We all know the Biblical story of Noah and the great flood. As children, we learned about it in school. It’s very likely that since then we’ve encountered several religious preachers, who bothered to explain some archeological studies, which allegedly revealed the traces of that secret flood deep underground all over the world.
The real studies discuss several possible sources for this wonderful story (which appears in various versions in the ancient Middle Eastern cultures). Among other things they mention some seasonal floods in ancient Mesopotamia, and recently – the option of this story originating from the formation of the Black Sea, not too many thousands of years ago.
This way or the other, let’s stick literally for a moment to the original Biblical version – a flood annihilating the entire living kingdom, sort of, you know.
“And all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered”, insists the text (Genesis, chapter 7, verse 19). Hmmm… let’s attempt performing a rough calculation: In order to cover Mount Everest (the highest mountain), the sea surface had to rise by about 9 km from its “normal” level.
In the same school we also learned (hopefully) how to calculate the volume of a sphere: We multiply 4/3 by Pi and by the sphere radius raised to the power of 3. This is more or less equivalent to 4.2 times the radius raised to the power of 3. Let’s apply this calculaion to our Biblical flood.
Earth radius is about 6,400 km. The radius in the peak of the flood had to be, of-course, 9 km larger, in order to cover “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven”. Hence, the volume of the water was roughly the difference between the volumes of the two spheres: 4.2 times (6,409 raised to the power of 3 minus 6,400 raised to the power of 3). A simple pocket calculator will tell us that we’re talking about more than 4.5 billion cubic km of water.
Is it a lot? A little? Let’s see: If we were to bring all that water in a “ball of water”, what would be the volume of that water ball? The equation is simple: 4.2 times what radius raised to the power of 3 would give us such a result? Those of you who graduated school successfully will come up with the result quickly: We need a water ball with a radius bigger than 1,000 km. In other words, a small “water star” nearly the diameter of our moon.
We also need, obviously, to get rid of all this water afterwards.
The rate of our flood is also, how shall we put it, somewhat problematic. 40 days of rain, according to the same story. 9 km of height. What’s the average rate? Did the math? Here is the result: More than 9,000 mm (350 inches) of rain per hour. This is more than double the amount of rain falling on the rainiest places on Earth during a whole year… A meter of rain every 6 minutes, a foot of rain every 2 minutes, everywhere…
Such rain rate, or even rates that are many times smaller, are theoretically impossible, not to mention the calculation which demonstrates that no wooden “ark” would hold under such enormous water pressure. But that’s not all.
Each liter of sea water contains about 35 grams of salt. This is approximately 0.3 pound of salt per each gallon of water. In order not to kill the fish of the sea (which Noah, for obvious reasons, did not put in his ark), one needs to preserve more-or-less the same level of water salinity. Another quick calculation: 4.5 billion cubic km of new water mean roughly 150 million of billions of tons of salt, which are more than 100 million cubic km of salt, in its common shape. This is enough to cover the whole area of the USA with 10 km (6.2 miles) of salt, or to cover the whole area of the State of Israel with unimaginable 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of salt.
We also need, obviously, to get rid of all this salt afterwards. Furthermore, salty sea water would kill all the fresh water fish, from lakes and rivers which would be covered by that flood.
* * *
We can keep on discussing these strange topics, but what’s more important is the following: With a little bit of creativity, every difficult question described above can be answered. Where did the water come from? An asteroid made of ice came in touch with our atmosphere. Where did the water go to afterwards? Lightnings decomposed it into oxygen and hydrogen, which evaporated into space. And so on and so forth – try to compile some similar additional excuses yourself – it’s quite an amusing game.
And when these excuses become too difficult or too ridiculous, we can always summon our Lord to help: God generated a miracle and flattened the mountains, so they would be covered sooner, or created the water from nothing. After all he is almighty… Since the Biblical story categorizes the event as a sort of miracle under God’s supervision, then why bother explaining at all? Actually, why bother researching anything if we assume in advance that the world does not have clear rules and all things can happen at anytime? Who needs science when you can walk on water?
* * *
Or maybe (just like in many other cases) we have here an ancient story blown out of proportions – what do you say?