Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let there be light!

ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי־אור

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Genesis 1:3-5 KJVA

The first chapter of the Bible is amazing.

There is nothing comparable to it among the highest civilizations in the ancient Near East. We may read with great interest about Enuma Elish and Marduk and Kheper and that primeval mount and other first things that filled the ancients hearts with awe.

Why on earth would the P source replace the J source and the mighty contemporary battle between God and the forces of Chaos with these naturalistic seven days of creation and start everything with the creation of light? Well before Sun and Moon were created on the fourth day of creation?

I dunno.

But what I do know is that according to our contemporary view of the origins of the universe first there was light.

Initially, for a fraction of our second, a tiny dot and then such brilliant light that we still see it all around us in the space as cosmic microwave radiation and infra-red glow.

Light is all around us and it is a good thing because without it there would be just darkness.

We take it for granted and may switch our electric lamps or candles on and off without much ado.

But what is light, the first thing God has created with his mighty Word?


Well. Most of us know that it is a really speedy thing, if possible even faster than Speedy Gonzales.

Wikipedia tells us all that the French physicist Armand Hippolyte Louis Fizeau (1819-1896) wanted to see how speedy.

In 1849 he set up a big mirror several kilometres away from where he was. He then aimed a beam of sunlight at this mirror. On the path of light to the distant mirror and back he placed a rotating cog wheel. He experimented with different rotating speeds and found out at which rate of rotation the beam would pass through one gap in the wheel on the way out and the next gap on the way back. Knowing the distance to the mirror, the number of teeth on the wheel, and the rate of rotation, Fizeau was able to calculate the speed of light as 313,000,000 m/s.

Not bad for a wheel with cogs. Today the estimate is 299,792,458 m/s.

So it takes Speedy Light about a second plus to reach us from the Moon. Light travels eight minutes plus to reach us from the Sun. It takes the whopping four and half years for Speedy Light to reach us from the nearest star Alpha Centaur. And something like two and half million years to reach us from the nearest galaxy Andromeda.

Light travels a lot!

But what it is?

Well, it took some of the best brains humanity has seen to figure it out and still we are kind of thinking what this thing is, light.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Yes, it was that Jewish guy born in Ulm, Germany, of all the places, who put one plus one. He told us that on one hand light is indeed waves as Christiaan Huygens and others had said. But on the other hand it is also made of particles, as Sir Isaac Newton and others had said. It is electromagnetism like Michael Faraday and James C. Maxwell had said. It is quantum like Max Planck had said.

Einstein said that all these guys had something right about light. It is all this in wave-particle duality: sometimes Speedy Light thinks it is like waves in water that pass obstacles by splashing around the corners and sometimes it thinks it is a rifle bullet, a particle called a photon. Wave and particle in the same time - duality, two natures.

Does that sound simple to you?

Me neither.

Does the basic building stone of the universe sound simple to you?

The same guy who said something very amazing with just four symbols E = mc2

There is no more famous equation than this. And as you know, c in this equation is the speed of light.

Albert was a very smart guy even if he did not finish his high school (or maybe because of it).

Light is not a simple thing.

It is an amazing creation.

The first thing God made.

Jesus Christ - God from God, Light from Light,
by whom all things were made

Nicene Creed

But there is also different kind of light that God has not created. It is born from God.

It is a matter of faith, not a scientific thing. The Nicene confession of faith says:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

Jesus Christ is Light of Light and the first thing created, physical light, was also made by Him.

"And God said" - Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1-5 KJVA

Here we are reaching a realm where our rational thinking starts to give way to songs of praise and prayer in the presence of the One, Holy Trinity.

And so we can start to listen to music composed in the words of the Bible, the majestic opening of Joseph Haydn's oratorio Creation. Leonid Bernstein once described the opening Chaos as one of the most awesome pieces of music ever written.

It is followed by the mighty musical Big Bang "Let there be light!"

During the first performance of oratorio Creation Haydn with his sense of humor was very happy how startled the audience was by the sudden Bang in forte fortissimo. It made the great composer smile when the ladies on the front seas dropped their hats from the surprise shock.

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