Sunday, July 31, 2011
[our privileged planet]
Yesterday morning as I was walking to my synagogue, I felt the warmth of the sunlight falling on my face. It suddenly occurred to me how seldom I appreciate this miraculous gift from God.
Without the sun, obviously all life on earth would instantly die. The temperature of earth's surface would quickly go down to a few degrees above absolute zero, about 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
There is more to the story however. If the earth would be any closer to the sun or further from the sun, or if the sun were any hotter or colder, liquid water and therefore life would not exist on earth.
Furthermore, the earth's atmosphere contains a small amount of a gas called ozone. Ozone is vitally important to life because it absorbs biologically harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation coming from the sun. Without this God given shield, created by a process called the ozone-oxygen cycle, we would all be dead.
And there's more involved than that. The sun produces a solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the upper atmosphere of the Sun. The earth's magnetic field saves us from being killed by the solar wind. The magnetic field is caused by the special composition of earth's outer core. Mars, for example, does not presently have a global magnetic field. (The outer planets do have magnetic fields, however are lifeless for other reasons, such as low temperature.)
So when we enjoy the beautiful life giving light of the sun, we should be aware that this is the result of many fortunate factors: the existence of the sun, the size of the sun, the distance of the sun from the earth, the presence of the ozone layer and the magnetosphere. If anything was changed, we wouldn't be here to marvel at it.
We should remember all this every morning when we say the Yotzer ohr which states "the blessed God, great in understanding, prepared and brought about the rays of the sun". [emphasis mine]
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:54 PM