The Creative Power of Gravity

For 41 years I have taught physics to high school students. Trying to get kids excited about electrical, magnetic, nuclear, and gravitational forces is easy because of all the ways these forces impact our lives and the things they allow us to do. One of the things that amazes students is how weak gravity is compared, for example, to electrical forces. In the equations for gravity the gravitational constant is 6.67x10-11, while the electrical force constant is 9x10 9. That means gravity is 1020 or 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times weaker than electrical forces. My one-liner to my students is, "that's why we use electrical motors and not gravitational motors."

The wisdom of this difference in magnitude becomes obvious as one learns more about what they do. Electrical forces help hold the atom together--a circumstance where large magnitudes are needed. Gravity becomes useful with larger objects over vast distances. Imagine life in a situation where you would weigh billions of pounds more than you do due to gravity's pull.

While gravity's weakness allows us to walk and jump, its force is strong enough when objects are large enough to hold the cosmos together. It is gravity that causes us to stay in an orbit around the sun. When you swing a child around and around, the force you feel pulling the child away from you is called centrifugal force. That same force tries to throw the earth away from the sun, but due to gravity's weak nature we are held in our orbit but at a distance far enough from the sun to allow life to exist. While gravity is critical to where we are in space, it also causes our tides as the moon's gravity pulls on earth's water. It is a major force in causing weather as it causes air masses to move as their density changes. If gravity were a larger force, these masses would move too quickly, producing mass destruction.

As we have learned more about space, we have come to learn that gravity is a creative force in producing new stars, planets, and moons. As matter moves throughout the cosmos, it is attracted to all other matter by gravity. This causes matter to clump and so space is full of new objects continuously created by gravitational pull. We now see new stars and new planets being formed. Through gravitation, stars forge new elements, enriching space.

Man cannot know all of the purposes God has in all this creative action. We also cannot know the future or how all of this may benefit man. What we do know is that all of this is not an accident. What little man understands of all this takes years for high school students to learn, and then they go on and learn more with each succeeding generation. Such wondrous wisdom and complexity speaks clearly of the wisdom and planning of God.

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