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Errors and Clarifications in Textbook

Exploring Creation with Physical Science by Dr Jay Wile

In any large volume it's possible for a few errors to slip through, especially in an early edition. These are some I've found in this textbook.

Module 11 – Gravity

  • Meteoroids vs asteroids (page 273)

    Meteoroids are not asteroids. Meteoroids are comparatively small – less than 10 metres across.

    Planetoids or minor planets are larger than meteoroids and smaller than planets (eg, Pluto = 2306km diameter).

    Asteroids are one particular type of planetoid. Almost all asteroids are in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, although some cross Earth's orbit. Asteroids that cross Earth's orbit are called Earth-crossing asteroids (not meteoroids). Some asteroids have moons.

    If a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere we get a pretty light show (albeit a brief one). If an asteroid enters Earth's atmosphere we get a cataclysm.

Module 12 – Electromagnetism

  • Car current (page 301)

    The only time the current in a car is hundreds of amps is when the starter motor is turning over – or if you drop a spanner across the battery terminals. Normal current draw for ignition is about 6 amps for a petrol engine (zero for a diesel engine). However, very high voltage (about 20,000 V) is used for the ignition. This is what causes the spark across the spark plugs. High voltage parts are normally well insulated but don't go trying to stick your tongue in there. Touching an exposed battery terminal while the car is running won't do much at all, since humans aren't very conductive, so the current flowing across the human would be very small.

  • Light bulb efficiency (page 305)

    "For example, most metals will resist the flow of electrons in such a way as to product mostly heat and only a small amount of light. Those metals are used in heaters, stoves, and toasters. Other metals tend to produce more light than heat. Those metals are typically used in light bulbs." Actually a normal incandescent light bulb is only about 2% efficient at producing light, so even it produces almost 50 times as much heat as light. See luminous efficacy examples for other sorts of lighting methods.

    Update May 2019: White LEDs can now be made with a luminous efficacy over 50% (less when including driver efficiency), so we now actually have technology that does produce more light than heat.

Module 13 – Nuclear Force

  • Periodic Table (page 324)

    Just about everyone calls it the Periodic Table, not the Periodic Chart. Where did that come from!?

    At last check Google turned up 161,000,000 (!) results for "periodic table" (up from 23,900,000) vs only 143,000 for "periodic chart" (formerly 138,000). That's about 1,126 times as many results. Furthermore, Google gives a link for a "periodic table" but not for a "periodic chart". A chart is a map or graph, while a table is "an orderly arrangement of data, especially one in which the data are arranged in columns and rows in an essentially rectangular form." Which is exactly what the periodic table is. Enough said.

  • Electron shells (pages 328 & 341)

    These are not filled as described in the answer to question 13.5. Caesium (Cs) actually has electron shells filled 2, 8, 18, 18, 8, 1 – which goes a long way to explaining its chemical properties; it has one electron in the outer shell, like lithium, sodium, etc, so it's very reactive.

  • Radioactivity (page 337)

    A slight contradiction here.

    "Thus a radioactive sample will never get rid of all its radioactivity." (Page 337, paragraph 1.)
    "If we keep a radioactive isotope around long enough, then, it will cease to be radioactive." (Page 337, paragraph 3.)

    I suggest the second sentence should be changed to "... it will eventually cease to be significantly (or dangerously) radioactive."

Module 15 – Light

  • "Off of" (used on pages 393, 396, and 398)

    If I had read "off of" instead of simply "off" one more time I probably would have screamed. Americans! Paul Brians has a comment on "off of" and when it really is wrong to use it (on a very useful site, BTW). "... common usage in the U.S. has rendered “off of” so standard as to generally pass unnoticed, though some American authorities also discourage it in formal writing." Like in a text book?

  • Eye diagram (page 393)

    What is that horizontal thing across the middle of the eyeball? I've never seen an eye drawn like that before. Compare with the eye diagram or eye cross-section at Wikipedia.

  • Camera focusing (paragraph 4, page 394)

    I don't know of a single camera that takes 10,000 times as long to autofocus as the human eye does. Except maybe those that don't have autofocus. The eye being able to change its focus to accommodate near and far object is called accommodation. Latency is the delay before anything starts to happen. From a paper that examines whether soccer referees can actually tell what they're looking at:

  • Accommodation
    To keep objects in focus on the retina, the eye changes the convexity of the lens. This process has a latency of about 360 ms. The time required to change fixation from far to close vision is about 640 ms, while changing from close to far takes 560 ms.

    This was verified by actually trying it. It did take a bit over half a second to focus. The claim that cameras take 10,000 times as long to focus means that it would take 6,400 seconds to change focus from far to close, which is one and three quarter hours. Cameras actually take about the same, certainly less than a second normally.

    How about the focus being 50 times less resolved? This page claims "pixel spacing of 0.3 arc-minute" for the human eye. Which is pretty good – an arc second is 1/60th of an arc minute, which is 1/60th of a degree. Astronomy pages giving advice for choosing a CCD camera for planetary astrophotography (for a location with excelling viewing) recommend getting a camera with a resolution of 0.25 to 0.5 arcseconds per pixel, so they're around the same as the eye – and can obviously be focused at that resolution without trouble.

  • Yellow = red and green (bottom of page 396)

    The low frequency (red) cones will fire, since yellow light is a mix of red and green light. This is correctly stated three pages later (page 399).

Module 16 – An Introduction to Astrophysics

At this point I'll remind readers that according to his blog "Dr. Wile holds an earned PhD from the University of Rochester in Nuclear Chemistry." That makes the nuclear physics errors more than a little embarrassing.

  • Mass of Sun (page 406)

    About 2 x 1030 kg – or two million trillion trillion kilograms, not tons which would make it about 1,000 times as massive as it actually is.

    Also, Wikipedia and other sources state about 70-74% of the sun's mass is hydrogen, and 28-25% (respectively) is helium, not the figure of 90% hydrogen. The text is probably talking about numbers of atoms, not mass. It should make that clearer.

  • Corona also visible (top of page 408)

    During an eclipse we can also see the corona, which is part of the Sun's atmosphere.

  • Chain reactions (paragraph 5, page 410)

    The word "uncontrolled" or "sustained" really does need to be inserted: "Without a critical mass of the large nucleus, the nuclear fusion will never lead to a sustained chain reaction." (And shouldn't that have been "nuclear fission"?)

  • Fission and nuclear bombs (paragraph 5 on page 410)

    If fission can't cause a nuclear explosion what's an atomic bomb?

  • Nuclear power stations and explosions (page 410)

    Nuclear power stations certainly can explode, as the Chernobyl disaster showed. The text has really really bad wording here. Chernobyl was a steam explosion, not a nuclear explosion, but it certainly exploded, and it certainly sprayed nuclear material into the atmosphere, thereby going around the world. (This means not only was it an explosion, but it was a bad explosion, whatever caused it.)

  • Nuclear power safe? (paragraph 5 on page 411)

    This paragraph refers to some people who think that nuclear power is one of the safest ways of producing electricity. This is an extremely controversial and contentious issue. My own view is that those who think it is safe ignore at least two important points that should not be ignored or glossed over:

    1. Just how bad things can be if something bad does happen, how very quickly it can get that way, and how long the damage lasts. The Chernobyl disaster is a good example of this. It was just seconds from the time the technicians realised they were in trouble to the time it exploded, and the damage done by it did not stop with the people who died straight away. The DNA damage already done and the DNA damage that continues to be done means some families will never be free from its effects – unlike a conventional explosion which might kill more people at the time, but that's the end of it (grieving aside).

    2. The fact that the radioactive by-products will have to be safely stored for many many thousands of years (unless future technology can find a way of processing them). This means that while it may seem safe for us, we're passing the problem of safety on to future generations. If they do the same thing (running fission power plants and storing the by-products) the safety problem will be compounded with each generation. This is a very irresponsible way to fulfill Genesis 1:28.

See What should we conclude? on the Chernobyl Meltdown page for more on these points.

Incidentally, another commonly stated advantage to nuclear power is that it doesn't use non-renewable resources like coal or natural gas. Unfortunately for that argument, uranium ore is a non-renewable resource (and methane can be manufactured).

Update: The triple meltdown of reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant following the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to all of Japan's 54 nuclear power stations being shut down by 5 May 2012 because they were not deemed safe to continue operating.

  • Absolute Magnitude

    The word "absolute" is missing from the definition. The brightness of a star corrected for its distance from Earth is the absolute magnitude (as opposed to the apparent magnitude). See the Magnitude page in the Astronomy section for more info.

  • Visible stars (page 422)

    The wording "All of the stars that can be seen with the naked eye..." raises the question of whether we can see neighbouring galaxies with the naked eye. After all, all we're seeing there are stars – large groups of them. However, we would not be able to see them singly, so the sentence would make more sense if it read "All of the individual stars..." or something similar.

  • Doppler shift (page 424)

    To clarify, there's a big "IF" slipped in there – IF the Doppler effect is the cause of the extreme red shift then the Universe must be expanding.