Reasons to Believe

The Take Two Thanksgiving Spectacular 2010

This week Maureen and Sandra offer a double serving of thankfulness—science style. See what makes our list of things to be grateful for. Dig in!

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Thank God for My Neighbors

By Maureen

I grew up in a great neighborhood, surrounded by friendly families with kids my age—but they aren’t the only neighbors I’m grateful for. I praise God for Earth’s neighbors, too, specifically the gas giants.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune help make life possible on Earth. Like a neighborhood watch group, these celestial bodies protect us by diverting comets and asteroids on a collision course with Earth. They even take the hit on occasion! (The image below shows “bruises” in Jupiter’s side caused by such a collision.)

Yet the gas giants aren’t pushy neighbors. They stay the right distance away; so Earth isn’t disturbed by their gravitational pull. No property line disputes here!

Discoveries of exoplanets stimulate expectations of finding other life-friendly planets, but advanced life demands high standards from potential candidates and the planetary systems in which they reside. So far astronomers haven’t discovered a twin for our system. Without a team of gas giants with just-right masses and just-right locations, advanced life won’t happen. In his article “Thank God for Jupiter”

Hugh writes:

A Jupiter more or less massive would pose a greater risk to life on Earth, as would a Jupiter more or less distant. The same delicate balances hold true for Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune….we need to be [thankful] for God providing Earth with such wonderfully designed planetary partners.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for good neighbors, planetary and otherwise!

Resources: Explore the Today’s New Reason to Believe archive for a gravy-boatload of articles on the gas giants.

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Thank God for Dark Energy

by Sandra

It wasn’t too long ago when I stepped into what became known as “the incident.” Exhausted and worn, I struggled to stay on my feet. Then, almost out of nowhere, two friends appeared with outstretched hands. “Take my hand,” Bryan and Jordan pleaded. I conceded. And together, the pair of kind souls pulled me to my feet and guided me to a safe place—then let go.

Arms, legs, and pink hair flapped around as my body whipped back to its starting point. Another successful bungee run!

What I learned from that experience is that (1) Motrin is the remedy for such foolishness; and (2) The bungee run is a bit like dark energy. Stay with me, here.

Astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink uses a rubber band analogy to explain dark energy (and if a bungee is anything, it’s a giant rubber band):

When you stretch it out, it wants to pull back in. But notice as you pull it farther and farther apart, the rubber band’s force to pull it back in gets stronger and stronger. Now here’s the connection: dark energy is like the rubber band—except in the opposite direction. The larger the universe grows, the more dark energy causes it to expand.

In their hot-off-the-presses booklet Impact Events, Zweerink and coauthor Ken Hultgren compare this force to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “Dark energy acts upon the universe in a way that’s completely opposite to gravity. [Likewise] the Holy Spirit helps us live opposite to [our fallen] nature. He helps us live a life of obedience to God even though it isn’t natural for us to do so.”

Talk about the ultimate helping hand. The key, I suppose, is to not let go.

I’m grateful for that hand. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? And do they involve bungee runs? Let us know. We’ll give thanks to five lucky commenters by sending a free copy of the Passport Traveler’s Guide to Our Solar System and the just-released Impact Events.

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