The Solar System
Long before we had skyscrapers and city lights, casual observers would see a curtain of lights filling the night sky. Some of these lights appeared to brighter, larger, and move slowly across the sky--out of sync with the natural spin of the rest of the stars. Ancient Greeks named these planetai, or wanderers. With advancements in technology and scientific discovery, we recognize that these wandering stars are not stars at all but planets in our Solar System--each with its own path and its own glory.
There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (1 Corinthians 15:40-41)
Astronomers over the ages uncovered many mysteries about the five original wanderers (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and their even more distant sisters, Uranus and Neptune. Johannes Kepler proposed that these wanderers were not wandering at all but each following a predictable elliptical path around the Sun--each with a different speed and rotation. Some of these wanderers entertained their own host of moons and rings as they made their journey around the Sun.
In light of the journey we are on to consider the Solar System as parts that work together in harmony, you might even consider each planets' orbital path as the steps they follow in a celestial dance around the Sun--a form of worship around the central Light of the World. Psalm 84:11 describes the God of the Bible as a Sun, bestowing favor and honor--blessing those who place their trust in Him.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah! ... For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:4, 10-12)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)
As God breathed out those powerful words, "let there be …." The universe was created
- Space was set apart to hold all of creation
- Time was initiated, marked by God's words themselves
- Matter began to fill the universe
- Potential and kinetic energy rippled through the universe
Telescopes around the world and outside our atmosphere transformed our understanding of the small, sometimes twinkling objects that appeared to fill our night sky. Scientists started cataloging and classifying clusters of stars, planets and moons as galaxies and the clouds of ionized hydrogen and dust in between as special nebulae.
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth
their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might
and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26).
Through sampling and mathematical models, astronomers and physicists have estimated there are approximately 200 septillion (that's 24 additional zeros) stars organized into 125 billion galaxies. Our Milky Way galaxy alone has approximately 20,000 nebulae, only 3,500 of which have been named and measured. Not one goes unnoticed or unnamed by the God who placed them in the heavens.
The Universe spans an almost unfathomable distance from one end to another, yet in Christ, the universe is held together ... And [Christ Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)
The amazing and intricate world around inspires our curiosity, drawing out both questions and a hunger for answers. Science offers both (1) a systematic process of exploring the world around us and (2) a growing and changing repository of shared discoveries we build on and have the opportunity to contribute to.
We started our adventure together by making and sharing our observations of the moving parts on three different LEGO models. Each model had several moving parts with visible mechanisms and others with hidden mechanisms. Some of the mechanisms involved gears that were interconnected making certain movements synchronized. Recognizing that God designed the world in such a way that its parts work together in systems, we discussed the potential learning benefits of starting our exploration of the world by identifying parts of systems and then exploring how those parts worked together.
The next activity used loose Lego pieces to learn more about how we may not all organize our observations the same way. God tasked Adam with naming all the creatures He had made. Whether they acknowledge God or not, scientists continue this God-given task of naming and organizing observable parts of the world around us into groups based on shared characteristics. This classification, or grouping process creates taxonomies--an important part of the scientific endeavor.
We discovered that there were many different taxonomies we could use to organize our pieces and that it really hinged on what pieces we had in our specific collection. We also recognized that although each student pair came up with a different process for organizing their pieces, no one taxonomy was better or worse than the other. Another learning opportunity came through experiencing the real-world challenge of what to do with pieces that either (1) do not fit into our existing taxonomy or (2) fit in multiple categories.
Dr. Kenneth Fleming leads this class in the Route 104 Science Airstream on Monday mornings.