A Viable Explanation for Distant Starlight

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By Jon Covey, BA, CLS(ASCP)

Edited by Anita Millen, MD, MPH, MA

Barry Setterfield has taught astronomy at New Hope Christian School in Grants Pass, OR for many years, presenting both secular astronomy/cosmology, and a biblical perspective on these topics. His website (Setterfield.org) is loaded with far more information than in this video, including professional-level technical papers, answers scientists’ objections to his views, and the “Setterfield Simplified” section meant for high school students and the general public.

His new video, Astronomy, Geology & the Bible, explains how starlight and radiometric dating are affected by the strength of Zero Point Energy (ZPE) – an effect caused when God “stretched out the heavens” (Isaiah 51:13). Click on hyperlinks for discussions.

Gravity Well

Figure 1 Gravity well. Drawn by AllenMcC. available Wikimedia Commons

Scientists talk about the fabric of space, the space-time continuum, and how massive objects create gravity wells that deform the fabric of space and bend light (Figure 1). The idea that the fabric of space can be stretched and deformed is certainly strange, and space-time encompasses an area of physics that would make Alice in Wonderland seem perfectly normal.

What is the ZPE?

  1. Take a perfectly sealed flask and remove all solids, liquids, and gases.
  2. This vacuum still transmits heat, so it must be cooled to 0°K. This is called a “bare vacuum.”
  3. Theory and experimental results show there is still energy in this flask consisting of electromagnetic waves which are called zero point energy (ZPE).

Theoretically known by Einstein over a century ago, this energy was detected experimentally in 2010. It causes atomic particles to jitter. The ZPE jitter prevents helium atoms from getting close enough to solidify unless pressure is applied.

ZPE is made up of waves of electromagnetic energy. When ZPE waves meet they form virtual particle pairs, which can’t be easily understood. They are similar to electron-positron pairs that temporarily flash into existence, slam back together and return to energy. At any moment there are about 1063 virtual particles per cubic yard. That’s a great deal of energy and there are efforts underway seeking to harness that energy.

When the expansion of the universe began, ZPE strength was low, and there were few virtual particles. As expansion continued, ZPE strength increased and the number of virtual particles also increased, so space became “thicker” with charged virtual particles.

Early in time, before many virtual particles existed to inhibit voltages and currents, plasma interactions (plasma explained below) were much faster. As ZPE strength rose, increasing the number of virtual particle pairs, light photons interacted with the virtual particle pairs, being temporarily absorbed, then released as the particle pairs annihilated. This process slows down a photon. When ZPE strength was low and there were very few virtual particle pairs, photons moved much faster. As the number of particle pairs increased, photons experienced increased interference. This means that when the number of virtual particles was low, the speed of light was much faster, so light from distant galaxies got here nearly instantaneously on the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-19).

Zero Point Energy and the Speed of Light

If Setterfield’s view concerning Zero Point Energy (ZPE) is correct, the problems of how distant starlight got to earth during creation week and how ages were derived from radiometric dating are easily resolved.

If God’s stretching out the heavens (Isaiah 40:22) means that the fabric of space was stretched out, causing a buildup of ZPE in the fabric of space, then we should expect a decrease in the speed of light and the rate of radioactive decay.

Stretching the heavens is like stretching a rubber band. This puts energy into the fabric of space, and that potential energy subsequently converts to kinetic energy.

Setterfield explains how this all ties together. As God stretched out the heavens (as the universe expanded), ZPE strength increased and space got “thicker” with energy and virtual particles.

Because ZPE exists as electromagnetic waves, and virtual particles are electromagnetic, an increase in ZPE strength changes the electric and magnetic properties of space. A light photon is electromagnetic in character, so it too is affected. Atoms have electric charges and magnetic fields, so they are also affected, along with all charged particles and plasma. Therefore as ZPE increased, light speed, atomic clocks and plasma interactions slowed down. Originally all these processes were much faster, perhaps by billions of times.

Plasma explained & Magnetic Fields

There are four states of matter:

  1. Solid – molecules tightly bound together
  2. Liquid – molecules weakly bound
  3. Gas – molecules not bound at all
  4. Plasma – electrons and atom nuclei unbound

Plasma is charged particles in motion and is associated with electric currents and magnetic fields. Currents have circling magnetic fields that constrain them to a filamentary form. This is important to understand, because Setterfield shows that the structure of the universe is based on plasma physics.

Plasmas exist in three modes

Orion Cloud

Figure 2 The Orion Molecular Cloud seen in the Orion constellation. The orange star is Betelgeuse and Rigel is the blue star. The inset shows the magnetic Slinky coils surrounding the filamentary cloud. (Credit: Saxton, Dame, Hartmann, Thaddeus; NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Plasma is in dark current mode when the electric current is weak. Glow mode occurs when the electric current is strong, producing the light we see in a neon sign and an aurora borealis. When the current is very strong the plasma is in arc mode, such as with lightning and on the Sun’s surface. Plasma typically forms filaments and sheets. Many astronomers explain all they see by gravitational physics, but a small minority of astronomers and most members of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) explain things by plasma physics. This is because 99% of all matter in the cosmos is plasma.

In 1999 Gerrit Verschuur reported that data from about 2000 clouds of neutral hydrogen in our galaxy showed they were made up of plasma filaments which twisted and wound like helices over enormous distances (see figure 2). Setterfield says the electrical currents are as high as ten-thousand-billion amperes.


So what does this plasma physics mean?

Figure 3 Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmess. Artist's impression showing schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars (white) and the large-scale structures (blue) that they inhabit.

Figure 3 Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmess. Artist’s impression showing schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars (white) and the large-scale structures (blue) that they inhabit.

Setterfield’s view on plasma physics allows for current star formation but not for original creation. He explains that in 2015, scientists of the European Space Agency (ESA) reported, “We detected a wealth of huge (plasma) filaments with links ranging from a few up to hundreds of light-years, revealing what seems to be the ‘skeleton of our galaxy’… The omnipresent aspect of filamentary structures in the Milky Way is beyond doubt.”[1] The Milky Way galaxy is a structure made up of plasma filaments. The same is true of the Milky Way’s neighboring superclusters of galaxies. They too are filamentary (figure 3).

This large-scale structure of filaments and voids suggests a plasma origin for the cosmos, because gravity can’t form filaments except under extremely special conditions. This filamentous structure extends throughout the universe.

The scientists manning the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile made a stupendous discovery. The ESO scientists studied 93 quasars and their orientation and found that the spin axes of quasars are aligned along filaments like beads on a string. These filaments are billions of light years long. Because of this, Setterfield concludes that the basic structure of the universe is filamentary.

Figure 4 Local Galaxy Filaments by Klaus Dolag [CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons] Each dot represents a galaxy.

Figure 4 Local Galaxy Filaments by Klaus Dolag [CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons] Each dot represents a galaxy.

In figure 4 we can see the stunning arrangement of quasars, which scientists of the ESO describe as “galaxies with very active supermassive black holes at their centres.”[2]

Setterfield suggests that in the beginning the earth was described as formless and void because it was in a plasma state. If that’s the case, we need to take a closer look at plasma and ZPE. Plasma interactions can be 1039 times stronger than gravity and can pull things together faster than gravity. The electric and magnetic properties of space are controlled by ZPE’s strength.


Geology and the Flood

Setterfield explains how the Genesis flood pulverized every living thing so that kerogen from plants and animals was incorporated in the early sedimentary rocks. The fossil record was not produced as a result of the Genesis flood. Rather, catastrophic events, such as the Peleg separation of the supercontinent into the seven current continents, (Genesis 10:25), produced the fossil record. He has much more to say about Flood geology.

A much fuller treatment of this section of the video, as well as more on ZPE is available at setterfield.org where the DVD can be ordered. Two books written by Barry Setterfield are the technical Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy published by the Natural Philosophy Alliance, 2013, and The Bible and Geology, 2011, written for the general public.

He admits his interpretation of the fossil record is contrary to that of many creation scientists who say the Genesis flood produced most of the fossil record, but he affirms that the evidence strongly favors his view. His book answers many geological questions.

[1] Molinari, Sergio, IAPS/INAF, Italy, Hi-Gal project

[2] https://www.eso.org/public/usa/news/eso1438/

About the Author
Jon Covey and is wife Anita have been long-time members of the South Bay Creation Science Association. Jon and Anita write the monthly Creation in the Crossfire newsletter and have been invaluable in adding great research and insight into the creation articles we send out.