapons.  The condensation of an amount of water to cover the entire surface of the Earth would release an amount of energy equivalent to 2,032,926,743,170 B83 thermonuclear weapons!  That is right at 50 billion nuclear bombs exploding per day for 40 days straight!

 or 588,000 nuclear explosions per second!  I think it might get a little balmy.
 Whoops.

I hope that Noah’s Ark was a spaceship, otherwise it would have been melted along with the rest of the planet.  Maybe Halo 3 was right.

 Now this is an Ark I can believe in.
 Was Master Chief actually Space-Noah?
I don’t know how to answer that, but I do know that we should be open-minded and Teach the ControversyTM.

Sources:

1.08.2012

Free Will

I gave you free will, so use it exactly as I command you to!
-God (paraphrase)

Of course I have free will, I have no choice.
-Christopher Hitchens

I have always thought that the topic of free will was very interesting as it applies to religious thought and the properties of supernatural beings.  If we are to accept that the Christian deity is a god in the truest sense of the word, then we must concede that it has a particular set of very important properties, chief among them being the all-knowing property of omniscience and the all-powerful property of omnipotence.  Without these properties, it would seem that God would be reduced to merely a very powerful being.  An omniscient being would necessarily know every intricate detail of every event that has ever happened, is happening, and that will happen.  In short, an omniscient deity knows everything by definition.  If this deity is also responsible for the creation of all reality, then it follows that every action and thought that Adam and Eve had was predetermined before the universe even existed.  God created them knowing that they would both disobey him, become exiled from Eden, and then be subsequently doomed to a life of difficult labor, suffering, and ultimately death.  He also did this knowing that every single one of their progeny would suffer the same fate, despite not being directly involved.  Their decision to disobey was known to the omniscient creator before the universe existed, then, exercising the power of omnipotence, he created the universe anyway.

How can free will exist if there is prior knowledge of every action, thought, and decision that a supposedly free-willed individual makes?  And then, a deity armed with that knowledge, creates a universe whose events play out in the exact sequence that is already known to him?  Does this not imply that the "choice" to disobey was merely an illusion, and this action was preordained before existence?  It seems to me that there exists a contradiction between free will and the godly property of omniscience, suggesting that they are mutually exclusive ideas.  If a god is truly omniscient, free will is an illusion, and all of our actions and thoughts are purely deterministic.  On the other hand, if we actually have free will, then we are necessarily non-deterministic, God is not omniscient, and arguably not a god.

With all this in mind and despite having been born in an area with a higher than average belief in the supernatural, whose adherents maintain that an essential property of humanity is individual free will, I have never heard an argument that satisfactorily remedies this inconsistency.  Then again, if the metric by which we measured the validity of a religion was internal consistency, all human societies would be atheistic.  This is obviously not the case, so inconsistency must not be a terribly important factor in determining where one’s religious loyalties lie. Of course, this set of conclusions is only my opinion and may be erroneous if I have made inaccurate assumptions about free will and properties of supernatural beings.  My argument for the mutual exclusivity of free will and omniscience could be rendered moot by considering that the creation of all reality also included the creation of an arrow of time.  In that case, arguing for causal consistency with respect to predetermined events is meaningless.  I suspect that taking such a metaphysical stance about attempts to systematically examine supernatural claims precludes any dialogue on the subject, though, so I will reject that so I can keep blaspheming.  Perhaps god-like properties need to be revised, with certain caveats added to resolve the inherent conflict between fundamental ideas pertaining to humanity and the divine.

Considering the subject of free will more generally, I am assuming that either free will exists, or it does not.  Turning to the absence of a 'doctrine of free will' in the Bible and keeping the previous proposition in mind, I would have to say that the doctrine of free will in the Bible is implicit, that is, it is implied by the fact that the deity of the Christian faith bothered to have compiled a piece of literature that lays out the rules or codes of conduct for his myriad of subjects to follow.  In my opinion, it would be unreasonable and pointless to demand or even suggest specifically or generally codes of conduct to humans, if these same humans were absolutely deterministic and had zero input as to how their bodies and minds would behave.  Every command given by any god during any time concerning any human behavior implicitly assumes that the subject has the ability to choose to follow this commandment, or to not follow it.

I do wonder if there could possibly exist a gradient of free will, that is, some things that we can freely control about ourselves, or at least appear to, and some things that we cannot.  It seems fairly easy to accept and assume the existence of free will concerning higher level thought processes, but what about more basic mechanical and instinctual functions?  Do we have the free will to prevent the next rhythmic contraction of cardiac muscle that sustains our lives or is it mediated by completely deterministic electrochemical processes?  Do we have the free will to prevent an instinctual lustful desire when presented with an erotic image or is it an inherited trait that engendered a higher degree of reproductive success over our evolutionary history?  Do we have the free will to adjust our perception of the passage of time or is that rate just a fundamental property of the way human brains are structured?  Do we have the free will to purge specific memories that may be harmful to our day-to-day functioning or is this archiving a passive property in which we have no control over?  To me, some of these questions seem to blur the line between our assumed free will and being at the mercy of purely deterministic processes.  This is especially so if the same applies to the previously mentioned higher level decision making processes.  Maybe these processes are only ‘partially deterministic’ in that the potential decision events perceived by the mind are massively constrained by external parameters, and what we ultimately decide from is only a small subset of potential decision trees.  I know I kind of went off on a tangent there but to answer the question directly about the doctrine of free will in the Bible, I would say that this doctrine is not necessarily in the Bible, but it is the Bible.

I'm New Here

By my name, the title of this blog, and the above picture, you can probably guess the general theme of the content that will appear within the following posts.  But you would be wrong!  Sorta.  Yes, sometimes the topics will be related to that of the superstitious or supernatural persuasion, including, but not limited to, the most popular brand of theism in the culture that I happened to have been born into.  I will cover a wide range of topics, always attempting to view them through the prism of skepticism and rationality.  I will try to make it clear when I am speculating, which I am sure there will be a fair share of.  I have yet to decide the nature of the content that will be the lead post, but whatever it is, I hope that it and the following posts will be thought provoking and will stimulate discussion, potentially informing the content of subsequent posts.  Thanks for reading and I hope you will find the information provided at least marginally interesting and entertaining.