Creation Weekend: Inspiring and Fun
Not surprisingly, with an upbeat and exciting speaker, the audiences at our Creation Weekend sessions in October 2012 were large and enthusiastic. The final session ended with a standing ovation, which is most unusual for a lecture. So it was that David Coppedge of Santa Clarita, provided amazing illustrations, interesting information and profound insights.
His first lecture was entitled “Cassini Discoveries at Saturn.” First of all, he mentioned for the young and other astronomy enthusiasts, that NASA has sponsored an interactive program on-line. Entitled “Eyes on the Solar System,” is a cross-platform, realtime, 3D-interactive application that runs on a web browser. It provides an extraordinary view of the solar system by virtually transporting the user across space to make first person observations. NASA is currently also developing “Eyes on the Moon.”
The Cassini Mission was named for Jean-Dominique Cassini (1625-1712), who discovered various moons of the planet Saturn. After a seven year cruise to Saturn, the spacecraft which had been launched in October 1997, arrived at the planet in June 2004. The four objectives of the project were to study the planet, her rings, the large moon Titan, and the small icy satellites in the rings. Some of the highlights of this presentation included: Enceladus with a diameter of 505 km. This is the brightest object in the solar system, presumably because this moon is made of almost pure water ice. Plumes of crystals erupt at 120-180 kg/sec at the supersonic speed of 400m/sec. That requires a huge amount of energy. Where does it come from? Tidal friction, which is the usual explanation, is totally inadequate to explain this energy. The moon Mimas, has ten times the tidal friction of Enceladus, and Mimas is cold. Enceladus thus is an excellent example of rapid processes in the solar system which are unexpected if everything is very old.
Everyone agrees, David Coppedge declared, that the rings of Saturn are young. They show far more structure than theory can explain. Impacts are driving ring material outward (not inward) at a rate of 100 km/sec and so the rings are dissipating. One major surprise has been the discovery that break up of ice in the rings has resulted in an oxygen atmosphere in this vicinity. Inspired by these revelations, an even larger audience arrived Saturday morning to hear about evidences for youth in the solar system.
David Coppedge took us on a tour of the solar system beginning with Mercury and working outwards. At almost every point, there were unexpected surprises, an indication that theoretical predictions were faulty. Io, a moon of Jupiter, for example, is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Here we see the greatest diversity of volcanic activity in the solar system. There are hot spots everywhere and the pattern of heat disposes of the generally accepted model for internal heating (gravitational compression which yields ten times too little energy). The most powerful eruption ever observed in the solar system occurred there in February 2001 and suitable explanations for the event have not been proposed as yet.
Then there is Titan, a moon of Saturn. Here we see methane in the atmosphere dissociating into component elements. When the methane is gone, the atmosphere is expected to collapse. Lead scientists have no explanation for why Titan still has an atmosphere. There is no global ocean and there are dry lake beds. Something is seriously out of sync with scientific explanations. Then there is Neptune, the most remote planet. It has terrible weather, the strongest winds in the solar system, but the source of the energy is obscure if the planet is old.
For a change of pace, in the afternoon, our speaker discussed the art of baloney detecting. The objective of this light hearted discussion was to enable us all to critically evaluate claims by experts (scientific, political, commercial etc.) He thus defined and gave examples of half-truths, repetition, unflattering association (juxtaposition), loaded words, glittering generalities, ridicule, logical fallacies, pronouncements by “experts” (arguments from authority), ad hominem attacks (insults rather than discussing the issues), red herrings etc etc. One certainly has to be mentally sharp to recognize these tactics and thus preserve a clear understanding of the issues!
Lastly on Saturday evening we heard the keynote message on the Church and Creation. Our speaker began by pointing out that the concept of creation is referred to throughout the Bible. Therefore it is not of obscure interest to the Christian but is rather foundational. He then discussed the beauty of nature and how Christians must make more effort to get out to enjoy the creation. Just as “nature deprivation syndrome” is a recognized problem today for inner city youngsters, Christians also can feel uplifted when they observe the beauty God has provided around them. Our speaker then discussed the nature of suffering, and how God provides solace. A lengthy list of relevant Bible verses on the topic was made available. On a more scientific note, David Coppedge also discussed biomimetics, amazing examples of design in nature, which technological man copies. The design patent in these cases certainly should not be held by the human inventor who merely copies concepts like the resilience of clam shells for strong materials or a bird’s wing structure for aerodynamic flight. He then discussed a few examples of design which demonstrate the need for an intelligent designer. Among the examples he discussed was the wonder of plant photosynthesis. God has not left himself without witness to his glory in the world.
David Coppedge left Edmonton after his very inspiring presentations. He then proceeded to Kelowna where he presented three lectures and then on to Surrey, where he presented the two lectures dealing with the Cassini program and our solar system.
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