Burgeson's Bomb (was Re: [asa] Radioactive decay of U-238 is imminent (just wait a few billion years))

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 15:40:59 EST

Hi Burgy,

I like this little parable which I have named "Burgeson's Bomb" in your honour! I would, however, suggest one slight tweak;

Given that we have NO IDEA as to the time at which Christ will return, it would be better if the bomb were controlled by the radioactive decay of an unknown element - giving the victims no conception of the half-life. We presume, however, that the victims know that half-lives for unstable elements can range from several seconds to several billion years.

So if, for instance, the victims understood that the bomb MIGHT be triggered by the decay of a single atom of Protactinium-234 to Uranium-234 with a half-life of 90 seconds they would considerably more edgy.

So I'd suggest that the bomb in the story be "armed" with an unstable isotope of an unknown element and the victims handed a chart of decay rates for a range of elements. This would make things far more interesting for all concerned and probably give a better sense of what is meant by "imminent" in this context.


John Burgeson (ASA member) wrote:
> On 1/22/09, Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au> wrote:
>> It strikes me that a scientific example illustrating the notion of immanence
>> would be radioactive decay.
>> To take the most extreme instance, there is nothing inconsistent with the
>> observation that for any atom of Uranium-238 the decay to Thorium-234 is
>> "imminent" AND with the belief that with a half-life of about 4.5 billion
>> years it's probably not worth sitting around waiting for it to happen!
> Great example, Murray. I shouda thought of that!
> Let me expand on it a bit though.
> You and I are in a room where there is ONE single atom of U-238 in a
> chamber. When it decays, the emission is set to trigger a bomb which
> will eleiminate us.
> How comfortable are we sitting there? Even with a 4.5 billion year
> half-life, I admit to being just a little bit uncomfortable! Even
> though the decay is "imminent" the probability is we are in no danger.
> I am led by this thinking to suppose that the Return is probably
> sooner than later. But that may not be a good theological conclusion.
> If it is, than Hal Lindsey has a valid point.
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Received on Sun Jan 25 15:41:26 2009

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