“And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”—Gen 1:3 (KJV)
Einstein figured out that mass and energy are related. A certain amount of mass has a certain amount of energy. It is possible to convert mass to energy or vise-versa. Sub-atomic particles exist with specific amounts of energy. For example, if an electron moves from one shell to another, it must either gain or lose an exact amount of energy or cannot make the change. If a proton is converted to a neutron or vice-versa, the conversion requires or gives off a very specific amount of energy. For matter to organize at all requires energy conversions with incredibly precise standards. The study of mass and energy interactions at this level is often called quantum physics.
An atom is the smallest thing to have a certain chemical property, but atoms are themselves made up of three basic components—protons and neutrons in the nucleus and electrons orbiting in “shells” in a cloud around the nucleus. Protons have a positive charge and determine the chemical element. Electrons have a negative charge and manage the interactions between atoms. Protons and neutrons are roughly the same size (10-15m), but an electron is only about 10-18m. Neutrons determine the isotope and overall stability of the nucleus. Neutrons have no net electrical charge force.
Neutrons and protons are made of even smaller particles called quarks. It takes three quarks to make a proton or neutron. Up quarks carry a +2/3 charge. Down quarks carry a –1/3 charge. Two up quarks and a down quark make a proton with a net +1 charge. One up quark and two down quarks make a neutron with a net charge of zero. An up or down quark can exist in one of three sizes, although only one size is stable in nature. Each type and size has an opposite polarity version. The opposite polarity version quarks are called “anti” version. From this we get the term “anti-matter.” When a normal (matter) quark comes into close contact with an opposite polarity (anti-matter) version of itself, the two disintegrate. When this happens, a fixed (quantum) amount of energy is released. Under certain conditions a quantum energy packet can spontaneous convert to matter and anti-matter quarks in a process called a “quantum fluctuation.” Some scientists believe quantum fluctuations account for the existence of matter in the universe. Although this theory has some support in the scientific community, the lack of anti-matter observed in nature combined with the instability and thus short life span of the unstable quantum fluctuation products makes it a very unlikely cause for the existence of ordinary matter.
The next type of sub-atomic particle is the lepton. An electron is a common lepton. Just like there are three sizes of quark with anti versions of each, leptons may also exist in three sizes with anti versions of each. An anti lepton is commonly called a positron. Positrons are emitted during certain kinds of radioactive decay. Like quarks and anti-quarks, when an electron and positron come into contact they disintegrate and emit a quantum energy packet.
Neutrinos have very low mass and no measurable charge. Neutrinos are released by various nuclear reactions although neutrinos have very little interaction with other matter.
Light is made up of photons. Photons exhibit characteristics of both mass and energy. Essentially, a photon is a tiny individual packet of energy. Each photon has a certain amount of energy. Photons move in waves. The waves have a certain length, hence the term wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency. For example, some photons move in the visible frequency range while other photons with a different energy level move in the microwave or x-ray range. Photons may be absorbed or emitted in nuclear processes.
Atoms are mostly just space, much like our solar system. Quarks and leptons (electrons) are about 10-18 m across. A proton or neutron which is made up of 3 quarks is about 10-15 m across, or about 1000 times the size of an individual quark. The nucleus of a typical atom as heavy as carbon is about 10-14 m across or about 10 times the size of an individual neutron or proton. The size of the whole atom with its electron cloud is about 10-10 m across, or about 10,000 times the size of the nucleus and 100 million times the size of a single electron.
Free protons tend to repel one another. Atoms are held together by something called nuclear binding force. This force is related to the mass of the nucleus. Neutrons and protons both contribute to the binding force. Binding force must overcome the repulsive electrical force of the protons in order to hold the atom together. Binding force is extremely weak until the protons and neutrons are extremely close together. The balance of these forces make it possible for matter to exist as unique and stable atoms. The precise quality of these forces is not predicted by the Materialist model. The precision of design at the subatomic level is predicted by the Creation model which relies on the presence of an intelligent designer.
In the realm of classical physics, 1+1=2 is always true. In the realm of nuclear physics, the math is not always so clean. For example, if one proton has a weight of one amu (atomic mass unit), you would think that two protons would have a combined weight of 2 amu whether they were in the same atom or not. This is not true. When two hydrogen atoms (1 proton each) fuse together to form a helium atom (2 protons in one nucleus), the combined mass is slightly less than 2 amu. The difference is given off as energy. The process of combining two atoms to form a larger composite atom is called fusion. The sun in an excellent example of a massive fusion engine giving off a constant stream of heat and light energy (photons). Fusion reactions require input of energy to cause the initial fusing event. As atoms become bigger, they begin to require more energy to fuse. By the time you get up the atomic size of iron, it begins to take more energy to fuse than is given off by the fusion reaction. There is no known process in nature capable of creating any element heavier than iron.
Fission is the opposite of fusion. Fission occurs when a heavy atom breaks apart into two (or more) smaller atoms. Nuclear power generating plants and nuclear warheads both depend on the physics of fission. In this case, the sum of the mass of the whole atom is more than the sum of the mass of the parts given off. The difference is, once again, heat and light energy. Large atoms give off more energy from fission than they require in order to initiate fission. Atoms smaller than iron will require more energy in to cause fission than can be released from fission. Only certain elements of specific isotopes are prone to fission. Uranium and Plutonium are among the most efficient fission fuels and then only when the element is purified (enriched) to certain isotopes.
The existence of heavy elements without a known natural cause is amazing. The existence of distinct and stable fusion energy sources (stars) is amazing. The fact that unstable (radioactive) heavy elements that exist in nature have not all decayed is amazing. Materialism supposes that some heavy atoms are produced when stars go supernova. The debris then can reform into new solar systems. The Creation model also supposes heavy elements were produced in the first day as the newborn matter began collapsing under the weight of gravity—until God began to intervene by spreading space and forming distinct celestial bodies.
Fusion and fission are not the only known nuclear reaction processes. Photons and neutrons are known to either be absorbed or released as part of various types of reactions. Two of the more common reactions are alpha and beta decay. Radium dial watches, popular in the early 20th century, emitted light as part of the alpha decay process. Nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted to carbon when activated by cosmic radiation through β+ decay. The carbon eventually converts back to nitrogen through the reverse β– decay process. Beta decay is probably best known for its role in Carbon-14 dating.
While not directly relevant to the question of model comparisons, there are some striking “coincidental” similarities between nuclear relationships and biblical relationships. The bible teaches there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three parts make one whole, just as three quarks make a baryon (proton or neutron) or one might say the proton, neutron and electron making up the whole atom represent the components of God. There is matter and anti-matter, but they cannot coexist, at least not for very long. There is good and evil, but ultimately they cannot coexist. Good and evil battle, but the bible promises that good will ultimately win. Matter and anti-matter battle, but the universe is made of mostly matter so when anti-matter appears, it cannot exist for long and cannot eliminate enough normal matter to have any significant effect.
God said He created everything. Everything is made up of the fundamental stuff of atoms. Atoms are made up of the same stuff, but they combine in nearly infinite potential combinations to make up all the variety of everything we know. We are made of the same basic stuff, yet we are each unique.
Neutrons and protons are in the nucleus; electrons are in a cloud. Father and son are in heaven, yet the Holy Spirit interacts with man. The bible even teaches that the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a cloud (Ex 13:21, 1 Ki 8:10-11, Ez 10:4, Mt 17:5). Electrons allow atoms to interact with one another. Just as atoms combine to form molecules that form life, so too the Holy Spirit allows people to join in congregations to form the whole Church, the living bride of Christ. The Holy Spirit goes where it will yet changes lives by joining us with God in an inexplicable way. Twelve tribes founded Israel. Twelve apostles founded the church. Carbon 12 is said to be the foundation of life.