May 31, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

The Gravity of the Situation Confounds Physicists

The Mystery of Gravity Deepens:
Does God Hold all Things Together?

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Gravity is the most familiar force acting on us, and also one of the most mysterious. Gravity is the weakest force in the universe but has, by far, the longest range. It firmly holds down atmospheric air on the Earth, yet is weak enough that healthy humans can overcome it to  jump a few feet upward. It holds the Earth in its orbit around the Sun and even holds the distant dwarf planet Pluto in its orbit, as well as comets and KBOs even farther away. Pluto weighs 1.303 x1022 kg (about 2.87×1022 lbs.),  is 5.91 billion km (3.67 billion mi.) from the Sun, and travels 4.743 km/s (>10,600 mph) in its orbit around the Sun, yet is held firmly in its orbit. The strength of gravity is measured by the acceleration of objects towards each other.

On Earth, the gravitational pull is 9.807 m/s2 (32.18 ft./s2). The four fundamental forces accepted by quantum physics are the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity.

These forces are all action-at-a-distance forces. They act even when the two interacting objects are not in physical contact with each other, yet are able to exert a push or pull despite their distance apart. The best examples of action-at-a-distance forces include not only gravitational forces but also the strong nuclear force and electromagnetism.

The Law of Universal Gravitation

All mass in the universe is subject to gravity; the greater the mass, the greater the gravitational pull. Nothing can stop the force of gravity. If I placed a thick lead shield between a person and the Earth, they would still feel the force of gravity. Likewise, if I placed a large mattress-sized container enclosing a vacuum between them and the Earth, they would still feel the force of gravity. The force goes through thick lead or a total vacuum as if either was not there.

All this has been well known since Isaac Newton, but we may not have the full story. According to reporter Jacinta Bowler at Science Alert on May 23, some physicists have revived a previously debunked alternative theory of gravity.[1] New research pertaining to the ultra-diffuse dwarf galaxy AGC 114905 located around 250 million light years away from us has raised new questions about how galaxies move. Bowler accepts the common belief that dark matter explains the way spiral galaxies can rotate faster than expected, but dark matter alone doesn’t solve the rotation curve for the ultra-diffuse dwarf galaxy AGC 114905. This is making cosmologists reconsider other theories such as

Modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) or Milgromian dynamics framework. This hypothesis – first published in 1983 by physicist Mordehai Milgrom – suggests that we don’t need dark matter to fill in the Universe’s gravity gaps, if we calculate the gravitational forces experienced by stars in outer galactic regions in a different manner to how Newtonian laws suggest.[2]

Dark matter theory doesn’t explain all galaxy motions. Some ultra-diffuse galaxies appear to be constructed almost entirely of dark matter, but others appear to be almost completely devoid of it. An paper by Mancera et al. posted this May in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society states that dark matter is not required. Ordinary “baryonic” matter suffices:

Our kinematic parameters, recovered with a robust 3D kinematic modelling fitting technique, show that the flat part of the rotation curve is reached. Intriguingly, the rotation curve can be explained almost entirely by the baryonic mass distribution alone…. The observed circular speed profile of our UDG [ultra-diffuse galaxies] can be explained almost entirely by the contribution of the baryons alone, with little room for dark matter within our observed outermost radius.[3]

The astronomers came to their conclusion after evaluating the galaxy’s spin. It was found to be

extremely slow – slow enough that not only did they not need dark matter to confirm the models, but the rotation curve of the galaxy also cast huge doubt on the MOND framework. It doesn’t fit with either hypothesis. … The very low reported rotation speed of this galaxy is inconsistent with both MOND and the standard approach with dark matter.[4]

So is it MOND, or is it dark matter? The solution may involve our perception of the angle of inclination of the galaxy itself. When researching galaxies long distances away in space, it can be difficult to confirm the object’s angle of inclination. The original team found that AGC 114905 looked elliptical, indicating that we are viewing the galaxy from an angle. But researchers now reason that the galaxy could appear elliptical even when it’s facing us straight on. A change in the angle of the galaxy would also change how fast the galaxy is rotating, indicating that the MOND calculations still would add up.

Summary

We still have much to learn about the universe, such as how the four forces hold the universe together.[5] Cosmologists may eventually solve the mystery of AGC 114905 and other ultra-diffuse galaxies, but so far no one has been able to solve what Einstein called ‘action at a distance.’ Despite the enormous increase in our understanding of the universe over the past few centuries, it is ironic that even basic forces, such as gravity, are still mysterious. One view advocated by some Christians (which I learned about from Michigan State University professor John Moore)  incorporates Colossians 1:15-17 which says

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first-born [prototokos] of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities [these words in Greek refer to the hierarchical angelic powers]: all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

A Biblical Perspective

“The Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1). We are merely stewards.
Illustration courtesy Santa Clarita Magazine

Physicist Lambert Dolphin wrote that one of the key words in the Colossians passage above (“…and in Christ all things hold together”) is the Greek word sunistemi which means “to cohere.” He adds

This passage can be applied to the structure of the atom, for example. The nucleus of every atom is held together by what physicists call “weak” and “strong” forces. [Physicists today are familiar with four basic forces in the natural world: gravity and electrical forces, plus a “strong” and a “weak” nuclear force. The first two forces decrease in strength inversely with the square of the distance between two objects; the latter two forces act only at very short ranges.]

The nucleus of the atom contains positively charged and neutral particles – to use a simplistic model. Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the “strong force” which binds the nucleus together.

There is thus an active force imposed on the universe, which actively holds the very atoms of the material world together moment by moment, day by day, century by century. Similarly, accelerated electrons circling the nucleus should quickly radiate all their energy away and fall into the nucleus unless there exists an invisible energy source to counteract this.[6]

This possibility is one answer to the problem of how gravity works and, until a better one is proposed, is in many ways the best answer we have.

References

[1] Bowler, Jacinta, In a wild twist, physicists have revived an alternative theory of gravity, ScienceAlert, 23 May 2022.

[2] Bowler, 2022.

[3] Piña, Pavel E. Mancera et al., No need for dark matter: Resolved kinematics of the ultra-diffuse galaxy AGC 114905, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 512(3):3230-3242,  https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/512/3/3230/6461100?login=false, May 2022.

[4] Bowler, 2022.

[5] Some classical atomic models reject the notion of the neutron being a fundamental particle. It is interpreted instead as merely a proton-electron pair held together by mutual electrostatic attraction without the need for an alleged “strong nuclear force.”

[6] Dolphin, Lambert, What Holds the Universe Together?, Koinonia House (Physics and the Bible), https://www.khouse.org/articles/1997/60/, 1 January 1997.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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  • Just a personal side note that may be interesting. Centuries ago (maybe 1977), I showed my father a booklet I purchased at a Christian bookstore in Lansing, MI. It was “Should Evolution be Taught?” by Dr. John N. Moore. My father said that as a student, he had run-ins with Dr. Moore because my father rejected evolution. He was surprised to find out that Dr. Moore was a creationist. (I later learned Moore was important in the Creation Research Society.) Unfortunately, Moore dropped off the radar. My father became a United Methodist Pastor for over 50 years and had some liberal views (I think his Schofield Reference Bible helped corrupt him into the “Gap Theory”). By God’s grace and leading, I became a biblical creationist, something for which I am not ashamed.

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