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And You Know Something is Happening But You Don't Know What it is.

Faraday, Maxwell and the Design of Nature

At first blush, people think scientists experiment and measure and observe and analyze and then experiment some more....working with eyes, ears, and hands. Then they summarize it all with one of those compact scientific laws like f=ma or E=mc².

It doesn't work that way. Instead, from a very few measurements or observations, scientists work with mathematics, deriving equation after equation, confident that such equations will find application in physical reality. And it turns out to be that way. Thus Galileo obtained his laws of motion, Kepler his laws of planetary movement, and Newton his laws of gravitation. The close correlation of math with the physical world greatly impressedthese scientists, as we should be impressed by it today, but largely aren't. Does it not show the design in nature? Galileo summed it up with "God wrote the universe in the language of mathematics."

It's convenient for mathematics to work that way since there is only so much experimenting one can do with objects millions of miles away. Not to mention things very tiny....things we can't even see, let along poke our fat fingers into. One hundred years after Galileo, Kepler & Newton figured out the big things, others focused on the small. Magnetism and the flow of electrons [electricity], for example. At first the two were thought to be unrelated phenomena, buy later they were linked. In 1785, Charles Coulomb published the law of force between two electrically charged bodies, q1 and q2:

F =- k(q1·q2/r²)   where k is a constant and r is the distance between the two bodies.

What even the dumbest person in class must note is the law's identical form to that of gravity, a wholly different phenomena. The gravitational attraction between two masses (m1 and m2) is

F = k(m1·m2/r²)

The only difference is that electrical force can attract or repulse, depending on whether the two bodies have equal or opposite charges; gravity always attracts.

Along came Michael Faraday, who discovered electromagnetic induction. He found that if you rotate a rectangular frame of wire through a magnetic field, you generate electricity in that wire, it's intensity rising and falling as the frame rotates, mathematically described by the sine function.

Furthermore, when Faraday passed current through a coil of wire, a magnetic field was produced which would induce current in a separate coil of wire. But how far apart could the coils be? What if he tried a longer coil or a tighter coil? How would that change things?

Since you can't see any of this, it was left to a mathematical physicist, Robert Maxwell, to figure the results. He worked out through math that current flowing through a coil of wire produced an electrical field in the surrounding space. And that electrical field gave rise to a magnetic field. Which gave rise to an electrical field, which gave rise to a magnetic field, and so on. When "pushed" by current flowing though the originating wire, these electromagnetic waves traveled great distances, and did so, he calculated, at 186,000 mi/sec.

But wait! Light had already been measured as traveling at just that speed. You don't suppose....Yes! Light was part of this electromagnetic spectrum, only at a much different frequency. And how is it generated? By passing electricity through tightly wound tungsten filaments, same as Faraday generated lower frequency waves from coils of different materials and dimensions.

In time, other "slots" of the spectrum were filled in: radio waves, infrared rays, x-rays, gamma rays. We now make endless and routine use of the spectrum, yet nobody knows just "what it is" that travels through space. It is described mathematically. As Alfred North Whitehead put it: "The originality of mathematics consists in the fact that in the mathematical sciences connections between things are exhibited which, apart from the agency of human reason, are extremely unobvious."

Physicist Heinrich Hertz observed: "One cannot escape the feeling that these equations have an existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them." [italics mine]

Yes, we do get a lot out of them. So much so that we've become completely oblivious to what was "put into them" in the first place and who did the "putting." "One cannot escape the feeling," Hertz stated. Yet today's materialistic society has managed to do just that.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse [for ignoring him].   Rom 1:20    NIV


Many of the particulars here are found in the book Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge, by Morris Kline.


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Romulus Crowe

Happy New Year, Tom - although it's still not here in the UK yet and I guess you'll have to wait even longer, but I get confused by time zones so there'll be a few random Happy New Years going out in the next 24 hours or so.

Interesting post - an atheist would argue that because it's mathematics it can't be God, but then again perhaps God is mathematical, so that argument will just go round and round. You'll quote Scripture, they'll quote Dawkins. It's the same thing in the end.

I remain neutral in my stance that Science can never disprove God, or indeed anything else. Replicating things that were previously attributed to God doesn't disprove anything, it just shows it can be done by other means.

Science just doesn't like to come up against brick walls. It likes everything neat, ordered and categorised. Nothing wrong with that. It's what science set out to do. It's what science is still doing, and on the whole it's doing it reasonably well.

But there are brick walls still. Many of them. Science doesn't like that. I don't like it. I want those walls down, I want to see what's behind them.

If it turns out there's a God behind one of them, I'll accept that. If there really is a guy in robes with a white flowing beard (Michaelangelo style), I'll have to stare at the floor and say ''

Many won't.

Rom (not the one you quoted, in case anyone's wondering)


Really, this is something where "faith" comes in. I don't mean the fanciful concept that many evangeliticals or fundamentalists have, but the actual meaning of faith.

The best definition I have heard for the word faith is "something expected though not yet beheld." So I have faith that my paycheck will come on Friday. I have faith that the Sun will continue to rise.

Evolutionists have faith that Darwinian Processes produce life over millions of years, though they have not seen it happen (nor can they). Religious people believe that the same set of evidence points to a creator. In short, one set of data, two sets of beliefs. It all depends on your faith.

John Lassiter

Hi Tom,

Hope all is well with you.

I enjoyed your post, "Faraday, Maxwell and the Design of Nature".

With regard to the statement, "And how is it generated? By passing electricity through tightly wound tungsten filaments, same as Faraday generated lower frequency waves from coils of different materials and dimensions."

This passage could lead a person to incorrectly assume that resonant circuits are used to generate light. It is true that tungsten filaments are tightly wound, but this is not for the purpose of forming a resonant circuit. It is simply to control the resistance of the filament while packaging it within a relatively small glass bulb.

The simplest correction may be to remove the quoted sentence.

I am happy to once again demonstrate that pedantry and nit-picking flourish in upstate South Carolina.:)

tom sheepandgoats


I recall some statement in the old school guidebook encouraging accuracy of statement even when it is not with regard to your main theme. Invariably you will run across some expert in that subject who will say "hmmmm....he did't know about that." From there it is just a tiny step to "maybe he doesn't know anything else, either."

In other words, I appreciate the correction on what apparently is your field of expertise.


I don't know how I missed this essay from back in December. What a gem!

Hertz observed, as you say, that there's a "feeling that these equations have an existence and an intelligence of their own [and] that we get more out of them than was originally put into them."

And you comment that "we've become completely oblivious to what was 'put into them' in the first place and who did the 'putting.'"

Besides the thrilling feeling of awe (which I too feel at the grandeur of the equations, of nature, of the vast cosmos--so I guess that this member of "our materialistic society has [NOT' managed to [escape it]"!), what are we to understand from this?

How can a FEELING contain the intellectual content that Hertz ascribes to this particular feeling? Is the "god" contained in the "feeling" that something "did the putting" a personal god or an impersonal, Einsteinian god? And does saying it is one or the other (or some other level of god) add anything? If so, what? And how do you know?

tom sheepandgoats

It's just an opinion of Hertz. I don't claim it proves anything.

The point of this post, and the one it links to, is that scientists of that time typically believed in a higher power, be it a personal God or not. Atheists today lionize these guys, citing them as blood brothers in rational thought. For the most part, they wouldn't be able to duplicate the scientific discoveries of these persons to save their lives. Often, they wouldn't even be able to follow it. Yet they have no hesitation on denying a premise which is key to all those scientists of yore.

Actually, it would have been better for you to put your questions to Hertz. It's a shame he's dead.


Well actually Hertz did indeed add something to the Mix . For example , if you take the given speed of sound @ 0 degrees F
12600.535 inches per second ( Lets call it "A") for "actual " Then you multiply that A by the SQRT of a ratio between the Actual Temperature of the Air around you , and Absolute Zero where all motion stops , you get the Speed of sound at" T" or the Mean Temp.
Then Divide that Result by the Frequency or " Hz " hertz of your Wife's voice when she is yelling at you from a distance , You will be able to know , Just how Fast her voice will reach you , and with some extrapolation how HARD it will hit you from any given distance .

S/F = Wavelength of F

uhhh , I think I hear my wife calling ......Gotta go !

tom sheepandgoats

Hmmmm, you know, I almost think I hear her, too. (or is that mine?) That's some frequency she uses.


Yeah it ummm " Hertz" my Ears ..........

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