Saturday, April 13, 2002
On the Bible as a source for scientific speculation
One of my favourite bits from A Random Walk in Science (RL Weber, ed), who has taken it in turn from Applied Optics 11, A14 (1972).
According to Isiah 30:26. "Moreover the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days." Plugging that into the Stefan-Boltzmann fourth power law for radiation the temperature of Heaven is 525 C.
According to Revelations 21:8. "But the fearful and unbelieving ... shall have their lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." Brimstone is sulfur; sulfur changes from a liquid to a gas at 444.6 C, thereby putting an upper bound on the temperature of Hell as 444.6 C.
In other words, Heaven is hotter than Hell.

On the other hand, I was again struck while visiting the Lincoln monument down in Washington, reading the text of Lincoln's speech on the walls, at what a wonderful literary model the Bible was. (The King James Version, of course, not those modern travesties - although I suspect the King James Version's contemporaries reacted even more vehemently to IT*). Whole generations got those rolling cadences and phrasings in their ears, including Lincoln, and the writer of a 50-year-old classic on kidney evolution From Fish to Philosopher, Homer W. Smith, which to my delight I found still on the shelves of the Victoria Public Library. There is a section I will quote when I come across it again, talking about evolution, which simply reverberates with "begats".

*I am partial to the King James Version, since it was done under the patronage and possibly with the contribution of that canny old survivor of the ill-omened Stuarts, James I of Scotland and VI of England. I am partial to canny old survivors, having no patience with the romance of youth struck down in its folly. Give me Katherine Hepburn over Marilyn Monroe, James Mason over Jimmy Dean.

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