Ingenious Discoveries

Ingenious Discoveries

 I often marvel at the discoveries scientists make and the ingenuity employed in making those discoveries. For example, a year ago on Creation Update I discussed a Science article where researchers used neodymium concentrations in fossil fish teeth to date when the Drake passage opened, allowing circumpolar ocean currents around Antarctica.

A Nature article describes another example where scientists discovered two supernovae in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Remarkably, the supernovae in question occurred over 400 years ago (not including light travel time from the LMC to Earth). While the original light from the supernovae has long since passed Earth, some light reflected off clouds in the LMC back toward Earth. From this light, scientists determined the location and nature of supernovae and are attempting to pin down what type of supernovae occurred.

Astronomers used another ingenious technique to measure the temperature of the universe in the past. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) provides abundant information on many important characteristics of the universe. While the CMB detected on Earth measures only today’s temperature of the universe, we see distant galaxies as they appeared in the past. Taking advantage of this fact, a team of scientists describe in the Astrophysical Journal how the state of carbon in distant galaxies tells the temperature of the CMB at earlier times in the universe. The temperature extracted matched the value predicted from big bang cosmology.

On the subject of dating, recent developments show how cave formations provide some of the most precise methods for dating geological history. As annual layers in deep ice cores from Antarctica provide dates to a few hundred thousand years, cave formations called speleothems provide dates in the same range but with much higher precision. Additionally, since caves are found throughout the world, speleothems give more complete and more easily accessible data.

One last example shows how scientists use asteroid material to reconstruct events during the formation of the solar system. Different kinds of stellar environments are required to produce all the elements naturally occurring on Earth. All stars heavier than the Sun produce many lighter elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, but elements heavier than iron are produced only in cataclysmic stellar explosions like supernovae. Different types of supernovae produce different heavy elements. Additionally, novae and asymptotic giant branch stars form elements not produced in abundance any other way. A Science article described how asteroids record the signatures of these stellar processes during the formation of the Sun, thereby giving detailed information on events that occurred over 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists make numerous rational, scientific inferences about creation. Arguing that those inferences correspond to reality is troublesome from a naturalistic perspective but flows naturally from a Christian worldview. Ken Samples, my colleague at Reasons To Believe, develops this point further in this article.