Friday, June 29, 2018

The Creator Revealed

Have you ever wanted a simple explanation of how modern scientific discoveries about the origin of the universe harmonize with the account of creation in the Bible? Would you appreciate examples of modern scientific discoveries that support the biblical record and give evidence for God, written in language that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read? If so, then you will want to buy my just released book, The Creator Revealed, A Physicist Examines the Big Bang and the Bible.

There are many good books that discuss the relationship of science and Christianity and describe how science agrees with and supports the Bible. But almost all of those books are written in relatively technical language that can be difficult to read and understand, even for well-educated people who may not be scientifically minded. In contrast to most books on this subject, The Creator Revealed is written in simple conversational language that is entertaining and engaging. One person who reviewed the book wrote, "In The Creator Revealed, Michael Strauss writes about the mounting scientific evidence for the complete trustworthiness of the Bible and the Christian faith in a winsome, humorous style that puts the cookies on the bottom shelf so that children, youth, and science-challenged adults can understand his thesis that science is the ally of the Christian faith, not the enemy."1 The major strength and distinctive of this book is that "winsome, humorous style" that will help people understand and appreciate the truth revealed through both science and Scripture.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Even Darker

In 1929 Edwin Hubble made a discovery that revolutionized our understanding of the universe. He measured the relative velocity between our Milky Way galaxy and 46 other galaxies and observed that the galaxies were all moving away from each other. In addition, the farther apart the galaxies were from each other, the faster they were receding from each other. The most straightforward interpretation of this observation is that the universe is expanding. Subsequent observations have revealed that the galaxies are not simply moving away from each other, but that the fabric of space itself between the galaxies is actually expanding.

With the knowledge that the universe is expanding, scientists have wondered about the future of the universe. Will it expand forever? Will it eventually stop expanding and collapse in on itself? The answer to these questions depends partially on the amount of matter in the universe because every object in the universe is attracted to every other object by the force of gravity. Gravity should cause the expansion of the universe to gradually slow down and, if there is enough matter, to eventually stop and collapse. To illustrate this consider two plastic balls connected by a rubber band. If you were to hold one ball in your hand and throw the other ball outward, eventually the speed of the second ball would decrease as the rubber band stretched because the rubber band acts as an attractive force between the two balls. In the same way, the attractive force of gravity should be causing the expansion of the universe to slow down. Because the strength of gravity depends on how much matter is in the universe, if there is enough matter, the very strong attractive force should eventually cause the expansion to stop and the universe to collapse back in on itself. The attractive force of gravity should be slowing down the expansion of the universe. But that is not what is happening.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Dark Side

In the 1920's a number of experiments observed that certain nuclei would decay by emitting a "beta" particle in a process called beta decay. Although the beta particle itself was shown to simply be an electron, the process of beta decay exhibited some strange and unexplained properties. In particular, the decay products did not conserve energy, momentum, or angular momentum. Up until that time, all known physical processes had conserved these three quantities. That is, the amount of energy, momentum, and angular momentum at the end of any process was exactly the same as the amount at the beginning of the process. However, beta decay seemed to violate these well known conservation laws. A number of explanations were proposed including the possibility that these conservation laws were not absolute. However, one explanation seemed much more simple and elegant. The physicist Wolfgang Pauli proposed that another particle was also emitted during beta decay along with the electron, but this other particle was nearly impossible to detect. For all practical purposes it was invisible to any experimental detectors of the time. Now it may seem crazy to postulate an unknown, nearly undetectable particle simply to preserve well-established laws of physics, but consider the genius of this idea. By simply proposing the addition of one unknown entity all of the problems with beta decay could be solved. Enrico Fermi named the unknown particle a "neutrino," or "little neutron" in Italian. It took about 25 years to experimentally confirm the existence of this particle, but eventually the neutrino was discovered in 1956. The simple but elegant introduction of a nearly undetectable neutral matter particle was the solution to multiple problems.

Today we have a similar situation to that of the 1920's. When we observe the cosmos we find that there are a number of problems that seem to violate well established laws of physics. Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes how gravity works, is a remarkably successful theory with tremendous predictive power, but when we try to use that theory to explain certain observed effects, the theory doesn't quite work. For instance, when we watch how fast the stars in galaxies rotate about the galactic center we find that the outer part of the galaxy doesn't obey Einstein's theory if we assume that we can actually see all of the matter in the galaxy. (See the graph at the end of this blog post.) We also find that the large scale distribution of galaxies throughout the universe has some problems if we assume that we can observe all of the matter that is there. (See the opening figure of this blog post.) In addition, we know that gravity can actually bend the path of light, but the amount of bending we observe is much greater than what we would expect using the theory of general relativity and the amount of visible matter.