The Matter of Energy (or the Energy of Matter)
The topic of energy may not inspire lofty, poetic thoughts, except perhaps, to a professional scientist. It may fascinate a home buyer. What are its heating and air-conditioning energy costs, for example? Alternatively, the topic may relate to industrial or agricultural history, economics, or contemporary politics. Likewise, the topic of matter is often defined in scientific contexts—matter takes up space and has mass, not to mention a multitude of other defining characteristics. When the energy/matter relationship is discussed, we are reminded of Albert Einstein and his famous equation. He proposed that matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. Very few humans fully understand that statement, including many scientists and science instructors.
Our post title connects matter and its relationship to energy. Both concepts relate to each other in several ways. The Creator of All Things designed and created our universal home so that energy and matter are interconnected. In everyday life, most people may not grasp the significance of this cause/effect connection. From the instant of the initial creation, however, energy naturally flowed from the action of processes taking place in matter.
Think about your high school chemistry course. To one degree or another you and your classmates were fascinated that all the matter in our environment consists of less than 100 different elementary substances—elements. The elements commonly combine with each other in definite proportions to form tens of thousands of different substances called compounds. They also mix with each other in indefinite proportions to form infinite quantities of different mixtures. We have a plethora of millions of different substances to sustain and enrich our lives. Most everyday substances are chemically classified mixtures. Millions of different substances are composed of just a few elements, less than 100 naturally occurring elements.
The nearly 100 elements exist in particles called atoms. These tiny atomic entities have a dense central nucleus containing two particles—protons, each with a positive electrical charge, and neutrons with no electrical charge. Protons and neutrons possess nearly identical mass and are tightly bound together by one of four fundamental universal forces—the strong nuclear force. It is the strongest force in our universe. Other particles of the atom are tiny electrons swarming around the dense central nucleus. Electrons have a negative electrical charge.
There exists a systematic organizational structure of matter in the nearly 100 “simple” elements. It is difficult to conceive that the structure of elemental atoms occurred “by chance” in the beginning. The minuscule number of naturally occurring elements is organized sequentially and coherently. (Each successive element has one additional proton, for example. Atoms possess an equal number of electrons.) A 19th century Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, was an important pioneer in formally proposing a coherent system of element classification in 1869. Mendeleev’s creative proposals were challenging, not because the Creator created an incoherent, chaotic chemical world, but because the beauty of our created world of elemental matter is far more complex and wonderful than chemists of the 18th and 19th century imagined. As their knowledge expanded, other chemists developed their own concepts of a “periodic table” of chemical elements. Mendeleev’s concepts have been recognized as insightful in terms of our knowledge of chemical characteristics of elements, but many other talented scientists expanded our knowledge.
Our limited discussion of energy and matter and how the two topics are linked does not do justice to the topic of divine intelligent design. Did the Creator originate this linkage from the beginning of time? We propose that this linkage is according to the plan of the Creator, the Intelligent Designer. In a future post we will discuss the fact that tremendous quantities of energy are locked within matter, both simple elements like hydrogen in the Sun, our solar companion, as well as in more exotic radioactive elements. Humans have discovered knowledge of fusion of hydrogen in the Sun as well as knowledge of the power of exotic radioactive elements. Both are powerful suppliers of energy from “ordinary” matter!