What is Light?
Human vision is utterly amazing in its ability to receive and process a wealth of information concerning levels of light intensity, colors, motion, and stereoscopic depth of field. However, as wonderful as our eyesight is, we are able to see only electromagnetic waves between 400 and 700 nanometers (4 to 7 x 10-9 meters) in wavelength. Young Isaac Newton in 1666 used a prism to break visible white light down into the rainbow colors of the spectrum giving impetus to the development of what is now the vast science of optics. Discovery of the wave-nature of light soon led to the realization that our universe is permeated with electromagnetic waves ranging in wavelength over at least 16 orders of magnitude--from ultra low frequency radio waves which are tens of kilometers in wavelength to cosmic rays with wave crests and troughs only a millionth of a millionth (10-12) meter apart. Just in our century science has quickly extended the range of the eye for exploration purposes. Many different kinds of electronic sensing instruments now tell us vastly more about the cosmos than our eyes alone can tell us directly.
Light from the sun arrives at the top of the earth's atmosphere at a power level of about one kilowatt per square meter. It is this heat and light from a very modest star that all life-processes on earth are ultimately driven. The sun's surface temperature is only about 5500 degrees C. The corona of the sun is the zone of solar nuclear reactions at 1,000,000 degrees C, the interior being way too cool for fusion reactions!
Without the sun's constant energy input our planet would quickly radiate away its latent heat, freezing us and everything else very very solid in short order.
Heat and light from the sun are obvious, but we are unaware of cosmic rays penetrating our bodies at the rate of perhaps 10 per second. Occasionally one of these cosmic ray particles does us genetic damage! Nor do we realize that radio and television signals from a hundred stations fill our living rooms, permeating our living space. Many of these "rays" pass through our bodies unimpeded. Light waves, radio waves, heat signals, X-rays, and the like, are electromagnetic (EM) radiation all forms of which can transmit energy and carry useful information even across vast reaches of "empty" space. The signal speed of EM waves ranges upwards to a maximum value which is the current speed of light, ~3 x 108 meters/second, or the more familiar 186,000 miles per second.
In the last century science has also come the realization that we can equally well describe light and other EM radiation as if it were corpuscular in nature. EM radiation is a result of moving electrical charges (currents) and all forms of EM radiation can be described mathematically as consisting of streaming photons. Each photon constituting a "particle" of light has an energy equal to Planck's constant times the speed of light divided by the wavelength. (Photons are very small, yet the human eye is sufficiently sensitive that we can sometimes detect even a single light photon with dark-adapted eyes). Whether one uses a wave model or a particle model for light is largely a matter of convenience for the physicist. The concept of "wave-particle duality" is well established by experimental evidence and the excellent models of Quantum Mechanics.
Gravitational forces seem to us to be powerful, because it is gravity which holds us to the earth's surface and makes us work hard to lift and move things. But the force of gravity is actually some 42 orders of magnitude weaker (10-42) than the electrical forces which generate light waves and radio waves! Because of this huge difference in energy levels we actually know little about gravity. For instance, many scientists have tacitly assumed that gravity signals, and the force of gravity between masses, are communicated ("mediated") back and forth by streams of photons traveling at the velocity of light--some have assumed that gravity will be explained as arising from some type of EM wave. As noted in a previous article, Faster than the Speed of Light, it is now thought possible that gravitational forces are communicated by particles called gravitons which are very much smaller than photons, (Note 1). Furthermore that the speed of gravitons is apparently some ten or eleven orders of magnitude higher than the current speed of light. This raises the possibility of space travel throughout the entire known universe in very reasonable time periods. From energy considerations (in the universe considered as a whole entity) it now appears that the speed of light initially had the same high value as gravity still has, but the speed of light has apparently decreased since creation, whereas the speed of gravity has not.
A great frontier lies before us now in better understanding gravity. For example we can not as yet be certain whether the hypothesized gravity waves are transverse in nature (as are EM waves), or compressional (like sound waves). Suffice it to say that energy and information can be transmitted across the universe by means others than ordinary photons. That is, energy and information transmission in the physical world is probably not always electromagnetic in nature--and this is not taking into account how prayer and spiritual forces travel between God, men and the angels about which we know next to nothing.
On the first Day of creation week, having brought into existence space, time and matter, the second creative act of God was (I believe) the creation of light. Light was spoken into existence by the Second Person of the godhead, Jesus, the Logos or Word of God,
The statement "Let there be light" may mean (in my opinion) "Let there be energy of all wavelengths and in all forms." I believe it was from these four working substances created on Day One: (1) space, (2) time, (3) matter and (4) energy out of which God constructed (and filled) the universe we live in. In His work as Creator, the Son of God was the "master craftsman" of Proverbs 8. The activity of creation week involved many separate actions by all the Persons of the godhead, as can be seen by the numerous action verbs in Chapter One which refer to God. 9 (Note 2)
Many good people will probably not agree with my own interpretation of the opening verses of Genesis--so I won't be dogmatic about the model I have just suggested. Dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly theological papers have disputed exactly how to interpret these opening verses of Holy Writ and I don't claim to have the final word by any means. The important point is that light, as we know it and understand it in the physical world, was created by God on the First Day of creation.
The Bible says that "God is Light" and this is not the same as saying "Light is God." If we claimed that the Light shining forth on day One of creation week was simply God Himself we would have major problems--because God is a Spirit and He does not directly emit protons or waves! Such an hypothesis as saying that the Light of Day One came from God Himself puts us on the fast road to pantheism which we must refute. The God of the Bible is separate from, and transcends, His creation.
Because God is Light, a more profound problem appears when we consider other passages in the Bible which speak figuratively of light, and of spiritual light. Writing to Timothy Paul the Apostle tells that God, "alone has immortality, [and that He] dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see." (1 Timothy 6:16).
Moses, who enjoyed a very intimate relationship with God, on one occasion asked God that He might see Him as he was,
And Moses said, "Please, show me Your glory."
Then God said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
But God said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23)
The whole point about God being Light is that the splendor and radiance of His immediate presence is so intense it must be veiled in clouds of thick darkness. Otherwise mere mortals would be burned to a crisp if they came into the unveiled presence of His effulgent power.
Spiritual realities are more permanent and more substantial that the shadows they cast into our physical world. Jesus is likened to the rising Day Star and called by Malachi the "Sun of Righteousness"--symbols which suggest to us that His true splendor is greater than that of any star or any known source of light and power in our physical world. Revelation describes the face of Jesus as shining like the sun in full strength (1:16).
Light is a common symbol in the Bible for truth as opposed to ignorance and error. "Enlightenment" means true understanding and comprehension in the inner man. It was Jesus who declared, to the consternation if his enemies, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12). So in some way there is a connection in scripture between spiritual light and life itself! The New Testament furthermore insists that the man Christ Jesus is the exact visible expression of God the invisible. It is by knowing Jesus that we who once were "sons of darkness" become "sons of light." Unlike Moses we are invited to look full into the face of Jesus: "...we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, all this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Cointhians 3:18).
God, were his Light unveiled, would fill and flood the entire universe with His presence to such a degree that there could be no ordinary night time anywhere. Therefore the spiritual world where He dwells, surrounding us on all sides, a world in which the material creation is embedded, is not only more solid than our world, it is also brighter--it is full of light in fact. Living as we do at present in a world still relatively dark, we await the coming of the Dawn.
1. Gravitons are assumed to be on the order of a Planck length in size, L* = (hG/c3)0.5 = 1.6 x 10-33 cm. In current thinking on the nature of the vacuum, space has a granular structure aad is composed of particles emerging from and vanishing back into the background sea of Zero Point Energy. The "Planck density" of these particles is at the present time about 4 x 1093 gms per cubic centimeter, incredibly greater than known particle densities encountered in the atomic nucleus which do not exceed 1014 g/cm3, or water which is only 1 g/cm3. As we noted in an earlier article, the Planck density would have been smaller still in the early history of the universe assuming a decreasing velocity of light over time. A good discussion of these issues is Barry Setterfield's work based on the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) explain gravity without resorting the any particles. The Light Papers, Creation Papers, and Absolute Geocentricity may be of interest.
2. I have tried to clarify the events of creation week in my current thinking in my article "The Uniqueness of Creation Week."
2. S. R. Filonovich, The Greatest Speed, 1983, Mir Publishers, 2 Pervy Rizhsky Pereulok, 1-110 GSP, Moscow, 129820. A good discussion of the physics of light at an elementary level.
3. Sobil, Michael L., Light, 1987, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
4. Bova, Ben, The Beauty of Light, 1988, John Wiley and Sons, New York.
6. Professor of Physics Keith Wanser offers the following insightful comments on the nature of light.
I would not be surprised if indeed a combination of much, much higher speed of light, gravitational time dilation, as well as light in transit are all involved in the answer to the starlight and time problem.
As has been pointed out [by others], appearance of age is all over Creation ex Nihilo. There is no deception, since God has clearly pointed out that he has created all things in 6 days. The deception argument is only for those who do not believe what God has plainly told us. One could say that there were false histories of events in sand grains, waterfalls, shorelines of rivers, mature animals, plants, trees, and insects, all only no more than 6 days old when Adam first saw them, and clearly not old enough for their "inferred age" or "inferred history" for quite a while thereafter. One must ask if there was a "false history" associated with everything that is Creation ex Nihilo. (What did the seashells look like? Were their growth striations on the shells which would suggest a false history?). I'm sure a lot of you could come up with many more examples of created things that would suggest "false" histories, so I don't see anything particularly unique about coding the inferred historical information on starlight. That does not mean I believe that, I simply do not know, but I do not reject the encoded starlight argument at this time, it is just lower on my list of possibilities.
God does not need atomic absorbers or emitters to produce light, I hope that is clear. In fact, one could have light before atoms, it is kind of like the chicken and the egg problem. Suggest that you folks do a study of how light appears in the bible to help "illuminate" this problem. Light occurs 272 times in the bible in 235 verses. 95 times in 76 verses in the New Testament. Here are a few of them, read on intrepid reader.
Interesting that the first time in the bible that God is recorded to speak He says "let there be light" or "there will be light". Note that Jesus shines brighter than the sun (see below).
What do you think was burning when God led the Israelites with a pillar of fire by night? Do people think that this light emanated from excited atoms (it could have, but then you better provide a mechanism for how if you want a naturalistic explanation!)
(Exodus 13:21 KJV) And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night...
And what about the light from the burning bush that was not consumed? What kind of burning process was this? (if there were excited atoms producing light, there would have been a whole lot of heat from them, thus causing chemical reactions which produce carbonization. Perhaps a violation of the second law and an example of how God can sustain things that apparently are impossible in the present natural order of things?)
(Exodus 3:2 KJV) And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
(Exodus 3:3 KJV) And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
(Exodus 3:4 KJV) And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
(Psalm 36:9 KJV) For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
(Psalm 104:1 KJV) Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
(Psalm 104:2 KJV) Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
(Isaiah 45:7 KJV) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
(Isaiah 60:19 KJV) The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
(Isaiah 60:20 KJV) Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
(Matthew 17:1 KJV) And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
(Matthew 17:2 KJV) And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
(Acts 26:13 KJV) At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
(Acts 26:14 KJV) And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
(Acts 26:15 KJV) And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(Revelation 21:23 KJV) And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
(Revelation 22:5 KJV) And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
You have to read the ending to understand the beginning of the book. Science is fine as far as it goes. Scripture must remain supreme when we are trying to understand things.
Do we really think that atomic absorbers or emitters are necessary to "explain" the following appearance of fire and rainbow colors? Frankly I think the bible is telling us that light is more fundamental than matter. This leads one to the concept of fields only approaches to mass and matter.
(Ezekiel 1:27 KJV) And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
(Ezekiel 1:28 KJV) As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
(3/6/03, by permission)
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