Marshall University and Geophysics: there IS a connection this time!
Okay. Marshall University is extremely - cool. Yeah.
As most of my readers know, I traveled a few hours to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia today for a visit. I had arranged to meet with several different professors in majors I am considering and with the leaders of several campus ministries (Campus Crusade for Christ and the MU Young Republicans, to be exact). After getting up at 5 hours after midnight and showering in a record 30 minutes (just kidding, it only took me 28 minutes), Dad let me drive all the way there. In his beautiful Toyota Avalon - in driving rain - lots of fun.
I am seriously considering two majors: Journalism and Physics. I am thinking about journalism for obvious reasons - why do you think I have a blog, anyway? I really enjoy applied physics, however, so I am thinking about getting a major in one and a minor in the other - or maybe even a double major. My first visit was with the Assistant Dean of the Marshall School of Journalism. . . .
The first thing I actually did was sit in on a Journalism 101 class for non-majors. The professor was pretty cool, but it was just a little bit like a stand-up comedy show with a random factoid thrown in for good measure. Did you know that the FCC used to be the FRC, Federal Radio commission? Me neither.
But hey. It is a 101 course for non-majors. They have to make it interesting enough so that more students will change over to journalism. Anyone can understand that. From what I have heard, the more advanced journalism courses at Marshall are extremely rigorous and hands-on. If I went with a Journalism major I would definitely learn a lot.
Of course, I would also have access to the journalism facilities. Have you ever seen a prettier sight than 20 or so iMacs lined up in a classroom, ready to be used for graphics design or instant web publishing? Well, I have too. But this was rather close. The whole facility is excellent.
I met with one of the leaders of the CCC ministry there at Marshall for lunch. From what I understand, the Christian organizations on campus are very active in the hands-on evangelism that I love. I also met with Caleb Gibson, the president of the Young Republicans. We discussed the political clime on the campus as well as the different political opportunities in West Virginia. I know one thing for certain: if I go to Marshall I won't have any trouble staying busy!
Then I got into the really good stuff. I met with the professor who directs the physics department and we chatted about majors, minors, etc. for a while. Then I was able to sit in on a Physics 101 for non-majors class. Much better. My dad, who has a Master's degree in analytical chemistry, said that he learned stuff he never understood before - probably because the professor was not just cool - he was good.
The subject of the class was mainly magnetism. How does an electrical dynamo work? Why? How can you tell the difference between a magnet and a non-magnet if they both look exactly the same? Why can you tell?
After a while, the professor started talking about Earth's magnetic field - a point at which Dad and I really sat up and listened hard. This is a huge subject of controversy in the creation/evolution field - mostly because it is a large point of disagreement between evolutionists and Biblical creationists. Evolutionists believe that our planet's magnetic field reversed every few hundred thousand years or so - creationists believe that all the reversals happened within a few months during the Flood.
So when the professor said, "The earth's magnetic field has reversed X number of times in the past 200 million years", I felt a gigantic urge to put on an Australian accent and ask, "Were you there?" But it wasn't his fault and I wanted to know more about this, so instead I just asked: "How do scientists measure how much time passed between each reversal?"
I knew that there was an evolutionary/uniformitarian assumption somewhere down the line. Sure enough, he explained that as hot magma seeps out of the cracks in the earth's continental plates, it travels in large swathes in the direction of the prevailing magnetic current. We see reversals of direction, which logically indicate reversals of the magnetic field.
The assumption was that the rate of "seepage" has always been constant. If we make this assumption, the dates they come up with make sense. But during the Flood, the "fountains of the deep" were broken up, resulting in enormous tectonic activity which would have reversed the magnetic field of the earth and accelerated the escape of magma. I asked the professor later whether an increase in magma seepage speed and an increase in reversal rate would look the same. He thought for a moment, then agreed that we wouldn't really be able to tell the difference.
I will post a bit more on Marshall later if I get a chance. Remember to always look for the assumptions before passing judgment - it helps!
David S. MacMillan III