Thursday, February 5, 2015

Another Interesting View – Part III

Continuing with the last two posts, regarding the Lord’s instruction to cut a hole in the top and in the bottom of the Jaredite barges. The process of ventilation is a very complex and typically oft misunderstood by the layman, but a profession in and of itself. Obviously, the Lord knows more than all on this subject, and showed the brother of Jared how to satisfy his concern to have breathable air during their voyage across the Great Deep. 
    In the last post we discussed the airflow through the vessels, and the direction from which the air would have approached, and the importance of having enough air inside the entire length of the barges. It should also be understood, that depending upon the number of people and/or animals in each barge, and the actual inside cubic footage of the barge, if one hole had to be stopped, or even both, they would have several hours of breathable air before carbon dioxide built up to levels of inefficient operation of the crew stopping and unstopping the holes (see the last post).
    Based on the wordage “they were many times buried in the depths of the sea” (Ether 6:6), this action of stopping and unstopping the holes was an ongoing process, no doubt resulting in a diligence generally found when people’s lives are at stake. No doubt people were stationed at these points to stop or unstop the hole as needed.
The inside of the Baobab tree is not a cylindrical hollow, but has oddly shaped extensions of the growth that infringe inwardly, creating crevices, partial walls, and an extremely uneven inner trunk wall
    In addition, a second hole could have been placed in the middle of the barges, however, wind does not move at right angles, thus such placement would slow down and inhibit the ventilation process, not to mention how the actual inside of each barge was construed because of the depth of the trunk and the odd shapes it sometimes took in its inward growth. Yet, this does not allow for a hole to be in the bottom of the vessel (keel) in the ventilation process. Whether a hole was there for other purposes, such as the discarding of waste, we are not told; however, for such to exist, any other openings would have to be closed tightly for a keel hole to not allow in water.
    The point is, the two holes mentioned in the scriptural record had to do with ventilation, not maintenance or convenience. The brother of Jared’s concern was simply stated: “And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). To which problem, the Lord told him to cut two holes, one in the “top” and one in the “bottom.” Note he did not say one on each side, or one opposite the other, etc. With the Baobab tree as the barge, the top and bottom of the tree have specific meaning, whether upright and still growing, or dug out and laying down, the top and bottom are still the same for a tree, or, for that matter a person—who has a head and a foot, or top and bottom, no matter the position of the person.
A tree, whether standing tall, uprooted or laying on the ground, the top is still the top (yellow arrows) and the bottom is still the bottom (white arrows)
    In another of Elder Pratt’s comments on the Jaredite barges, he said that the design of the barges were such that, even while capsized, they would be safe. Capsize, obviously, means to overturn in the water, where the keel is upright, above the surface, and the barge is upside down. This, of course, presents a lot of difficulties. Consider for a moment, wherever you are when reading this, that suddenly, the room you are in turns upside down. Think about everything in that room falling, tumbling, or cascading from the floor to the ceiling, including yourself. Now consider having some animals, some of good size, such as pack animals, or even an elephant, tumbling around in that room with you.
    Such an image has led critics to write: “One only wonders how safe a person could be with the chance of elephants and mammoths falling on you while plunging into the depths of the sea and bobbing up to the surface upside-down.” Such ideas and conclusions reached from reading about the Jaredite barges have elicited numerous well-founded criticisms that really have no answer. Members have tried, coming up with unworkable solutions such as animals in cages, large animals suspended from the ceiling by slings, some type of ancient seat belt arrangement, or people and things strapped down for the entire voyage. None of which is workable over a 344-day journey. Nor is such criticism answerable, unless, of course, you remove the idea of a top and bottom of a boat completely and that the Jaredite vessel capsized in the turbulent seas as Elder Pratt suggested.
    The point is, people simply have got to stop thinking of a hole in the bottom of the boat for ventilation—that is, along the keel line or beneath the water line. There is no possibility that the Jaredite barges could roll, turn over, or capsize. They had people, animals, and lots of supplies inside, including water, food, and disposable waste. To keep insisting that all of this was subject to rolling or turning over is simply showing a lack of understanding on what the scriptural record tells us, and how the Jaredite barges operated.
    In another interesting point of the Jaredite barges, being completely airtight (Ether 6:7), even so much so they could hold water (Ether 2:17), and with no windows (Ether 2:23), they were completely dark inside, yet were lighted by stones that emanated light (Ether 6:3, 10). Again, critics have had a field day with such statements. But we know that the Lord has great power, though it seems small unto the understanding of men (Ether 3:5), man’s knowledge is still in the dark ages compared to that of the Lord. Yet man is forever ridiculing what the Lord can and does do, saying, as in the case of the lighted stones the brother of Jared prepared and the Lord touched, that “the words patently ridiculous seem too kind,” because they cannot believe that such a light source was physically feasible.
when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger (Ether 3:6)
    However, the brother of Jared had great faith in the Lord, saying, “I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man” (Ether 3:4). Now the Lord, who created worlds without number (Moses 1:32-33), a point that only recently (2004) has been discovered by the NASA Hubble and Spitzer Telescopes that proto-planetary discs surround infant stars and form just as stated in the Genesis account, simply stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger” (Ether l3:6). In some way far beyond the knowledge of man, but within the prevue of the Creator of the Universe, “prepared the stones” that “they did give light unto the vessels” (Ether 6:2).
    It is of note that the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation) has recently developed radioluminescent lights that invite some interesting comparisons with the Jaredite stones. In this case, light is produced in a material by bombardment with ionizing radiation such as beta particles. At the present time, Radioluminescence is used as a low level light source for night illumination of instruments or signage or other applications where light must be produced for long periods without external energy sources, with a life expectancy of about 20 years. These lights, described as being “bright” and very “intense,” are made from a highly porous silica matrix-aerogel—in which a phosphor such as zinc sulfide is dispersed. The radioactive source of the lights is tritium gas, which when incorporated into the aerogel, actually becomes chemically bonded to the aerogel matrix.
Left: A rock infused with tritium; Right: Tritium illumination in manufacturing keychains. Both are the result of radioluminescent light
    This radioactivity of tritium results in beta decay, as the beta particles (electrons) "permeate through the open spaces of the aerogel and strike the phosphor particles, exciting them and causing them to emit light." The majority of the light emitted escapes to the outside, whereas the beta radiation is contained inside the matrix, with no appreciable external radiation.
    Radioluminescent light is consistent with and supplies an intriguing parallel matching the requirements of the Jaredite stones: they are small, long-lasting, and physically harmless. It is possible that the Jaredite stones were created in a similar fashion, according to existing physical laws. Although making the molten rocks would most likely have boiled off any tritium present, it is conceivable that the Lord could have altered some other molecule in the stone to create the radioactive isotope that would produce the glowing effect. It is also possible that he could have simply infused the stones with tritium gas as the Sandia researchers have done (or something similar). Interestingly, years ago Elder Spencer W. Kimball proposed that perhaps the Jaredite stones were illuminated "with radium or some other substance not yet rediscovered by our scientists."
    While we have no idea how the Lord caused the stones to emanate light, and obviously the scientific knowledge about radioluminescent lights is still in the early stages of development, the point is, when the Lord tells us of an achievement understood by him and not us, it seems expedient that we listen and accept his ability to bring about what he claims. One thing is certain, the scriptural record often refers to realities of which we are only now discovering the basics.

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