I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

Feel free to comment, to offer your perspective, or to give suggestions for subjects.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Water - The Elixir of Life

Remember your first Biology lab? The professor had you get a few drops of water from the fish tank and put it under the microscope. What did you see? I remember seeing a lot more than I bargained for! Thinking the water was just that, water, I was surprised to see so much life. There were many small, single celled animals swimming in that brew. It was amazing. The one I remember studying the most was the Protozoa, in particular the Paramecium. It looked like a small oval filled with specks of dust and dirt and surrounded by tiny hairs that helped it move through the water like so many oars on a Viking Ship. Could these tiny drops of life live without water? We know they cannot. Water is the medium of life, the substance in which an organism naturally lives and grows. It constitutes over 70% of our body mass.

Water has many distinct properties that set it apart from other substances and make it critical for life. The chemical reactions in our bodies need a fluid to allow for the movement of large protein molecules into position to react, to fold and unfold, to bring in substrates and take away waste. These reactions use the hydrogen bonds of water to dock the substrates into position for these enzymes to do their thing. All known forms of life depend on water. It is vital both as a solvent in which the body's chemicals dissolve and as an essential part of metabolism within the body. Water allows organic compounds to react in ways that result in the replication of these molecules and the formation of new ones. Water is both removed from molecules in order to grow larger molecules and used to break bonds to generate smaller molecules. The hydration of all sorts of molecules, large and small, is required to make life happen. Without water, these metabolic processes could not exist, with no known processes available to take their place.

To function properly, the human body requires water daily to avoid dehydration; the precise amount depends on the temperature, humidity, and your personal level of activity. Most of this needed water is ingested through foods or beverages other than drinking pure water. About 20 percent of our water intake comes from food, while the rest comes from drinking water and other beverages, including caffeinated ones. Water is excreted from the body through urine and feces, through sweating, and by exhalation of water vapor from the lungs. With physical exertion and heat exposure, water loss will increase and daily fluid needs can increase.

Medical science favors an average daily consumption of approximately one liter of water, excluding extra water needed to replace fluids lost from exercise or warm weather. If your kidneys are healthy, it is difficult to drink too much water, but it is possible and dangerous to drink too little. You can drink far more water than necessary while exercising, however, risking water intoxication which is potentially fatal. The "fact" that a person should consume eight glasses of water per day has no scientific basis. Other myths, such as the effect of water on weight loss and constipation, have also been debunked.

In plants, the capillary action of water draws it to the top of the tallest trees. In most forms of plant life, photosynthetic cells use the sun's energy to split off a hydrogen from water. This hydrogen is then combined with carbon dioxide (CO2) to form glucose and the reaction releases oxygen back into the air. All living cells then use this glucose, oxidizing the hydrogen and carbon, releasing energy and reforming water and CO2 in the process. In this way water is integral to the balancing of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In the ocean, water supports all forms of life, from the smallest plankton to the massive blue whale. The transmission of light through the water allows photosynthesis in shallow reefs, while the air dissolved in the water provides oxygen for the fish. Water's high heat capacity also helps to maintain a consistent temperature, both in the water and in the atmosphere above it, making it possible for marine life to flourish.

Copyright (c) 2004
Richard Ling

Water is essential to all living things. Without it, life as we know it could not exist on earth. It is truly one of the most amazing molecules in God's Chemistry Set.

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)"

Friday, August 26, 2011

As Cold as Ice - A Floating Anomaly

Ever curious why ice floats? Or what would happen if it didn't? Ever think what if water wasn't transparent? Or if it didn't form raindrops? Or if you couldn't boil it in a pot on the stove? Some of the things we take for granted about water are the same things that make it different from almost every other substance on Earth or in the Universe. And if water wasn't different, we might not exist. Water is so unique that it has even been used in science to define temperatures and weights.

It is no coincidence that water freezes at 0oC (Celsius or Centigrade - 32o Fahrenheit) and boils at 100oC (212oF). That's because these temperatures were set as reference points up until 1954 when more precise measurements defined them more accurately. In 1742, Anders Celsius took his thermometer and put it into freezing water and labeled it 100oC and did the same with boiling water and called it 0oC. In 1744, when Anders died, Carolus Linnaeus reversed the scale to be like it is today, with water freezing at 0oC. Just 51 years later, in 1795, one gram (gm) was defined as equal to one cubic centimeter of water (cc or milliliter - ml).

So going back to our original question, what is it that makes water so different? If we had to boil it down to just one thing, it would be hydrogen bonds. These weak bonds between a hydrogen atom in one water molecule and an oxygen atom in another are what raise the melting point of solid water, help make ice float and create the surface tension to form a raindrop or pull water up a Giant Sequoia.

So how do hydrogen bonds create these unusual properties of water? First lets look at why ice floats. In liquid water the hydrogen bonds form randomly between water molecules, producing a free form molecular mix. The individual water molecules can fit together very closely in this free form state, much like a bowl of random jellybeans. But as the water freezes the hydrogen bonds and the unique bend of the water molecule (see the Chemistry of Water) cause the individual molecules to line up in hexagonal groupings, looking like a beehive, with much more space between them. This results in solid water at 0oC being less compact than liquid water at 4oC, the temperature where water is most dense. This beehive arrangement is also why no two snowflakes are ever the same. As water freezes, the hexagon crystals join in an unlimited number of ways to create the snowflakes kaleidoscopic designs.

Since ice, or solid water, has a lower density than the liquid around it, the ice floats to the surface. And thank goodness for that! If ice sank, the water in many rivers and lakes would freeze solid during the winter, supporting no life. Water on lake bottoms at higher elevations would never thaw. The Water Cycle, which helps support life as we know it, that repeating cycle of snow and rain followed by runoff to the ocean returning again to the mountains in clouds would be significantly decreased or non-existent.

So what about boiling water? Well those same Hydrogen bonds hold water molecules together, raising the boiling point. Most similar compounds have long become gases at this temperature. If you like to cook like I do, think of all of the recipes that depend on hot or boiling water. Just the other day I was steaming up some asparagus in the microwave and cooking some spaghetti in boiling water all the while drinking my ice cold diet Pepsi®. Our sweat works in a similar way, cooling us down as it evaporates due to the high energy (heat) needed to change liquid to gas. It removes heat from our skin as the water "boils away". We see that water exists in all three phases; as solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (steam or water vapor) within the normal temperature range of earth's environment. Few substances on Earth are like this.

Ocean water, with its high heat capacity, is the primary temperature regulator of our environment. It absorbs heat from the sun in the day and releases it at night, keeping temperatures within a livable range all around the World. Without this ability, the temperature at night would drop significantly, possibly to the point where life could not survive.

Hydrogen bonds also make water "sticky." When water sticks to itself it is called cohesion and when it sticks to other molecules it is called adhesion. This stickiness results in two unusual properties of water, surface tension and capillary action. Surface tension is what allows raindrops to form and what keeps the water from spilling over when you fill your glass to the brim. It also allows water bugs to glide on the surface of a lake. Capillary action is the pulling force of the hydrogen bonds that moves water up the roots and stems of plants. As water evaporates out of the leaves, it creates a tension that pulls up the water from within the plant. This force is strong enough to move water to the top of a three hundred foot tall Giant Sequoia.

Pure Water is also transparent to visible light. This property is extremely important to life in lakes, tide pools and the Continental Shelf. Light will penetrate about 50 feet through the water allowing a vast variety of plant and animal life to flourish. Fishing would be tough if this habitable water zone was not possible. We all know that the worst day fishing is better than the best day working!

It is clear that water has many unusual and amazing properties that make it critical for life on this planet. Such a simple molecule plays such a complex role in our lives. We tend to give water little thought, until we're thirsty. Proverbs 25:25 "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." (NIV)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Chemistry of Water

OK, so in my last blog I said Water was an amazing compound. What makes it so amazing? Today I will look at some of the unusual chemical properties of Water.

Chemically Water is H2O. Another chemical name is Hydrogen Oxide. In the Water molecule the Oxygen is more electronegative than the Hydrogen. When the two Hydrogen atoms and the Oxygen atom form the covalent bonds in the Water molecule, the Oxygen side of the molecule has a partial negative charge and the Hydrogen side a partial positive. This is due to the movement of the unmatched electrons in the Oxygen away from the Hydrogen atoms. This contributes to the formation of Hydrogen Bonds. The hydrogen bonds found in Water are the foundation of many of the unique properties that make it a miracle molecule.

Water is the consummate molecule for hydrogen bonds. Each positive Hydrogen atom in one Water molecule creates a hydrogen bond with an Oxygen atom in a different molecule. Each Water molecule can form four hydrogen bonds, one with each Hydrogen atom and two with each Oxygen. Water is exceptionally uncommon when compared to other, similar chemicals formed by the atoms surrounding Oxygen on the periodic chart. Water is a liquid at standard temperature and pressure; other analogous hydrides of the Oxygen family, such as Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) are gases. All basic Hydrogen compounds formed with the elements surrounding Oxygen in the Periodic Table (HF - Hydrofluoric acid, NH3 - Ammonia, and CH4 - Methane) are also gases. This is due to the stronger hydrogen bonds in Water that increase the energy requirements to produce Water Vapor.

The polarity of the Water molecule also makes it exceptionally qualified to be classified as the universal solvent. Almost any molecule with a slightly charged or ionized group can be hydrated by Water. Even large, complex molecules like DNA or proteins can be hydrated. But some things don't mix, like Water and Oil. Oils or fats, as pure hydrocarbons, lack polar groups but fatty acids, a hydrocarbon with a carboxyl group (-COOH), can be dissolved or are at least miscible with water. Using such an emulsifying agent, Water and Oil can be mixed in varying proportions to create creams, lotions and ointments.

This reaction between Water and fatty acids is how soap works. Soap is a salt of a fatty acid. The hydrocarbon chain end of the soap molecule acts to dissolve or emulsify the oils on our skin or in the substances we are washing off. The Water from the showerhead hydrates the ionized carboxyl end of the soap molecule and allows the oils to be washed down the drain.

Stearic Acid, a component of Soap (each bend is a Carbon-Hydrogen group CH2)

Water can react with both acids and bases since it ionizes to a small extent into H+ and OH- ions. The H+ ions are hydrated as H3O+. In chemistry, pH is a measurement of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Values greater then seven are considered basic and values less than seven are acidic. Pure Water has a pH of seven.

The last exceptional property we will look at today is that water exists in all three phases - solid, liquid and gas - at natural ambient temperatures. The Hydrogen bonding in Water contributes significantly to this property but the shape of the water molecule due to the electron shift also plays a part. Water is bent at almost the perfect angle to produce a hexagon or honeycomb when in a solid state.

Next we will look at some of Water's physical properties and why ice floats.

Water was one of the first things God created, even before He said “Let there be Light”. "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2 (NIV)"

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Molecule of Molecules

The other day I was in the shower and just thinking about what substance I should write on next when it hit me in the face, the water that is, and woke me up! Of course, it had to be Water. What an amazing molecule. What other compound, large or small, complex or simple, is more important. Now if you were asked to name the most amazing compound in the World, or maybe even the Universe, you might say DNA or a protein like Insulin, or maybe Plastic, or Gold, or who knows what. But Water is so ubiquitous, so everywhere, so common, that you might not even think about it.

We take Water for granted in most developed countries but in many places the water is not fit to drink. We hear people say when you are going to another country; "Don't drink the Water!". That's because water purity varies from country to country and immunity to what might be in the Water varies as well. But there is more, much more to Water than just for drinking.
photo by: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos (GFDL)

Although drinking water is important to us, Water has many other uses and its properties are studied extensively in numerous scientific fields. Water has key "(insert any term from below)" properties that are unexpected in almost any molecule, except Water of course.

Here are just a few examples:

Chemical - The universal solvent; hydrogen bonding effect
Physical - Ice floats; surface tension
Biological - Capillary action; supporting marine life
Environmental - Global warming; water cycle
Astronomical - A sign of extraterrestrial life?
Medical - Therapeutic healing properties; medication diluent
Recreational - Swimming; boating
Spiritual - The Living Water; Noah and the Flood

I have just listed a few of Water's many properties that make it one of, if not the, most essential molecule we know. Over the course of the next few posts, I hope to tell the full story of the fascinating compound that is Water.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. John 7:38 (NIV)"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Four Big Bangs Part 2

As I said in my last Blog, my favorite radio, 99.5 KKLA has Frank Pastore as the host of the afternoon drive home show. Last Tuesday he was talking about a new video he recently made with Prager University called "The Four Big Bangs", Cosmological, Biological, Anthropological and Psychological. Today I want to try and tie these to the Biblical account in Genesis.

Cosmological Big Bang: This is Something from Nothing, the Big Bang as we know it from Science. This first Big Bang can be matched to the first two days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-8: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)."

Here, on the first day, God created the Universe, the Earth and light. The Earth was formless and void, the planets and the stars had not yet come together. On the second day He started the process to separate the planets and stars and created the sky.

Biological Big Bang: This is the conversion of inorganic compounds to organic lifeforms. This second Big Bang can be matched to the third and fourth days of Creation in Genesis 1:9-19: "Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. (NIV)."

On the third day God created the dry land and the plants. On the fourth day He finished the alignments of the Sun and Moon and stars to mark the seasons.

Anthropological Big Bang: This is the Darwinian question of evolution. This third Big Bang can be compared to the fifth and sixth days of Creation in Genesis 1:20-31: "And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. (NIV)."

On the fifth day God created the sea animals and the birds and on the sixth day He created the land animals and Man. He placed man over all of the Earth, its plants and animals. Man's main distinction from the animals is God created man in His own image.

Psychological Big Bang (self-awareness): This is the question of morality and meaning, man's search for significance and purpose. The creation of Man on the sixth day and God resting on the seventh day aligns here. Genesis 2:1-3: "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (NIV)."

God created man in His image and that is why man has free will and introspection, and wants to understand the world around him. God rested on the seventh day and made it holy to show us that we need to take time from our everyday lives to understand our purpose and to worship Him.

Albert Einstein said: "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." We need both to understand the world that God created and in which we live.

published before 1923 and public domain in the US

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Four Big Bangs

As I said in my last Blog, I live outside of LA. I drive those LA freeways for a couple of hours each day, getting to and from my day job. On my way home I listen to my favorite radio, 99.5 KKLA. If you live in Southern California and you listen to Christian Radio you have most likely heard Frank Pastore, the host of the afternoon drive home show on KKLA. Frank is recognized as one of the leading Christian Radio Talk Show Hosts in the US.

Anyway, on my drive home last Tuesday Frank was talking about a new video he recently made with Prager University. It was called "The Four Big Bangs". In one of my first blogs, Universal Options Part 2, I talked about the Big Bang. This was the Creation of the Physical Universe. Frank expands on this and says there are really four "Big Bangs" you will need to understand and believe, either from a secular view or from a Christian view, in order to comprehend the world around you. I think he is right on in his analysis.

Frank outlines these four bangs: Cosmological, Biological, Anthropological and Psychological. I will present here my understanding of what he said with a few my own thoughts added in. You need to go to "The Four Big Bangs" to hear it straight from Frank.

Cosmological Big Bang: This is the "Something from Nothing", the Big Bang as we know it from Science. It exploded about 16 billion years ago but only yielded matter and energy, only created a handful of the elements we know today. It takes billions of years of burning in the nuclear furnaces of billions of suns to produce the elements we now know. This first Big Bang does not address the origin of life.

Biological Big Bang: This is the conversion of inorganic compounds to organic lifeforms. It adds simple biology, chemistry and physics to the mix. We still have just simple life forms at this point. We can not identify the huge differences between bacteria, plants and animals, nor between man and animal. Complex life forms do not exist yet. As Frank says, Man has progressed a long way into understanding things like DNA and the human genome but we have no clue how to make life from "dead stuff".

Anthropological Big Bang: This is the Darwinian question, how do we get from lower life to human life? Where is the missing link? We have much questionable evidence but still no concrete scientific proof of this theory in spite of almost two hundred years of study since Darwin proposed it. Evolution is accepted as fact by many scientists but with an ever increasing bank of knowledge and discovery bringing it to question, a growing number of scientists are turning to other theories including that of Intelligent Design.

Psychological Big Bang (self-awareness): This is the transition from the mechanical brain of simple life to the complexities of man's self-reflective mind. It is the question of morality and meaning, man's search for significance and purpose. Other animals have no appreciation for what is true, good and beautiful. How do you get to the mind of a human from that of any lower life form? Even the lowest life forms have central nervous systems but none besides the human mind can contemplate or create. How do you account for free will and introspection, humankind's existential drive to ask why? This is not even considered in evolutionary theory.

No evidence of any gradual growth or development of any of these exists. You need a big bang for each one. You need faith in four "somethings from nothings" or faith in a creator God who is behind it all.

As Frank closes his video he asks "When someone asks if you believe in the Big Bang, ask them which one?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Wizard of Ozone

I live on the Eastern rim of the LA basin. For my long distance readers, that's Los Angeles, the City of Angels, in California on the West Coast of the US. 34o N, 118o W. LA has a lot to offer, both good and bad. There are the mountains, the beaches, Disneyland and Hollywood. There are also a lot of freeways and way too many cars. One of the bad things in LA is the smog. Smog is formed from the emissions of cars and trucks, and by the reaction of light with some of the by-products of hydrocarbon combustion from internal combustion engines.

Now in LA, in California, we like to think of ourselves as "Green". We have electric cars, I owned one myself, and hybrids. We have bike paths and bagel shops. We have buses and light rail and solar panels. "Eco", for ecological, is found in many a business or product name. But we also have some of the worst smog in California if not the Nation.

Smog DowntownLA Smog - Ben Amstutz

The name smog comes from "smoky fog", coined back in the early 1900's to describe the haze that was found then, and still is, in many large industrialized cities. Photochemical smog is created when the emissions from vehicles and industrial plants, the Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and the volatile organic compounds (VOC), are exposed to light and Oxygen, producing particulate matter and ground level Ozone. These components of smog can inflame breathing passages, cause shortness of breath, pain when inhaling deeply, wheezing, and cough. They also can cause eye and nose irritation and dry out the protective membranes of the nose and throat. Hospital admissions and respiratory deaths often increase during periods when smog levels are high.

Ozone, O3, is a major component of smog. It is highly irritating and unstable, producing tissue damage in the lungs and respiratory track. It plays a significant role in the damaging effects of smog to those living in areas with high smog levels. It contributes to increased asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases. This is Ozone near the Earth's surface or "Tropospheric Ozone".

Ozone is not all bad, however. Stratospheric Ozone, better known as the Ozone Layer, which is found near the top of the atmosphere, protects the earth from 97% plus of the UV radiation coming from the Sun.
Ozone Cycle

In the Stratosphere, Ozone is important for protecting life. It is being diminished by chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that are used on Earth but when they are released into the atmosphere, they migrate to the Stratosphere and break down the Ozone Layer. Ozone has been measured to be decreasing by about 4% per decade. This results in increased UV exposure, sunburns and skin cancers among other hazardous effects. Holes in the Ozone Layer have appeared over the poles and cause considerable concern for environmentalists. Many of the "green" changes being promoted today in manufacturing are to help eliminate Ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere. All of this is not a done deal, however, as many groups dispute the findings and the consequences as part of the natural process of variation that happens in nature. Much like "Global Warming", Ozone depletion is being debated as to its cause and effects.

Getting back to ground level Ozone, there is much less debate about is effects. Besides its health consequences, there is evidence that Ozone can cause a significant reduction in agricultural yields because it interferes with photosynthesis and stunts overall growth of some plant species. It also damages rubber polymers, such as tires, resulting in cracks that weaken the integrity of the product, potentially leading to failure.

Ozone can be used as a disinfectant and purifier for water and has been used to reduce the chlorine demand in pools and municipal water systems. It also is used in Industry for its ability to oxidize and to break Carbon-Carbon bonds in hydrocarbons. Many hospitals use large ozone generators to decontaminate operating rooms between surgeries. The rooms are cleaned and then sealed airtight before being filled with Ozone, which effectively kills or neutralizes all remaining bacteria. It even is being studied for possible medical use in a number of illnesses, but with limited benefit so far.

For all of its negative press, Ozone has many beneficial uses and ultimately decomposes back into pure Oxygen, O2, when its job is done. Much like the real Wizard of OZ, it's true identity is only seen when you look behind the curtain (of smog)!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Ties That Bind - Chemical Bonds

Do you remember Tinkertoys? They were made out of wood and had a spool with holes into which you could insert sticks to make almost anything. In fact, the set was designed and patented to enable the construction of 45-45-90 degree right triangles based on the Pythagorean theorem (The sum of the squares of the sides of a triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse: a2 + b2 = c2). This design allowed for the construction of some very complex machines, including a tic-tac-toe playing computer and a robot. Elements can be combined together much like Tinkertoys, based on how full their outer electron shells are, their polarity and ionic states, and Hydrogen's affinity for them. They can create one to many bonds, with each other or with other elements, following specific rules. Just as in the case with Tinkertoys where you had to use specific colored sticks to build a certain shape, with the formation of compounds or molecules from several atoms, you have to use elements that fit the rules to connect to one another. Each element will only bond with certain other elements and only under certain conditions. Even with the rules for combining elements together, the possibilities are endless. As we mentioned last time, just considering biological compounds, over ten million different molecules have already been classified.

Elements form bonds with other elements at the atomic level. These bonds exist in three main types - ionic, covalent and hydrogen. Other types of bonds do occur but these three will be our focus.

Hydrogen bonds are not really chemical bonds but more of a weak attraction between hydrogen and another element in a compound that helps to link molecules together loosely or in the case of large molecules like proteins, helps to define their structure. Typically, in living systems, such bonds form between Hydrogen and Oxygen or Nitrogen. Each of the elements in the bond must also be covalently bonded to another atom. Water forms Hydrogen bonds extensively between the Hydrogen of one molecule and the Oxygen of another. Due to the nature of these bonds Water (H2O) is a liquid at room temperature and has a much higher boiling point than that of the other Group 16 Hydride, Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), that does not form Hydrogen bonds and is a gas at room temperature.

Ionic bonds are generally between two atoms of opposite polarity, like Na+ and Cl-. Ionic bonds are not a bond between two specific atoms of opposite charge but are a bond between a positively charged atom or ion with a group of negatively charged ions surrounding it. Thus, in the case of NaCl or Salt, the molecule will form a lattice of positively charged Na+ ions (gray) surrounded by negatively charged Cl- ions (green) that are themselves surrounded by positively charged NA+ ions. A cubic structure will be the result. Typically the ionic bond is broken when the molecule is dissolved in water or other polar solvent and the molecules of the solvent surround the electrically charged atoms.

Covalent bonds are true bonds where the unpaired electrons are fully shared between the two atoms. These bonds are between two specific atoms of the bonding elements. These are generally the strongest type of bonds. An example would be the double bonds between Carbon and each atom of Oxygen in Carbon Dioxide or CO2 (O=C=O).

A molecule can have either Ionic bonds as in Salt (NaCl) or covalent bonds as in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or both as in Sodium Cyanide (NaCN) where the Na+ is bonded to the CN- with an ionic bond and the Carbon is bonded to the Nitrogen with three covalent bonds. Only molecules with covalent bonds and containing Hydrogen can be Hydrogen bond donors. Hydrogen bond acceptors also have covalent bonds but do not have to contain Hydrogen.

Using these three types of bonds, God has created a vast array of biological molecules from just a handful of elements. The DNA molecule contains just Carbon, Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Phosphorus and yet it contains all of the information necessary to produce life as we know it. Could this (DNA) have happened randomly? With its intricate design and elegant function, I think not.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

God's Favorite Elements

If God has any favorite elements, they must be Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen. These four elements make up the majority of all Biological compounds. Without them, life on this planet as we know it could not exist. Due to the bonding possibilities between and among these elements, literally millions of organic compounds are possible.

Carbon is the backbone of all organic compounds. It forms the main structure of the molecule with Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen and occasionally other elements replacing Carbon or bonding to it at key points in the molecular structure. A carbon skeleton is the basis of all amino acids and nucleotides, the building blocks of proteins and of DNA/RNA respectively. The "R" in the image here represents a different side chain specific to each amino acid. There are 22 "standard" amino acids used in human proteins, of which eight are "essential" and can not be synthesized in the body so must be taken in as a food.

Carbon forms strong bonds with itself so it can form long chain compounds. Carbon forms more compounds than any other element, with almost ten million organic compounds described to date, plus an almost unlimited number of compounds that are theoretically possible.

Carbon also has some unique properties at the elemental level. It is the fourth most abundant element in the Universe, and is comparatively unreactive under normal conditions. It forms a number of allotropes most notably diamond, one of the hardest substances known and highly abrasive, and graphite, one of the softest substances and a very good lubricant. It can also form nanotubes, an area of intense research currently with significant possibilities in many areas. Carbon typically forms four bonds, filling up its 2p orbital.

Hydrogen is the filler of the open bonds with Carbon, any bond not linked to Oxygen, Nitrogen or other element in the compound will generally be linked to a Hydrogen atom. Thus a molecule made up of a Carbon chain with only Hydrogen atoms for any open bonds is called a Hydrocarbon. Examples of these would be many oils and fats as well as the main components of gasoline and natural gas. Gasoline is a mixture of mostly long chain Hydrocarbons. The Octane rating of a gasoline is partially based on the amount of Octane (a long chain Hydrocarbon containing eight Carbon atoms) found in the gasoline. Hydrogen also forms relatively weak bonds with other atoms in other molecules or even within the same molecule, helping to give specific shapes to long chain molecules like proteins.

Oxygen generally forms the acidic group in the organic compound. It typically is part of an -OH or -COOH group that can release a Hydrogen ion (H+). As a C=O group (double bond) found in the amino acid, it can also function as one side of the weak Hydrogen bonds, bonding with a Hydrogen in another molecule or another part of the molecular chain.

Nitrogen makes up the amino group of the amino acid (-NH2) that is a weak base (as in Ammonia NH3). This gives the Amino Acids both basic and acidic properties that allow for the many possible bonds and reactions seen in different proteins.

Besides being the chief components of organic compounds, these four elements are found all around us as inorganic compounds. Examples of some simple molecules in everyday life that contain these elements are: Nitrogen as N2, Oxygen as O2, Carbon Dioxide - CO2, Water - H2O, Methane - CH4 (natural gas) and Ammonia - NH3.

"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. Gen 1:31-2:3 (NIV)".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Biblical Metals

"This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: Gold, Silver, Bronze (Copper and Tin), Iron, Tin, Lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. Numbers 31:21-23 (NIV)”. These are the metals of the Bible. They were used, among other things, to build and decorate the Temple.

Gold and Silver were for ornaments and signified riches and treasure, Gold being the more valuable metal. They were also used to create sacred vessels, to cover and decorate the Ark of the Covenant and to cast idols.

Bronze, an alloy of Copper and Tin, was also used ornamentally but, because of its greater strength, was used where Gold or Silver could not, such as in weapons and the structural bases of the Tabernacle. It was also used in larger pieces, such as the altar and the bronze basin for washing.

Copper, Silver and Gold are in Group 11 of the periodic table, and they have one 4s electron on top of a filled 3d electron shell. This single electron contributes to the high ductility, electrical conductivity and color of these elements. Gold is one of the least reactive metals and is extremely corrosion resistant. It also is the most malleable of all metals and can be made into a sheet thin enough to see through, being used on the sun visors of astronaut space suits. The names of these three metals are used to describe a color matching their appearance.

Iron was used when strength was needed. “Strong as Iron -- for Iron breaks and smashes everything... Daniel 2:40b (NIV)”. It is also very abundant on Earth and is used extensively today in the making of steel.

Lead, a very soft metal, was generally found in the dross, or impurities, floating on the top of melted Silver. "Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. Ezekiel 22:18 (NIV)” It could also be used as a tablet for writing. It is used as a shield from X-Rays and causes Lead poisoning as it is a neurotoxin.

God used the metals Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron throughout the Bible to show strength, power and glory. He also used Gold and Silver to show purity and how He will refine us through the trials of our lives, much like the Refiner’s fire, to bring us closer to Him. “This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like Silver and test them like Gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, The LORD is our God.’ Zechariah 13:9 (NIV)”.