Carbon12 Atom

Carbon Based Life Forms

Carbon12 Atom

Carbon, the 6th element in the periodic table of elements

Growing up, I would hear science fiction people talking about creatures with bodies as “carbon based life forms.” Not being good at chemistry (it’s too much like math for my taste), I didn’t understand what “carbon” had to do with anything.

Why didn’t the people who had no trouble inventing aliens with all kinds of crazy features just have them based on some other element?

What’s so special about carbon they presumed life had to use it?

It turns out carbon, the same stuff we use in our pencils, is one of the two building blocks for all life on earth. It is one of the basic elements that can’t be broken into anything smaller except protons and such. (For you Bible scholars, I found it interesting that carbon has 6 protons, electrons and neutrons. Interesting set of numbers, isn’t it?)

English: Chemical structure of methane. França...

Chemical structure of methane

There is something amazing about carbon’s ability to connect with other elements to form complicated compounds. When you compare every other element, mixing and matching liquids to help out (God uses water to do this on earth), you can’t come up with anything close to carbon.

Not only can you make a lot of different compounds out of carbon, they can be very stable. Which means they don’t just fall apart as soon as they form, so life forms can depend on their sturdy support.

Of course, there are people who so badly want there to be space aliens they insist things like ammonia and sulfur would work just fine, but see what you think. I found a perfect discussion of this at NASA where a 10th grader wrote in and asked this question. I’ll let the astrophysicist explain it to you HERE.

There are a couple of amazing pages about carbon to find out more:

Dendritics.com Properties of Carbon

Jefferson Lab: The Element Carbon

Chemicool.com: Carbon

Here are some of the coolest bits:

  • There are nearly ten million known carbon compounds and an entire branch of chemistry, known as organic chemistry, is devoted to their study.
  • More compounds are known made with carbon than without. [This means that carbon forms more compounds than the other 117 known elements put together!]
  • Pure carbon is found in nature in three forms: Lamp black [that stuff on your candle jar edges], Graphite [for pencil leads and such] and Diamond
  • in 1955 American scientist Francis Bundy and coworkers at General Electric finally demonstrated that graphite could be transformed into diamond at high temperature and high pressure.
  • Graphite, one of the softest materials known, is a form of carbon that is primarily used as a lubricant. [They have to add clay to make it hard enough for pencils]
  • Diamond, on the other hand is one of the hardest substances known to exist!

2010_11_16_Oball

Scientists have come up with a cool form of pure carbon that works a lot like one of these little kids balls. Nicknamed “buckyballs”, they have all kinds of plans for stuffing it with other molecules, and trying electric and magnetic stunts with it.

For more about this compound, aka Fullerene, see THIS PAGE from the U. of Wisc.

“No element is more essential to life than carbon, because only carbon forms strong single bonds to itself that are stable enough to resist chemical attack under ambient conditions. This give carbon the ability to form long chains and rings of atoms, which are the structural basis for many compounds that comprise the living cell, of which the most important is DNA.”

But when you send out your life-giving breath,
    things come alive, and the world is like new again!
May the LORD’s glory continue forever!

    May the LORD enjoy what he made. Psalm 104:30,31 Easy-to-read Version

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMagnetosphere_rendition.jpg

Earth’s Force Fields

 

Aurora seen from the International Space Station

Aurora seen from the International Space Station

As a girl, while traveling to our new home in Alaska and then during years living there we often got to see the Northern Lights: the Aurora Borealis.  I knew they were caused by tiny particles from the sun colliding with earth’s magnetic field.  Now I know lots more about these amazing events and the power of God’s protection over us.

For the basics, check out Astronomy For Kids to read up on what’s happening.

On the Alaska Public Lands page, they mention that the Aurorae [plural of Aurora] are highly electrified.  Sometimes they are so strong they knock out electrical equipment or even a whole power grid.  This dose of power isn’t always a bad thing, though.  Transmitters, like radios and telephones (the site doesn’t say if those are landlines or cell), can work by the electricity coming from the Aurora alone!

Artist's rendition of Earth's magnetosphere.

Artist’s rendition of Earth’s magnetosphere. The Aurorae show up where the blue lines come in toward the earth

The basic cause of the Aurorae is the “Solar Wind” coming off of the Sun and running into particles in earth’s magnetic field which push them back away from earth (that page is really cool, check it out!).  As the particles calm down from this collision, they give off the lights that we see.

The zone where the particles collide is known as the Van Allen Radiation Belt. It is pretty complicated stuff, so just follow the link if this is fascinating to you!

Just what is this Solar Wind and why is it important?  Most of the Solar Wind is made of tiny electricity-conducting particles [plasma ions] blasting away from the sun.  These particles would really mess up our electronics if they were able to get straight through to the surface.

But there is another piece to the Solar Wind puzzle: radiation.  Some of the stuff that the sun puts out along with all that plasma is a form of UV radiation.  If you’ve ever spent time in the sunshine without sunscreen, you know what UV does to you right away even under our protective shield. Imagine what all this would do to astronauts outside!

A war shieldFrom technology review: “On Earth, humans are protected by the atmosphere, the mass of the Earth itself and the Earth’s magnetic field. In low earth orbit, astronauts loose the protection of the atmosphere and radiation levels are consequently higher by two orders of magnitude.

In deep space, astronauts loose the protecting effect of the Earth’s mass and its magnetic field, raising levels a further five times and beyond the acceptable limits that humans can withstand”

Long term exposure to radiation is very dangerous to living beings.  The radiation ions get right down into our cells and can cause all kinds of serious damage.  You’ve heard of melanomas?  That’s one kind of damage that UV radiation can cause.  Our atmosphere with its ozone layer protects us from much of that kind of radiation.  If we didn’t have a strong shield protecting us, life would have been wiped out by cancers and such long ago!

English: Example of Heliosheath from Hubble Te...

Example of Heliosheath from Hubble Telescope image of Orion Nebula.

Did you know that it is also a very good thing that the sun puts out all that radiation and plasma in the first place?  Turns out that Solar Wind is a force field of its own called a Heliosheath to protect us.

The rest of the universe is filled with something called High-Energy Cosmic Rays.  Pierre Auger Observatory has an interesting page on these.  We can’t tell straight out what makes all this powerful stuff.  Our best guess is that it comes from exploding stars, but they may be shot out from black holes or something completely unknown.

Since people have never traveled outside of our solar system, we can only guess what would happen if the sun wasn’t protecting us.  Here’s a bit of what NASA has to say about Cosmic Rays:

Cosmic rays are different—and worse….  Unlike solar protons, which are relatively easy to stop with materials such as aluminum or plastic, cosmic rays cannot be completely stopped by any known shielding technology.

Even inside their ships, astronauts are exposed to a slow drizzle of cosmic rays coming right through the hull. The particles penetrate flesh, damaging tissue at the microscopic level. One possible side-effect is broken DNA, which can, over the course of time, cause cancer, cataracts and other maladies.

Thank you, God for protecting us from these things that would have killed us long ago!  Thank you even more for providing a shelter of protection from the judgment that you are sending on sin!

English: Castle in Olsztyn, PolandTruly my soul waits upon God: from him comes my salvation.   He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
God has spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongs unto God.
Also unto you, O Lord, belongs mercy: for you give to every man according to his work.  Psalm 62:1,2,11,12

Did you know the moon passes through the “tail” of our magnetic field every month and picks up quite an electrical charge?  Fascinating stuff!

There is debate among scientists whether our magnetic field has allowed earth to hold onto its atmosphere better.  We seem to be losing atmosphere at the same rate as Venus which doesn’t have a strong magnetic force.  Seems to me this is just another sign that the earth with its water and thick atmosphere can’t be as old as they need it to be for abiogenesis to have time to work.

James Irwin, Lander, and Flag on Moon

Creationist Astronauts

Astronaut James Irwin gives salute beside U.S....

Astronaut James Irwin gives salute beside U.S. flag during lunar surface extravehicular activity (EVA) (Photo credit: George Eastman House)

The other day I saw an article over on Cowboy Bob’s Question Evolution website. He was talking about an article on one of America’s first astronauts, Colonel James Irwin, and his faith in Jesus, his Creator.

This got me thinking about astronauts and Jesus.

I’d remembered hearing the first broadcast from the moon was of the astronauts reading from Genesis chapter one. You can read about it on NASA: Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast. They hadn’t landed, but it was the first time human beings had orbited the moon and those verses are what they decided to share with the rest of us!

Here’s the audio people on earth heard:

 

English: Astronaut Edwin E.

Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin

It turns out this event is just the start of the story. When the first two human beings did land on the moon, before stepping onto the surface, one of them took the time to celebrate his connection with Jesus. Buzz Aldrin had brought a little communion set (tiny wafer of bread and vial of wine) for when they’d safely arrived. So just before Armstrong stepped outside, telling us about his “one small step”, his fellow astronaut had dedicated himself again to his Savior and Maker.

These 5 men are just the beginning of the list of astronauts to recognize their Creator:

I found a treasure of info on The Christian Network:

Astronaut Charles Duke stated,

“I used to say I could live ten thousand years and never have an experience as thrilling as walking on the moon. But the excitement and satisfaction of that walk doesn’t begin to compare with my walk with Jesus, a walk that lasts forever.”

Addressing a joint session of Congress, September 16, 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong stated:

“To those of you who have advocated looking high, we owe our sincere gratitude, for you have granted us the opportunity to see some of the grandest views of the Creator.”

And more on this article by Chuck Colson:

To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.
– Astronaut John Glenn

It wasn’t just the first generation of space explorers willing to speak out either:

In 1983, Colonel Jack Lousma wrote about his experience of God in outer space and even the difference zero G had on his Bible reading routine.

Astronaut Michael P. Anderson, STS-107 payload...

Astronaut Michael P. Anderson, STS-107 payload commander, is pictured on the aft flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Columbia.

Two of the astronauts who died when the Columbia crashed in 2003, Rick Husband and Michael Anderson, were members of the same church in Texas. I love this bit from the article remembering their lives:

“[Their pastor] said that although both men rarely told people that they were astronauts, they looked for opportunities to tell others about Christ.

English: Astronaut Patrick G. Forrester

Astronaut Patrick G. Forrester

Patrick Forrester, an astronaut on the shuttle Discovery in 2009, took a little piece of an airplane up with him. It was the plane Jim Elliot and Nate Saint flew as missionaries. Forrester thought this would be a great way to tell people about the need to go into all the world and tell others about Jesus!

Interestingly, I found out about Forrester on a page talking about the trouble atheists have given NASA for not muzzling the faith of their astronauts. The last thing the Enemy wants is for kids to find out how being in space makes God all the more real to many people!

I can’t find a page on this story, but you can listen to the broadcast like I did. Just back in 2013, an astronaut called Jim Dutton (who has piloted the shuttle Discovery), spent time on the International Space Station (ISS) and brought along some “light” reading on a CD. It was a copy of Dr. Walt Brown’s creationist book In The Beginning! How awesome is that?

This article is getting crazy long, but I have to include one last guy:

Colonel Jeffery N. Williams has spent a huge amount of time on the International Space Station. You can check out the badges he’s earned HERE.

What’s most exciting is you can read about his love for Jesus and outer space in a book he’s written called The Work of His Hands. You can order the book from the publisher, but I liked the Institute for Creation Research’s write-up about it best. Plus you can support their work that way.

Here’s a quote to get you started: First Things: An Amazing Story of Discovery and Faith: Colonel Jeff Williams’ Space Voyage

My relationship with God does not hinge on my looking at Earth from orbit and experiencing that “small whisper” that is so evident in creation. True, life-transforming faith in God and relationship with Him is based not on a whisper, but a shout—the shout of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His work on the cross as revealed in the supernatural revelation of the Bible.

« To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. » The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

Extras!

There’s a Bible we left on the moon

Read about how God got through to Col. Irwin while he was on the moon to get him past just being a “bump on the log” Christian.

There’s a short article on Urban Christian News talking about all the Christians in space. Here’s the best bit:

“…religious objects–crosses, Bibles, icons, prayer cards–are among the most common personal items taken into space, said Johnson Space Center spokesman James Hartsfield.”

If you were on a tiny, thin, space craft, wouldn’t you want a close connection with the God Who is There- no matter where “there” is?

Interested in astronomy? You’ll want to join the 4th Day Alliance. They’ve got lots of great info including links to NASA’s Lost Bible Quotations