The Speed of God

Over in Twitter-land, Eric Weinstein is visiting the AMNH at the same time as a bunch of Orthodox Jews, and takes the opportunity for a little Q&A:

Me: Excuse me, but how is the phylogenetic tree reconciled with Torah.

Modern Orthodox Man: Lorentzian time dilation. It’s a head hurter.

This is an interesting attempt to square the six-day creation story with modern science, and raises one obvious question: How fast must God have been moving for the six days of creation to last 13.7 billion years?

This is veering into Built on Facts territory, but the relevant formula is:

i-7221c26c329caa2e3e23897667636873-8e8943fcbf5e131710d8d04571f428e5.png

For six days (5.18×105 seconds) to seem like 13.7 billion years (4.32×1018 seconds), the Lorentz factor γ would need to be 8.34×1012. Solving this for the relative speed as a fraction of the speed of light tells us that God must be moving at:

vGod = 0.99999999999999999999999999281254 c

That’s only 2.15×10-16 m/s short of the speed of light. So God would trail a beam of light by only 1.12 million meters at the end of creation.

Starting from rest, this would require a total energy of 7.5×1029 joules per kilogram of God-mass to get up to speed. If you had expended that kind of energy, you’d rest of the seventh day, too.

(You might try to claim that God’s mass should be zero, given that He is insubstantial. This can’t be true, though, as if His mass were zero, He would necessarily be moving at exactly c, the speed of light. In that case, the Lorentz factor γ would be infinite, and no time would have passed in God’s frame since the start of creation. For God to have experienced the creation taking a finite time, He must be moving at a speed below that of light, and this implies that God has a non-zero, albeit very, very small, mass.)

(If you were to suppose that God is subject to the GZK cut-off, lest He scatter inelastically off photons from the cosmic microwave background, this would imply that God has a mass of 10-29 kg. But that would just be silly…)

Comments

  1. #1 tl
    September 14, 2009

    Maybe he meant time dilation due to mass. Maybe he’s just really big! :v)

  2. #2 Mandrake
    September 14, 2009

    Enough with your silly “math” and “physics” and other science-related stuff! God can do whatever It wants. So there.

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    September 14, 2009

    If you were to suppose that God is subject to the GZK cut-off, lest He scatter inelastically off photons from the cosmic microwave background, this would imply that God has a mass of 10-29 kg. But that would just be silly…

    That upper bound is ~10 times the mass of an electron. So God could be an electron or a neutrino.

  4. #4 onymous
    September 14, 2009

    So God could be an electron or a neutrino.

    Well, there are those who think he comes in three flavors, so the latter seems like a possibility.

  5. #5 GP
    September 14, 2009

    God is a neutrino?? Awesome!

  6. #6 Anonymous Coward
    September 14, 2009

    I like it!

    Is this what Leon Lederman’s “The God Particle” book was about?

    If so, he’s way off base calling the Higg’s Boson the “God Particle”; by the above argument the Higgs is much too heavy to be God!

  7. #7 hacksoncode
    September 14, 2009

    He could still be massless if he were moving in something other than a vacuum.

  8. #8 brb
    September 14, 2009

    This finally answers Kirk’s question, “What does God need with a starship?”

  9. #9 Mike D
    September 14, 2009

    Of course God has mass! Every Sunday, if I remember correctly…

  10. #10 db48x
    September 14, 2009

    Actually I think that they usually prefer to posit that God was altering the cosmological constant rather than that he has a mass or velocity.

  11. #11 Isaac
    September 14, 2009

    “That’s not even wrong.”

    Would God be a fundamental particle, or would he be omnipresent?

    Should he be a particle, where would he be after he finishes creating the universe?

    Would he be localized in some sense, or does he have an completely flat (nonzero) location probability density?

    To put it a different way: you can’t polish a turd.

  12. #12 llewelly
    September 14, 2009

    Finally, we know how fast the ship in Forbidden Planet traveled.

  13. #13 Someone
    September 14, 2009

    LOL “To put it a different way: you can’t polish a turd.” That’s not true… The Mythbusters have proven that a turd, albeit as gross as it sounds, can be polished. In fact Dirt can even be polished and polished dirt balls sell at about $30 ea. (+- $10)

  14. #14 Fil
    September 14, 2009

    When an omnipresent god finally destroys the universe he created, does he become an om nom nom?

  15. #15 thinker
    September 15, 2009

    Interesting post. Cannot put God in our time frame. This assumes that God’s six days are just as long as ours. What if what we consider as God’s six days are really six seconds to him/her. Speed of light in calculation is also an error. It is finite and measurable. Also God mass has to be zero, yet he/she may also be travelling faster than speed of light. My thoughts.

  16. #16 Mattt
    September 15, 2009

    During inflation after the big bang, did not the universe itself exceed the speed of light? And God, being both within everything in the universe as well as containing the universe within Himself, can easily exceed the speed of light. The main reason is that God does not experience time as either the universe or as we ourselves do. To God, all of time–past, present, future–is happening at the same “moment” so it is currently “now” as well as the beginning and ending of creation and every instant in between.

  17. #17 GG
    September 15, 2009

    maybe in the hindu sense of days for God, only on a different scale

  18. #18 opony zimowe
    September 15, 2009

    Let the scientific Salem witch trials begin!

  19. #19 Martok
    September 15, 2009

    @”God is a neutrino”:
    Given that neutrinos are thought to be passing through everything at any time… wouldn’t that mean that instances of Him are omnipresent?
    Also, to be able to do something every now and then, what you calculated is the *average* speed. He must have been faster every now and then to catch up.

    Wow.

  20. #20 Colin
    September 15, 2009

    A fun article. However, given that God created the Universe (which includes all the particles as well as time) I don’t think it makes sense to say that God is subject to the same constraints this Universe is.

  21. #21 Russell Carter
    September 15, 2009

    Smart People:
    If you understand all of this stuff (even if its just the math), then it seems to me that the major problems that we are facing today, for example, the value of our paper money, our trillions that we supposedly owe to who ever, and all the other stuff, should be no problem for you to figure out. Could a few of you please get together and do that? Not to rush you or anything, cuz I know its a tall order but… more sooner than later. Thank you.
    Very Sincerely,
    The Rest of the World

  22. #22 adam
    September 15, 2009

    Fun article, but I don’t think we can rule out that God is massless. I would say that in God’s eyes all of creation took no time at all. He does say that our lives on this Earth are nothing but an infinitely brief flash

  23. #23 @ Russell
    September 16, 2009

    Russell,

    There are plenty of people smarter than those here who have already figured out the problems we are having today. In fact, they are the ones both causing them and benefiting from them.

    Very Sincerely,

    Sucker

  24. #24 Cedric
    September 16, 2009

    what I don’t understand is, why would we hypothesize that God would have to “move from the 6 days of creation to our current time”, ca. 14 billion years later. When a women gives birth, she does not need to “travel” in time to follow her kids’ life. Indeed she can die the minute the kid is born, and that kid’s life will not change time-wise. In other words, we don’t need to believe that God is still alive to explain why his creation is where it is.

  25. #25 Smart People
    September 16, 2009

    @Russell

    This is sophomore level physics (we are actually covering it in my class and I linked my professor) It’s not that hard. It’s really nothing compared to the various degrees and education it would take to fix everything ever, as you suggest.

    Sincerely,
    Smart People.

  26. #26 @digeratti
    September 17, 2009

    Fun stuff! Some of the comments got me thinking…

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