A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how recent observations of distant quasars and blazers at short wavelengths eliminated many of the quantum gravity models certain atheists appeal to in their attempts to escape a cosmic beginning and the implied cosmic Beginner.1 I noted that astronomers can make these constraints on quantum gravity speculations even more rigorous and limiting by measuring the image sharpness of quasars and blazers at greater distances and shorter wavelengths than achieved so far.

In the latest issue of the Astrophysical Journal a team of four astronomers proposed another ingenious observational tool2 for penetrating the state of the universe when, back about 13.8 billion years ago, it was smaller in diameter than 1.6 x 10-35 meters (orders of magnitude smaller than the diameter of an electron). They explained how the discovery of pulsars orbiting supermassive black holes and subsequent measurements of the orbital features of such pulsar-black hole binaries could yield important information about quantum gravity physics.

A black hole is a massive body that is so highly compressed that the gravity of such a body will not permit anything to escape the body, not even light. A pulsar is a highly magnetized, fast-rotating neutron star (a solid ball of neutrons) that emits a highly collimated beam of electromagnetic radiation (see image). Pulsars are like lighthouses in that a fixed observer will see a pulse of light once per rotation period of the pulsar.

Image: Schematic Diagram of a Pulsar
The small blue sphere in the middle represents the neutron star. The curved lines indicate the pulsar’s magnetic field. The green vertical line shows the neutron star’s axis of rotation. The narrow blue cones show the electromagnetic emission beams.
Image credit: Roy Smits/Mysid

Pulsars rank as the most accurate natural clocks in the universe. Inside a black hole’s event horizon (the distance from the center of a black hole where gravity begins to become so powerful that no matter or energy, not even light, can escape) quantum gravity physics operates.

The team of four astronomers showed that measurements of the timing of the repetitive light pulses from a pulsar orbiting just outside the event horizon of a sufficiently massive black hole will allow astronomers to determine the degree and the manner in which information escapes from the black hole. In particular, the team showed that quantum fluctuations of the space-time geometry just outside a black hole’s event horizon will cause an increase in the measured root mean square deviation of the arrival times of pulsar pulses traveling from near the event horizon. Depending on the quantum gravity model and the mass of the black hole, the root mean square deviation can range from less than a microsecond to several minutes. Thus, such a determination will provide a powerful tool for testing competing quantum gravity models.

Astronomers have not yet detected a pulsar-black hole binary. However, the operational gravity wave telescope LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the planned and designed gravity wave telescope LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), and the scheduled radio telescope SKA (Square Kilometre Array), will soon likely discover at least a few pulsar-black hole binaries.

The opportunity to gain yet more knowledge of the physics of the quantum gravity era (the physics of the universe when it was less than 10-43 seconds old) has the potential of adding to the already impressive amount of evidence that the universe was created a finite period of time ago by a causal Agent that transcends matter, energy, space, and time. Such a causal Agent uniquely defines the God of the Bible.

Featured image: M87, a Supergiant Galaxy in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies
In the nucleus of M87 resides a black hole that is 6.4 billion times more massive than the Sun. It is responsible for the blue jet emanating out from the right side of M97’s nucleus. You can watch a short video clip that zooms into M87’s black hole jet here.
Featured image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope


  1. Hugh Ross, “Does Quantum Gravity Avoid the Need for a Cosmic Creator?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, March 6, 2017, http://www.reasons.org/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/does-quantum-gravity-avoid-the-need-for-a-cosmic-creator.
  2. John Estes et al., “Shining Light on Quantum Gravity with Pulsar-Black Hole Binaries,” Astrophysical Journal 837 (March 2017): id. 87, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aa610e.

Subjects: Cosmology, Laws of Physics, Origin of the Universe

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About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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