Our Awesome Universe Ambassador College Research Department
The grandeur and splendor of the universe has always challenged the mind of man. It taunts him with the unknown. Where did it all come from? Why does it exist? Is there any purpose behind it? Is our existence the result of intelligence or are we mere cosmic orphans adrift on the ocean of time and space? Many do not know. Yet answers are available.
WHEN MAN looks up to the starry heavens on a clear night, somehow he innately senses that the universe is no accident. But most of us go to and fro over this earth, busy with our little affairs, serenely indifferent to the real significance of the vastness of time and space. We take little note of the majestic canopy of stars stretched over our tiny planet. Seldom do we ponder such questions as: What is the universe? Where did it all come from? When did it begin? Who made it? Is planet earth unique in the universe? Is man alone in the universe? Or do alien minds on a distant planet plumb the night pondering the same questions? Over the past few decades, the efforts of science have made available to mankind an impressive reservoir of information about the universe. Never has man known more about the heavens, yet less about why he exists. This booklet presents, in brief, a panorama of both "what" and "why," bringing into focus meaning that has somehow eluded humanity since the dawn of civilization.
A Mind-Stretching Perspective
Before daring to step into the arena of origins one should first appreciate the immensity of space and the awesome power of its elements. The first and most obvious disadvantage confronting any seeker-of-truth is the vastness of scale. For sheer size alone the universe is impossible to conceptualize. Despite the apparent simplicity of a starry night, the universe is a master at hiding the evidence. One science writer provided the following description:
Even on this vastly reduced scale the size and immensity of the universe is truly "mind boggling."
The Awesome Power of the Sun
We spend our lives on a natural Spaceship Earth a massive sphere approximately 8000 miles in diameter. Although it seems "suspended in space," the earth weighs in at six thousand million, million, million tons! Dominating our skies is that life-giving orb we know as the sun. It is a blazing nuclear furnace over 100 times the diameter of the earth - comprised of sufficient matter to make up another 300,000 planets like our own.
But only a tiny fraction (about one two billionth) of this two thousand million, million, million, million ton orb's energy falls on the earth. But, even considering this, the solar energy penetrating to the earth's surface exceeds the entire annual energy consumption of all the world's industries by more than 30,000 times!1 Our sun, for aU its seemingly massive size, is itself surrounded by a solar system that extends outward into space for a staggering 3,700 million miles. Within this vast area are nine planets, 32 moons, thousands of asteroids, millions of comets, and innumerable dust particles and molecules. Even so, our solar system is but a tiny fleck of cosmic driftwood in an infinitesimal corner of the universe.
Our Awesome Universe
Compared to the entire stellar panorama, our sun and its solar family of planets are but inconspicuous pin-pricks of light lost in a flowing sea of stars we call the Milky Way. The dimensions of this vast starry cluster defy comprehension -several thousand million million miles! It rotates in space like a giant pinwheel with star-studded arms spiraling out from its center. Somewhere along one of these galactic "extremities" is our insignificant sun and its nine tiny planets. Yet even our gargantuan galaxy (including thousands of millions of stars) is virtually lost in the total population of space. Far beyond our Milky Way, the universe abounds with additional thousands of millions of galaxies. Taking an estimate of the grand total of all the stars in the known visible universe, we arrive at the staggering sum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or more. There is also the very real possibility that the universe extends far beyond the limits of present astronomical observation. No matter how we describe the universe, it is absolutely awesome. Man has always wondered if all this could be accidental. Did our universe simply "come into being" sometime in the distant past? Or have all the billions of stars and dramatic forces that govern them always been here? And is there a fundamental reason why the universe exists?
Throughout man's recorded history, scholars have continually pondered the meaning of the cosmos, trying to discover answers to the age-old questions: Where did everything come from, and what was its meaning? During the time of Christ, Diodorus of Sicily related how many thinkers of his day considered the universe to be eternal and self-existent with no definite beginnings. In Plato's day the universe was thought to have resulted from purely natural happenstance. After the classical Greek period, little scholarly thought was given to the matter of beginnings until about the 18th century. At that time Immanuel Kant formulated a hypothesis for the origin of the solar system. Kant's idea was later developed by the French astronomer LaPlace and became popularly known as the Nebular Hypothesis. Simply stated, it postulated that our sun and its family of planets condensed out of a cloud of gas. The concept remained in vogue until the 19th century when it foundered on the rocks of advancing astronomical knowledge. In more recent times, sophisticated instrumentation has enabled scientists to become much more aware of the immensity of space. As a result, theories merely for the origin of our tiny solar system have faded from the limelight of scientific speculation in favor of ideas concerning the origin of the entire universe.
Serious scientific thinking on the origin of the universe began in the late 1920s. Astronomers then discovered that the cosmos was apparently rapidly expanding, in analogy like a giant inflatable rubber balloon. This led to the formulation of the "big-bang" theory. Today it is the most generally accepted model for the origin of the present universe. Credited primarily to the late Russian-born astrophysicist, George Gamow, the big-bang theory stipulates that the universe had its beginning in a massive primordial cloud about 10,000 million years ago. In this cloud was an extremely hot, dense "soup" of the fundamental particles that now make up all the matter we observe in space. As originally conceived by Gamow, there was a giant explosion that formed within minutes all the elements of the universe. Since that time all the matter now condensed into stars, planets, etc., has been rushing outward into space in a giant expansion. However, as time went on it became apparent that the initial big-bang could not totally account for the existence of many of the heavier elements found in the universe. In addition, little can or has been said concerning what initial force or energy was responsible for producing the super-hot temperatures and densities found in the initial "soup" of fundamental particles. CuiTent cosmological thinking now holds that the chemical elements were produced by nuclear reactions that are occurring in the interiors of most stars. But support for this theory primarily rests on limited earthbound laboratory observation and theoretical calculation not on actual observation. There remains some uncertainty of what actually takes place deep inside stellar intenors. An alternate to the big bang, although now more or less fallen from favor, is the steady-state theory. Steady-state proponents, as did many Greek thinkers centuries earlier, suggest that we are living in an eternal, never-ending universe that has always been here and always will be. There is no need for an initial creation process because, somehow, new matter bas continually been created in order to maintain a balanced, stable universe. Although considered to be a very attractive answer by many scientists for a number of years, steady-state thinking eventually ran into some awkward difficulties. First of all, science has no observational evidence for new matter coming into existence naturally in space, although in the laboratory it has been possible to change energy into minute atomic particles in high-speed particle accelerators. Secondly, it is a well-established observational fact that the universe is undergoing an irreversible energy "rundown." Eventually it will figuratively "run out of gas." This is why steady-state thinking has speculated that new matter (and thus new sources of energy) are somehow slowly, constantly coming into existence. A third concept bas been suggested that solves some of the gaps in the big-bang theory. Known as the oscillating-universe theory, it incorporates major aspects of both the big-bang and steady state theories. This concept suggests, like the steady-state theory, that the universe has always been here. But throughout time all the matter in space has alternately collapsed inward to form the giant cloud of the "big-bang" theory, only to explode again and begin rushing outward. In this way the universe has eternally oscillated between expansion and contraction. At present we are merely in one of the expansions.
Ultimate Origins Missing
And so, scientists continue to look for solutions. All of the great observatories are busy trying to determine which model, steady state, big bang, or a synthesis of the two, best fits the rapidly growing body of astronomical knowledge. Yet in all of it, most scientists recognize that they are not actually addressing the really important question of where the universe came from originally. All current investigation is aimed at establishing what happened once all the laws, matter, space, time and energy were already in existence. As the late astronomer Harlow Shapley said a few years ago:
Before his conclusion, though, he reflected:
Robert Jastrow, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, adds:
James A. Coleman, professor of science and popular science writer, says:
Fred Hoyle even feels that asking such questions as "Where did matter come from?" is meaningless. Why is there gravitation? Why do electric fields exist? Why is the universe?
But is it really meaningless for an astronomer to ask why? Harlow Shapley made this pointed observation:
Lincoln Barnett, writer of science books for the layman, tells us:
Another author, Dean W. Wooldridge, is a little more emphatic.
Dr. Jesse L. Greenstein, astrophysicist at California Institute of Technology, said in rega1d to the origin of the universe: "It is a terrible mystery how matter comes out of nothing. Could it have been something outside science? We try to stay out of philosophy and theology, but sometimes we are forced to think in bigger terms, to go back to something outside science."
The Missing Key
If our knowledge of the universe and our place in it is to have a comprehensive foundation, we must begin to recognize that science does not provide all the answers. What it does provide is of course important. But no matter bow noble and precise the efforts of science may indeed be, there is a limit to how far science can go. Science is physical. Any conclusions drawn on scientific investigations can also only be physical. That is not to demean science. But if man expects to gain a knowledge of ultimate purposes, he must recognize as do many scientists the absolute need of additional knowledge from an outside source. There are many important issues in man's real world that are based on criteria beyond the physical and scientific world. Any truly educated man needs to avail himself of the evidence of this intrinsic fact. That is why man by science alone is unable to totally ascertain how the universe came into being. We humans, no matter how brilliant, cannot know the whole answer by science alone. No man was on the scene when the universe began. And we can't return to that time. Therefore, if our knowledge of beginnings is to have comprehensive meaning, it must not disregard the evidence of divine REVELATION. The biblical record describes a Personage who claims to have answers of how to make the story complete. He says He is the Creator of human beings, the Originator of the universe. He claims power to intervene in the affairs of men and nations. In Genesis 1:1 we are told by revelation "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is frankly the only answer available that rests on authority. The solutions of science offer only ignorance of ultimate origins. God's Word is the only way to complete the picture. The Patriarch Job understood this:
Again, through the Prophet Isaiah, God reveals Himself as the supreme architect of the universe.
This same God promised Abraham in Genesis 22:17 that his seed would be "as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore." Clearly God was not speaking of a small, localized universe consisting of only a few thousand stars. God's Word, then, has the foundation - the beginning -of why the universe is here and where it came from. David tells us that the existence of the universe demonstrates God:
The Bible is full of statements declaring emphatically that God created the universe; that He made man, our earth and the eco-systems around us. The truth of this awesome universe's true origin only comes clear to the man with the willingness to consider biblical revelation, and the courage to place himself in harmony with the laws of the Creator God.
1. Peter Millman. This Universe of Space (Cambridge. Ma..1962). pp. 15-16.
2. Fred Hoyle, Astronomy (Garden City, New York, 1962), p.232.
4. Sol Tax. ed., The Evolution of Life: Evolution After Darwin, Vol. I (Chicago, 1960), p. 33.
5. Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs (New York, 1967), p. 57.
6. James A. Coleman, Modern Theories of the Universe (New York, 1963), p. 197.
7. Fred Hoyle, Frontiers of Astronomy (New York, 1955), p.342.
8. Harlow Shapley, Beyond the Observatory (New York, 1967) , p. 30.
9. Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein (New York, 1948), p. 105.
10. Dean Wooldridge, The Machinery of Life (New York, 1966), p. 4.
11. Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1 961, Vol. LXXX, Section E. pp. 11, 15.
Multiple and Variable Stars
Another fortunate fact about our solar system is that it has but one star. Most of the stars are found in multiple star groups of two's, threes, fours and more. The proportion of strus that are "multiples" is surprisingly high. Various sources estimate that as many as three quarters of all the stars in the universe are multiple systems. We don't usually appreciate this fact when we look up into the heavens, because of the close proximity of multiples to one another. Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our sun, is actually a system of three stars. The two main stars of the trio are similar to our sun; one slightly larger and more luminous, the other cooler and smaller. Both are orbited by a tiny red dwarf star called Proxima Centauri. Sirus A, the brightest star in the sky, is another good example. It is nearly twice as hot as our sun and roughly 1Y2 times its diameter. Its companion, Sirius B, is a faint, white dwarf star only one ten thousandth as bright as its companion, Sirius A. Some double stars, or binaries, are so close that their mutual attraction causes huge eruptions of tidal gas to pass back and forth between the two stars. Other binaries appear to vary in brightness because they periodically eclipse one another. Another class of variable stars known as Cepheids have been observed to undergo periodic fluctuations in their brightness without the help of an eclipsing partner. Some of these quick-blinking stellar lighthouses have flare-up intervals of only a few hours duration. These variations are thought to be produced by a "panting" action due to expansion and contraction of the star's skin.
While stars may vary radically in size and the amount of light they radiate, they all follow similar patterns of aging and development. All of them are essentially giant nuclear furnaces that generate energy by converting hydrogen into helium by the same basic process used in the hydrogen bomb. In the course of this hydrogen helium conversion process, matter is transformed into energy according to Einstein's well-known equation E = MC!. This accounts for the stupendous light and heat radiated by all stars. But like any energy source, stars have only a limited amount of fuel. As it burns, the star is continually depleting its stock of hydrogen and at the same time building up a deposit of helium "ash." Eventually these "wastes" grow Lo the point where the internal forces of the star are thrown out of balance. The star is then rudely jolted out of its previously tranquil state and rapidly balloons in size as the rate of its fuel consumption dramatically increases. At this point a normal star like our sun would become what is termed a "red giant." More massive stars would end up in the "supergiant" category.
A Perspective of Giants
Some of these abnormal stars are immense. For example, Epsilon Aurigae, the largest known star so far observed in the universe, has a diameter approximately 2000 times that of the sun. This red colossus, were it to replace our sun at the center of the solar system, would extend out, past the orbit of Saturn! It has an unbelievable diameter of 2,500 million miles. Antares, another familiar super giant, has a diameter "only" 450 times that of the sun. Compared to Epsilon Aurigae, it is "junior" sized. But placed in the center of our solar system it would nevertheless consume the orbit of Mars. Yet for all their size, the red giants are in reality a lot of hot air literally! Under the right circumstances one can actually "see through" them, because their constituency is so thin. Astronomers in one case have actually been able to observe another star through the transparent layers of one of these tenuous red giants. Their matter is so rarefied that it is comparable to the best vacuum man can produce in the laboratory.
Pricking the Balloon
A red giant in its super-bloated state can't exist that way forever. This phase of a star's existence is relatively short compared to the long "normal" phase when it was consuming fuel at a more leisurely pace. As the star's temperature continues to rise because of the pressure exerted by gravitational energy, the helium ash in its core itself becomes fuel in a new but less efficient type of nuclear reaction. The waste products of this new combustion process also provide fuel for yet another "weightier" type of reaction. This chain of events, according to astronomers, eventually leads to the formation of heavier elements such as magnesium, neon, silicon and oxygen. But eventually a point is reached (with the formation of iron) where the elements become too heavy to trigger any further reactions. Consequently, more and more of the nuclear fuel is exhausted until the star finally collapses under the increasing pressure of its internal gravity. At this point scientists believe the following events occur depending on the size of the star. Smaller stars simply contract and die away as they use up their remaining fuel, becoming white dwarfs in the process. When the residue of their fuel is exhausted, they cease their active existence and become burned-out black cinders floating in space. Larger stars (greater than 1.4 times the mass of the sun) share a less placid fate. Instead of meekly flickering out, they die with a roar, producing the spectacular phenomenon called by astronomers a nova. The forces unleashed in this type stellar degeneration are so titanic as to be beyond earth bound comparisons. A nova is in theory brought on by a rapid collapse of the star as the flickering nuclear fires can no longer stand up under dwindling fuel supplies and the crush of gravity. This suddenly produces temperatures that can exceed a thousand million degrees Fahrenheit. This, in turn, detonates a massive thermonuclea1 explosion of gargantuan proportions. It's as if a whole star had been converted into a gigantic hydrogen bomb. In fact, one source estimated the energy released by one such explosion was equivalent to one trillion trillion (British: billion, bil1ion) hydrogen bombs (1 followed by 24 zeros!). Astronomers call the largest of this type of stellar bombast a supernova. One writer described it like this:
A Star Is Born
Out of such a cosmic catastrophe emerge the shattered remnants of the old star, but in a radically altered state. The gravitational forces responsible for the explosion in the first place now hold the remaining stellar material in such a tenacious grip that it is compressed into extremely high densities. Theoretically, if the explosion isn't too violent, the stellar remains become configured as a white dwarf star. White dwarfs are Lilliputians even compared to a medium star like our sun. Most of them are roughly equivalent to the earth in terms of size and diameter, but are stellar heavyweights when it comes to density. Sirius B, a well-known white dwarf, is only twice as big as the earth, yet has approximately the same mass as the sun. In other words, it's about 12,000 times heavier than the earth. On Sirius B, the Empire State Building would be shrunk to the size of a pin and yet have the same weight." On a white dwarf, a pea would weigh more than a truck, or as one author stated, "a ping-pong ball filled with its substance would have the mass of several elephants." And yet for all this compression, the white dwarf is quite spacious when compared to its smaller cousin, the neutron star.
Neutron Stars - Dynamic Bantams
Scientists theorize that if a supernova explosion is particularly violent, the stellar remains will condense even further than the white-dwarf stage to form what has become one of the most fascinating discoveries of modern astronomy the neutron star. By comparison even the white dwarfs are huge. Imagine squeezing all the matter of the sun down into a tiny sphere about 10 miles in diameter and you have the approximate density of a neutron star. Densities are on the order of a thousand million tons per cubic inch. This is equivalent to "all the people in the world compressed into a single raindrop." That ping-pong ball that bad the mass of several elephants on a white dwarf would now "have the mass of a large asteroid such as Juno, a minor planet 118 miles across." Incredible densities like this cannot be achieved unless the atomic structure of the matter involved is fundamentally altered. The gravitational force exerted in a neutron star is so strong that it can theoretically overcome the normal repulsive forces that exist between electrons and protons within the atom." This impaction of atomic particles essentially removes much of the "open space" that formerly existed between the nucleus of the atom and its electrons. Result: superdense matter.
Beacons in the Sky
Up until the late 1960s astronomers had postulated the existence of neutron stars, but never had they found any observational evidence of one in the universe. However, in 1967 and 1968, radio astronomers in Cambridge, England discovered the first of a series of small new celestial objects which they called pulsars- because of a series of strange, and at first baffling radio pulses that they emitted. Subsequent investigation revealed that neutron stars were undoubtedly the source for these pulsars. The clincher was the discovery of a pulsar in the Crab Nebula, the remnants of a supernova explosion first observed by the Chinese in 1054 A.D. Astronomers quickly realized that the radio pulses were due to the rotation of the neutron stars. The frequency of the pulse was found to match the rotational speed. The neutron star in the Crab Nebula, then, was determined to be revolving at the incredible speed of 30 times a second a rotational velocity comparable to that of a modern electric generator! And essentially that's just what the neutron star is a giant, self-propelled stellar dynamo, radiating energy into outer space. The total energy production of the Crab pulsar is something on the order of 10 II watts (1 followed by 31 zeros!). "It would take the radiation from 100,000 stars like the sun to match this power output." The same author pointed out that "in the time interval of a single pulse about 1/30th second -the Crab pulsar pours out as much energy in X rays alone as our sun emits at all wave lengths over a period of 10 seconds." But this stellar dynamo, whirling in the heavens like a super-powered lighthouse, is more than just an ordinary electrical and optical generator. According to astronomers it also hurls out highly charged electrons and protons, in a similar fashion to a man-made atomic particle accelerator.
The Ultimate in Stellar Collapse
Yet even the neutron star pulsar is not the grand-daddy of stellar energy bundles. Theoretically it is possible for the collapse of a star to be so violent, that it passes beyond the neutron stage to become what astronomers call a "black hole." Even the name sounds sinister. But the black hole is everything its name implies. It's so "uptight" with its matter and so dense that nothing but gravity can theoretically escape its clutches once inside its sphere of influence. That's why it is black. No light escapes from its surface. A black hole is thought to be no more than four miles in diameter, or roughly a third as large as neutron stars. You might liken it to a giant celestial vacuum cleaner. It absorbs everything in its vicinity. One author put it this way: "Light shot at it falls in. A particle shot at it falls in [never to reemerge].... In these senses the system is a black hole."11 Although there are indications that black holes do exist, none have definitely been observed to date. Hopefully, if we ever do discover them, it will be from a safe distance or else. What. bizarre and yet magnificent wonders the universe contains!
'Sir James Jeans, The Universe Around Us, 4th revised edition (New York, 1960), pp. 179-180. 'Fred Hoyle, Frontiers of Astronomy (New York, 1955), plate XXIX.' 'Seymour Tilson, "Pulsars May Be Neutron Stars," IEEE Spectrum (February 1970), p. 55. 'Fritz Kahn, Design of the U nwerse ( New York, 1954), pp. 60, 61. 'Roger Penrose, "Black Holes," Scientific American (May 1972), p. 38. 'Malvin A. Ruderman, "Solid Stars," Scientific American (February 1971), p. 24. 'Penrose, p. 38. 'Theoretically, when electrons and protons are driven together neutrons would be formed. Hence the name "neutron star." 'Tilson, p. 49. 'Tilson, p. 50. "Remo Ruffini and John A. Wheeler, "Introducing the Black Hole," Physcs Today (January 1971), p. 34.
Diodorus of Sicily, writing about the time of Christ, tells us:
"Now as regard the first origin of mankind, two opinions have arisen among the best authorities both on nature and history. One group, which takes the position that the universe did not come into being and will not decay. has declared that the race of men also has existed from eternity, there having never been a time when men were first begotten; the other group, however, which holds that the universe came into being and will decay, has declared that, like it, men had their first origin at a definite time. "When in the beginning.... the universe was being formed, both heaven and earth was indistinguishable in appearance, since their elements were intermingled: then, when their bodies separated from one another, the universe took on in all its parts the ordered form in which it is now seen "(Diodorus Siculus, Book 1, section 6).
"Fire and water and earth and air, they [the philosophers and scientists of the ancient world] say, all exist by nature and chance.... and by means of these, which are wholly inanimate, the bodies which come next those, namely, of the earth, sun, moon and stars have been brought into existence.... in this way and by these means they have brought into being the whole Heaven and all that is in the Heaven, and all animals, too, and plants - after that all the seasons had arisen from these elements; and all this, as they assert, not owing to reason, nor to any god or art, but owing, as we have said to nature and chance" (Dialogues, laws X, section 889).
IN THE last several decades the lay public and scientists alike have witnessed numerous changes in the estimated age of the universe. At the beginning of the 20th century astronomers thought the universe to be millions of years old. Since that time, estimates have jumped into the billions (thousand millions) of years. But just how much do scientists know? To find out, let's briefly examine the background of some of the figures currently in vogue. Prior to the 1920s little was understood concerning the structure and size of the universe as a whole. Until that time optical telescopes had been too weak to enable astronomers to determine whether some of the distant celestial formations were single stars, nebulae, or galaxies. The first major clue in unravelling some of these cosmic puzzles came in 1912 when an assistant at the Harvard Observatory, Henrietta Leavitt, discovered that variable stars, known as Cepheids, fluctuated according to how bright they were. Other astronomers such as Ejnar Hertzprung and Harlow Shapley were quick to realize the implications of Miss Leavitt's discovery. In effect, it meant that the Cepheid variables could be used as a type of cosmic yardstick to gauge the distances of various celestial formations. Using the Cepheid discovery, Shapley was able to establish the form and dimensions of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Once the Milky Way was mapped, astronomers focused their attention on the many stellar formations that appeared to be outside its confines. Cosmological opinion was sharply divided on this issue. Many astronomers felt that the distant nebulae and novae that were in question were not so "distant" after all, but were located inside the boundaries of the Milky Way. The controversy that followed was suddenly and dramatically ended in 1925 when Edwin Hubble of the Mount Wilson Observatory surveyed the heavens for the first time with the newly constructed 100-inch telescope then the largest in existence. Hubble discovered that the distant celestial formations were indeed "island universes" located deep in the vast reaches of outer space, far beyond the confines of our own galaxy. Hubble went on to analyze the light emitted by these distant galaxies and found that virtually all of them were moving away from us at colossal speeds. The "red shift" observed in their light spectrum indicated that many were rapidly receding at tens of thousands of miles a second. This meant that the universe was apparently expanding like a giant rubber balloon. Hubble then calculated how long this expansion would have been going on and came up with an estimated age of the universe at 1.8 thousand million years! But in short order even this figure was shown to be too low. Geologists, using radioactive minerals, independently derived an age for the earth of about 4.7 thousand million years. But how could the earth be older than the universe? Further investigation in the 1950s revealed an error in one of Hubble's assumptions which when corrected pushed his estimate up to the currently accepted figure of about 10 thousand million years. This figure has been generally accepted by scientists and astronomers since that time. Another method cosmologists have used to measure the age of the universe resulted from the discovery of background microwave radiation by two Bell Telephone Lab engineers in 1965. Cosmologists theorized that this radiation was the residue of the big-bang fireball which supposedly occurred millions of years ago. By com paring the energy level of this radiation with the assumed energy level in the fireball, they were able to calculate how long it has been since this hypothetical explosion occurred. Their solution basically agreed with that of other cosmologists who had estimated the age of the universe using Hubble's red shift principle. But this observational data on the age of the universe is far from being conclusive. In the first place, scientists have yet to confirm whether the wave-length patterns of the background radiation conform to theoretical expectations. Secondly, background microwave measurements made out side the earth's atmosphere in 1968 were about 30 times higher than those initially measured. And more important still is the fact that this method of estimating cosmic age is based on two giant assumptions: I) that there was a big bang, and 2) even given a big bang, that its initial temperature or energy level is correctly known.
A Young Universe?
Other observational methods used by astronomers pose further questions concerning cosmic age. One such method is based on observation of groups of stars known as globular clusters. The larger more densely populated clusters give evidence of having existed for as long as 25 thousand million years, while, on the other hand, many smaller clusters appear to be vastly younger. Theory predicts that the stars of these smaller, less densely populated clusters ought to have long since wandered off from their stellar moorings, eventually resulting in the disintegration of the cluster. Since the universe obviously still possesses many such stellar units, this would suggest a younger age. Astronomers have found additional indications of youth in what are believed to be recently formed stars, the T-Tauri variables. T-Tauris may be so young that they have not even entered into normal active existence as a star. This would make some of them as young as a mere few thousand years old. And still another indication of a possibly young universe exists in the many hot, fast-burning stars visible in the night sky. These "super blues, "as they are sometimes called, are consuming their hydrogen fuel like nuclear spendthrifts. They would have long since expended their supplies had they been formed thousands of millions of years ago. In attempting to reconcile some of these vast age differences, cosmologists suggest that the universe might possibly have experienced a progressive re-generation cycle where new stars were, and possibly still are, being formed. This would seemingly account for the wide diversity of apparent ages that are currently in evidence among various members of the stellar population. But while this is a convenient way to dispose of the problems in theory, observational evidence for such a process has been disappointingly lacking so far. It should be fairly obvious that scientifically estimating the age of the universe is currently a fairly speculative business. No one really knows yet how old the universe is. And interestingly enough, these age estimates, whether "young" or "old," in no way conflict with the biblical account of creation. The 6000-year age for the earth often erroneously associated with Genesis 1 has been arrived at because of a fundamental misinterpretation of the biblical account. When properly understood, the Bible leaves a great degree of latitude for both the age of the earth and the universe.
STARING INTO the starry blackness of night, men have long wondered if mankind is alone in the universe. Astronomers believe the odds are that many other planets Like the earth exist in the remoteness of space revolving around stars similar to our sun. With so many billions upon billions of stars in the heavens, it seems only logical that life too could exist beyond the earth some of this life perhaps even superior to ours. But are the chances for life in outer space actually as plentiful as many people assume? Or have we overlooked a few pertinent facts'?
The Right Star
All life on earth, as biologists well know, ultimately derives its vital forces from energy that once originated in the sun. Therefore, one fundamental prerequisite to any potential life-supporting system is the right type of star or sun. Not just any run-of-the-mill star can qualify as a suitable candidate. Astronomers have noted that stars show a remarkable range of size and type. They have in fact created a type-scale that categorizes them from huge, hot, fast-burning blue stars down to the tiniest red dwarfs scarcely the size of our earth. Our sun falls almost exactly in the middle of the scale - a G-type yellow star. When beginning to consider a star as a potential sustainer of life, one immediately recognizes that only middle-sized stars like our sun are capable of giving off the optimum type of radiation. Stars toward the hot-blue end of the range disqualify themselves because they emit a lethal proportion of ultraviolet and higher-energy radiation. In a contrasting manner, stars near the cool-red end of the scale give off too little visible radiation to be suitable. This leaves, as one research showed, only about 13 percent of all stars in an optimum category. Of this 13 percent, we would have to eliminate another three fourths, which belong to multiple star groups. A planet orbiting a double or multiple star group would most likely have an orbit far too eccentric and irregular to maintain an adequate temperature range to reasonably support life. In addition, because multiple-star systems normally consist of different types of stars (white and red, yellow and red, etc.) any hapless planet would be bombarded with a wide variety of radiation too irregular for the support of Life forms as we know them. With the multiple-star groups removed from consideration, we're left with only 3 percent of the stellar population as potential supporters of life.-'
Suitable Planet Needed
But we need more than just a suitable star. It also takes the right-sized planet at the right distance from that sun. Smaller planets fail the test due to their inability to retain an atmosphere. Larger, more massive planets fall into the other ditch because they tend to retain the heavier, more lethal gasses such as methane and ammonia. In addition to all of this, we also need the following: The planet must receive an even amount of radiation from its sun. That means a near circular orbit. To keep surface temperature from varying too far outside a life-supporting range, the planet must have a rotational period about a maximum of every 100 hours. Also required is an optimum distance from planet to sun, and the right tilt of the planetary axis to ensure an even distribution of temperatures. An extreme tilt of the axis, or an inadequate rotational speed, would result in intolerable heating in some areas and bitter cold in others. So while probabilities for all of these factors combined are difficult to calculate, it is interesting to realize that the real chances of life in outer space could actually be far lower than usually suggested. This becomes even clearer from the following evidence.
Our Unique Planet
As it turns out, our earth, the only known Life supporting planet in the universe, "defies the odds" in a number of other areas that are sometimes overlooked in figuring the chances for the occurrence of life. One of our biggest "long shots" IS water. For instance: ... In the universe as a whole, liquid water of any kind - sweet or salt is an exotic rarity... For contrary to common belief, the liquid state is exceptional in nature; most matter in the universe seems to consist either of flaming gases, as in the stars, or frozen solids drifting in the abyss of space. Only within a hairline band of the immense temperature spectrum of the universe ranging through millions of degrees can water manifest itself as a liquid. Water and plenty of it is the very life blood of our existence here on earth. And our earth is lavishly and possibly uniquely bathed in it. Not only is the existence of H z 0 on the earth unique, but the fact that it exists in a liquid state. How do you calculate the probability of the "coincidence" of life as we know it and the liquid state existing in the same temperature range? The answer is, you don't. As Lincoln Barnett, the author of the article "The Miracle of the Sea" stated: ((It is surely no accident that life as we know it exists only within this same tenuous temperature band." But that's not all.
The Correct Atmosphere
Our terrestrial atmosphere is quite different from what one would normally expect in the universe. The signal fact is that rare gases [argon, xenon, etc.] are present here in only small amounts, much smaller than those known elsewhere in the universe. At the same time, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor are present in much greater abundance than elsewhere... These [analysis of meteorites] show that the rare gases are present here in only a few millionths to a billionth of their cosmic abundance. This would account for something like a million to-one probability factor since that's how rare such gases are compared to the Test of the universe. The same uniqueness holds true for our solid elements. Ninety-nine percent of all the matter in the universe is of the two lightest elements, hydrogen and helium. All other elements put together account for only 1% of the total. Yet hydrogen makes up only about 0.9% of the earth's com position, while helium appears only in miniscule amounts within the earth's crust. On the other hand, oxygen, silicon, aluminum, and iron which make up less than 1% of the universe account for over 85% of the earth's composition. These proportions are wholly non-typical and totally exceptional to our planet. The list of such unusual factors actually has almost no end. And even if we were to assume that a proper planetary environment was achieved, this does not automatically guarantee that organisms will be found living in that environment. The odds for that are infinitesimally smaller yet. Though some would say that any such estimates are overly simplified and scientifically meaningless, remember that it is on the same basis that scientists confidently tell the public that life in space is scientifically probable. So at least, these factors do serve to illustrate the point that very precise and exacting conditions are required before even the simplest living organism would be able to survive. And knowing what we do about our planet, with its optimum conditions for supporting life, its ideal size, tilt, and rotation rate, its unique composition of elements with its super abundance of water, all powered and energized by a stable, middle-range star that emits its energy dominantly in the visual range does it follow, then, that life on earth was formed by a cosmic accident? Not without a lot of wishful thinking.
'Isaac Asimov and Stephen H. Dole, Planets for Man (New York. 1964). p. 147.
'David Bergamini and the Editors of Life, The Universe (New York, 1962), pp. 112. 125. V. A. Firsoff, Life Beyond the Earth (London, 1963), pp. 256, 257.
While astronomers may give lower figures on the percentages of stars that are multiples, the overall proportion of stars that are suitable for a life-supporting system is still listed in the vicinity of one to five percent.
'Lincoln Barnett, "The Miracle of the Sea," Life (February 9, 1953), p. 58.
'Helmut E. Landsberg, "The Origin of the Atmosphere," Scientific American (August 1953), p. 82.
If man is at all sensitive to the REALISM of the universe around him, he cannot ignore the fact that human beings could not be the result of freak chance spawned from mindless matter, but the unique creation of a greater intelligence than his own. The only logical answer that really satisfies all the demands of what man encounters is that man was designed, his environment was planned, and therefore there is a definite reason for man' s existence. What is man? Why is man? What is this vast universe all about] The answers are clearly revealed by the One who made man. They are revealed in the Instruction Book that goes along with the product. Are you willing to at least take a look? Here is a book that asks the BIG quest ions: What is man anyway? What is his purpose and ultimate goal? Why is he here? Where did he come from? This book- the Bible asks: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Heb. 2 :6.) The God who s peaks in this book doesn't leave man without an answer. He reveals: I have made man a little lower than the angels, but I have given him a measure of glory and honor. I have made him to have DOMINION OVER THE WORKS I HAVE MADE (verse 7). This passage of scripture continues: "Thou hast put ALL THINGS in subjection under his [man's] feet. For in that He [God] put ALL in subjection under him [man], He left NOTHING that is not put under him" (verse 8). It is therefore right for man to look out into the vastness of the creation with its endless scope and contemplate dominion over it. God intends it that way. But, it ought to be clear by virtue of the limitations of his physical makeup and the vastness and fathomless distances of space that he is simply not equipped in his present form to have dom1nion over ALL that he sees "out there." Again, God does not leave man without an answer. Continue with verse 8: "But now we see NOT YET all things put under him [man]." Yes, man's present capacities and conditions are not adequate for a job that big. Man has done too wretched a job on his own planet to be allowed, now, to spread his unsolved problems, lusts and vices around the universe. Parallel with his premature efforts to move out into the universe, the degeneracy's and problems on earth have proliferated. It is now possible by several different means to annihilate all human life from the face of planet earth. God is not going to permit this kind of leadership and rulership to permeate His creation. Soon God must intervene in world affairs and enforce peace and order here on earth. Then men will learn the kind of life God wants spread throughout His creation. Mankind will undergo a change once these lessons are learned. God will impart to men sonship in the Family of God (I John 3 : 1-2). Men, transformed, will then be ready for the purpose for which God originally created them to have dominion over the works of His God's hand. If you would like to understand more of the magnificent plan of the great God whose purpose is being worked out here on this good earth, write for your free copy of our booklet titled Why Were You Born?