In order to keep my head from exploding, 1.1

Ok, I'm just warning you that this may become a fairly regular feature if I am to prevent my head from exploding. Last night I happened upon a website called 'Accuracyingenesis'. One of the features of this site was a very detailed presentation of the 'science' behind Noah's flood including a couple of theories(?) as to how it happened. The words sort of sounded like science (at least to someone with no appreciation for it) but they were only sprinkled around as garnish for what appeared to be an enormous steaming pile of, well, illogical conclusions. I know - insomnia stinks. Too bad Clif isn't around to check my numbers... But thanks to GHE for reminding me to multiply by 4/3 for the volume of a sphere (DOOH!)

One of these hypotheses put forward was that the earth was struck by a number of comets which delivered the requisite water to earth, hence the flood. YGFKM! I had a hard time getting back to sleep knowing that I lived in a country where people can propagate this kind of thing (and worse, be believed!) so I started to work out a some calculations based upon fairly simple (albeit large numbers) math and high school science. So how big would the SNoah ball have to be?

Ok then. The Bible claims that the entire earth was covered in water. So how much water is that? A simple approximation can be calculated .

Assuming the world is only 6000 or so years old then it stands to reason that Mount Everest was pretty much as we find it today, give or take. To cover all the land on earth requires enough water to raise sea level another 8848 meters (height of Everest). Should we throw in 3 extra meters just to prevent anyone from standing on their tippy toes? You have to be sure everyone drowns don't we? Naw, that variable will get swallowed in significant digit rounding errors anyway.

Next, we need to calculate the volume of the earth at sea level. Now I will use the diameter at the poles not the equator. I know what you are thinking – that underestimates the volume a bit because the earth is bulged at the equator. Have no fear. I chose the smaller number because then I can discount the variable volume caused by topography and still have a conservative estimate.
  • Diameter of the earth at the poles ~ 12,715.43 km so the radius ~ 6378 km.
  • The volume of a sphere is 4/3 (thanks GHE for the reminder!) Pi(r3) or in this case 3.14159 (6378)3 ~ 1,086,780,374,578 cubic km. This number will be subtracted from the volume of an earth-sized body covered by an additional 8.8 km of water to determine how much water has to be delivered by this comet(s).
  • Add 8.8 to 6378 and we get ~ 6387 km for a volume of 1,091,387,539,146 cubic km.
Eliminating the volume of the earth pre-flood, we end up with 4,607,164,568 cubic km of water required. DOOH! That seems like a lot of water. So let's put it into some perspective. Dividing this number by 3/4Pi and then taking the cube root you end up with a blob of water roughly 2064 km in diameter or fairly close to the diameter of Pluto (2274 km). That' IS a lot of water! Of course since it would be a ball of ice the diameter would be even greater. All right – there are things that big out there in the Kupfer Belt and Ort cloud so I guess one of them could strike the earth.

But let's see how much protection an ark would need to survive such a thing. Now I know you are saying 'DUDE – the Bible says it rained 40 days and 40 nights so it all didn't have to hit all at once' (a point they make in that website). True, but the amount of total energy delivered stays the same no matter how many individual packets are involved. To be generous let's divide this blob into 80 parts – one for each night and day...

That means that twice a day 57,589,557 cubic km of water struck the earth.

But let's just use the total to make some estimates. To this point the faithful can say that 'yeah, that could have happened'. Maybe. But now we need to calculate what WOULD have been the result of such a collision(s).

There's this little problem with energy conservation that they seem to have ignored... We have to account for the energy transferred to the earth and its atmosphere by way of such a collision.


  • Kinetic energy is determined by 1/2mv2 where m=mass and v=velocity for a point object with no rotational energy. (Let's keep it somewhat simple and ignore rotational forces for now.)
  • A cometary body striking the earth is usually given a velocity around 25 kps (kilometers per SECOND!)

The mass of water is 1000 kg/cubic m. There are 1,000,000,000 cubic meters in a cubic km so we have 1,000,000,000,000 kg of water / cubic km. (see where we are going with this yet?) Multiply this by the amount of water we determined was needed and what do you get?
4.61x10 21st power! kg of water.

That results in 1.44x10 30th power Joules of kinetic energy! That is roughly how much energy would be absorbed by the earth to stop a 2000+km diameter ball of ice. And it has to be to stop it or else the water doesn't fall to earth.

That seems like a lot of energy to get rid of – particularly when you consider that 3.34×10 31st J is how much the sun produces each day and 5.5×10 24th J is how much total solar energy strikes the earth each year! And that the total energy delivered to the earth by the asteroid at the end of the Cretaceous period was at least 10 million times less... I don't care how many cubits the ark was I doubt a wooden boat could weather that storm...

I did these calculations at night so there could be some errors but I think it's pretty close - now at least ;).

That isn't the end of our problems - how do you mop up all that extra water when you are sure everyone is dead? AHA! Tricked ya because all that energy would have flashed the water to steam and exploded out into space leaving a surface of molten rock! Oh, that might not bode well for poor old Noah and clan...


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks to GearHeadEd for reminding me to not do math when I am sleepy! I have revised this posting with a correction for the volume of a sphere.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3 4/3Pi(r)3

Asylum Seeker said...

Really? They really are willing to say that the water for the flood arrived in the form of a bunch of quasi-meteors? What these people will not come up to try to make it seem like Noah's Ark makes sense. I guess it is one of the weak points of their mythology, however, so it is understandable why these people would feel compelled to make nonsensical accounts that disregard practicality, legitimate science, and even other portions of the Noah's Ark story (on some occasions) for the sole purpose of saving face.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Yes they did - And that was the most logical thing I found on the site! I wish they would admit that they just don't care about the last 1700 years of progress and will just refuse to believe any of it. It would be a lot less hypocritical.

Harvey said...


WHereas one might expect a high school dropout to see that the "theory" that meteor strikes could account for the necessary volume of water in the Flood is blown out of the water (pun intended) by your calculations, it is surprising that you would expect this to make the slightest difference to the fundamentalist "believers" who propounded it in the first place. As you and most of the other reasonably open minded bloggers have repeatedly pointed out, they don't want to be bothered with reality or facts; They choose to believe, and that's all they want or need. My take on a web site like this is that the backdoor attempt to get "creation science" into public education has raised enough serious objections from everyone else (even the majority of mainstream believers, I daresay) that they have no choice but to try to find historical and/or quasiscientific support.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks for your comments Harvey. I agree with your points. Like you say, I don't expect the people who create those kinds of sites to waver one bit. The only thing I can do (and others as well) is to point out its absurdity so that when they try to push these agendas that the veil can be very quickly lifted from everyone else's eyes and not a lot of time need be wasted. This is particularly true with the tendency to push for 'fairness' in being heard. Personally I think we've given this mouse way too may cookies already as far as the fundamentalist impact on public education is concerned.

A question for you based upon one comment you made. Do you think that fundamentalist beliefs make up a significant part of American Christianity or just a vocal minority?

pboyfloyd said...

In the BEGINNING there was the WORD.

Words are spells, spells are magic, words come from minds, minds are spirits.

"... and then I said the magic words.. Immanuel Velikovsky.. and THAT shut him up!"

(Indeed, 'he' was stunned into silence by the sheer force of the ignorance revealed!)

Real example:-

My sister's boyfriend came for supper. The conversation turns to 'how smart am I?'.

So, naturally, he quizes me, "What's H twenty?"

"H twenty? That would be twenty atoms of hydrogen? (thinking)Is this a trick question?"

"NO!", he exclaims triumphantly, "It's WATER!"

I am stunned into silence by the sheer force of his ignorance!

Back to my point...

Guys like Dinesh D'Souza do exactly the same thing, but their wordmagic is more subtle.

"Imagine God sitting at a bunch of scientific dials fine-tuning the universe for 'life'!"

Now, once again, in the BEGINNING was the 'word' and all that the 'word' needs to do is to persuade you of the 'possibility' of God.

Hey, if that is not 'magical' enough for you then comes 'old reliable', no-one can PROVE that something doesn't exist, somewhere, somewhere that's not even in the universe!

Magical game, magical set, and .. magical MATCH!

Harvey said...

"Do you think that fundamentalist beliefs make up a significant part of American Christianity or just a vocal minority?"

Even though I am a Jewish (by birth and upbringing) agnostic, most of my dearest friends and my beloved wife of now more than 28 years (second marriage) are Christians. A few of them are actually "born again". Even these people, who miss no opportuntity to try to "save" me from my impending damnation, generally agree that forcing religious beliefs, no matter how "true" they may be, into public education is neither a good thing nor very "Christian", for that matter.
This is clearly a small and probably skewed sampling, but it gives me hope that the basic fairness and cooperative mentality that has many times manifested itself in American poltics is still prevalent. I am also heartened in this by the realization that real rancor and "off the wall" politics almost always comes from the 10% at either extreme. I must admit, however, that when I occasionally hear about Pastors of ultra-right wing, fundamentalist mega Churches urging God to "watch out for Your reputation" by supporting one or another side in poltics, it shakes my confidence in all of the above statements.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks for the feedback Harvey. Part of my question is based on similar experiences growing up. The Christians I knew were good and ethical people and pretty much kept their relationship to God to themselves. I keep wondering where all the moderates are but I guess their silence is part of their moderation. Now if we could just get Dobson to focus on his family and leave the rest of us alone ;)

Asylum Seeker said...

lol at "H-twenty". How old was that guy, anyway?

As for the issue of determining exactly how representative fundamentalist loons are of the credulous masses, all I can say is that it is very common issue for those of who take it upon ourselves to scream into a pillow about their idiocy. I am not really sure what the final verdict is on the exact portion of our society that is fully and irrevocably brainwashed beyond sanity, but all I know is that 1% is too much.

pboyfloyd said...

Yea Seeker that was a long time ago. 'Thank Christ! My sister didn't marry him!

Here's another one I'll never forget, this guy, good enough aquaintence to say hi to passing on the street decided to 'show off' what he knew.

He asks me if I know what..

trini- (as in trinity)

... was.


"Aha", he says, "It's explosives!"

AAAh! Trinitrotoluene, TNT!

Oh, well, at least he was try(nitro-toluene)ing.

I'd like to have heard his rendition of deoxyribonucleic acid!

..or deoxyribonukulic acid as Bush et al might say?

Asylum Seeker said...

So...and this is just a hunch...did he spend his free time reading wikipedia articles pertinent to chemistry, just so that he could spring his mispronounced gotcha-questions on you later? He would be interesting to play Trivial pursuit with...

GearHedEd said...

A most humble and belated "You're Welcome, Pliny...


pboyfloyd said...

I don't know, Seeker, I guess these guys were 'trying' at least.

I think that this post has more to do with willful ignorance than some guy mispronouncing a chemical name, accidentally 'showing off' his complete ignorance of chemistry.

But everyone starts off completely ignorant and I am the first to admit that I'm not necessarilly 'the sharpest pencil in the box' myself.

On the other hand, I wonder if the people imagining Pliny's Snoah ball(as a bona fide explanation) are that ignorant and simply spreading their ignorance or if they are being deliberately deceitful.

Seems to me that their deceit becomes deliberate when enough people have read the article and deliberately NOT mentioned that this 'work around' just doesn't 'compute'.

Did the article mention where the water was supposed to have gone, Pliny?

If GOD was supposed to just have miraculously 'disappeared' it, there doesn't seem much point in introducing the giant ice-ball in the first place, except for some 'quasi-sciencification'.

GearHedEd said...

It's hard to imagine, but there are people out there as stupid as that. I met several in the army. There was one guy who told me that Noah's flood was (this was about 15 years ago, and I didn't understand it then) caused by God releasing (applying? breaking?) the "firmament of heaven" against the earth.
I stood there with the classic "WTF?" expression on my grille, but was too amazed at the depths of this guy's dumbness to get into an argument with him.
There was another guy I remember who I did let myself get suckered into an argument with. He told me that there was air on the moon, otherwise there wouldn't have been anything for the rocket motors to push against when the lunar modules re-ascended to the command module in orbit. I tried to explain Newton's laws to him, but he was WAAAAAY too dense.

GearHedEd said...

Incidentally, I think both of those guys were from Tennessee...

Pliny-the-in-Between said...


No they neglected that part about the fate of the water - I created a picture for how it might have been removed but decided to be nice for a change ;)

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

To be honest I don't know who is right about what these people want to accomplish. Maybe they are like us - using these forums to prove to ourselves that we either aren't crazy or at least aren't the only ones with similar afflictions

Or they are trying to bolster their own faith using quasi-scientific approaches.

Or they are deceitful.

I don't know. All I know is that they are off base with the Snoah ball.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

The air on the moon comment reminds me of the story of Robert Goddard, the shy American rocket genius, who largely left the public arena when the NY Times blasted his theories by railing on the fact that there was nothing in space for his rockets to push against. They finally did apologize to him - in 1969. He died in 1945. He was years ahead of anyone including the Germans at that time.

pboyfloyd said...

What am I thinking! The clouds disappeared, the Sun came out and the water evaporated!

You know, up to Heaven.

See(wisely), you can't see 'air' but,(knowingly) you know it's there!

Think about it.

(Fanning lips with finger) Blubibi-blubibi-blubibi-blub.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Man the humidity up there must be awful...

mac said...

Well, they had beer, didn't they?
Maybe they all went at once?

I often wonder about all the other problems with that boat.
Size...the description is of a fairly big boat, but nothing compared to todays super ships. None of which could support two representatives of every species on the planet.
Food..What did all those critters eat?
The rest of the planet...After submersion in water for that long, how did plant life survive?
incest....who repopulated the earth. I don't think the gene pool was deep enough. Maybe that's why everybody believed this crap...they were inbred !

b_sharp said...

Sorry Pliny but you're starting with the wrong presupposition. According to good old fruitcake Walt Brown,
the Earth was rather flat and featureless when all this happened so the depth of water needed to cover it was much less. After the rain and spewing from the 'fountains' settled down, the tectonic plates moved really fast into current position creating the mountains we now see along with the great oceanic depths. The water didn't need to go anywhere, its still here. He calls it his "Hydroplate Theory" although it has never gone beyond hypothesis.
(I got here from SensuousCurmudgeon)

mac said...

I know it's really late but....

sort of related :-)