Physics Puzzler 1- Noah’s Flood

The myth of the Flood of Noah, found in Genesis 6-9, presents many hypothetical physics problems.  Here is one I have never heard anyone consider:

The flood of Noah drowned the entire earth, and covered all the dry land.  Let’s assume this means it rained at least 9000 meters in order to cover Mount Everest.  The atmospheric pressure at sea level before the flood matched our currect sea level, call it a pressure of 1 atmosphere.  Noah carried a brand new Vaisala weather station on board the ark.  When it finally stopped raining, Noah checked his atmospheric pressure. 

What did the gauge read?

And as I used to explain to my old students, explain your reasoning and show all your work. 

37 Responses to “Physics Puzzler 1- Noah’s Flood”

  1.   john shuck Says:

    So what is the answer? We have been puzzling over it at shuck and jive!

  2.   john shuck Says:

    P.S. You might want to clear some of your comments..spam…

  3.   Chris Says:

    “The atmospheric pressure at sea level before the flood matched our currect[sic] sea level, call it a pressure of 1 atmosphere.”

    Is that really tenable? It eliminates a number of scientific theories for the flood, including the vapor canopy (least likely IMHO) and the hydroplate theory.

  4.   Tristan Says:

    Well there are many simplistic and wrong answers to this question, and its not really clear what the right answer should be.

    For example, one could naively calculate what the air-pressure at 9,000m ASL (above sea level) is, as though Noah & his ship were simply flown to that altitude while the atmosphere remained constant.

    This, of course, ignores the large volume of air which would be displaced by the water! The surface of the earth (or sea) would now be 9,000m further up (away from the earth’s center) than it was before, and the atmosphere would then start that much higher up. So another naive answer would be that the air pressure would not change, since there was the same amount of air above Noah as before.

    However, since the earth is spherical, raising the surface by 9,000m would also increase the radius of the earth by 9,000m, which would consequently also increase the overall surface area of the planet (by over 1.4 million square kilometers). The same amount (roughly) of air would now be spread over a larger area, and would consequently be “stretched thinner” as it were – reducing the overall air pressure.

    Again, one could perform some calculations using this model, and get an answer, but would still be ignoring important considerations.

    The increased volume of the sea & increased air-sea surface area would result in more air becoming dissolved into the sea water, further reducing air pressure. Also the change in air pressure & area of sea-air surface contact would change the rates at which air is absorbed & released to and from the sea – as well as the rates at which water evaporates into the atmosphere, etc. Furthermore, by covering all land, the amount to which sunlight energy is absorbed or reflected by the surface of the earth changes, which would cause global changes in temperature, which would further change these rates of air-sea interchanges. If the amounts of cloud are significantly changed, this would also change the equation for how much sunlight is absorbed or reflected back into space.

    I’m sure there are many more possible factors which I am not covering here.

  5.   Kevin Says:

    The language in Genesis does not demand a global flood, only a universal one. In other words, it seems the flood was a huge local event confined to the Mesopatamia.

    The language also can be viewed from the standpoint of the observer, i.e. “under all the heavens”, the “entire earth” etc. means horizon to horizon.

    “Mountains” can be interpreted “hills” and the water/rain is depicted as running over them as a deluge and falling on them – not that the highest mountains such as Everest were under water.

    It was confined to the Mesopatamia because mankind had not moved beyond it. The flood can go back to over 50-60 thousand years ago. (One cannot date the flood according to geneaologies because there are gaps). Therefore, it was universal in its effect.

    The animals on the ark were regional and of particular relationship to man in the area. There were no polar bears or penquins onboard, etc.

    I think Dr. Hugh Ross has catalogued the best biblical and scientific view on this.

  6.   Online verzekering Says:

    haha! good point.

    And what about the Ark of Noah and animal diseases & the amount of food? God must me quite a wizard ;)

  7.   term paper Says:

    The physics of Noah’s Ark are impossible. The flexibility of the wood being used opens gaps wide enough to dump hundreds of gallons of water a minute into the “ship.”

    As a ship that large floats, there are tremendous strains and stresses over its length, and wood is flexible enough to make it impossible to keep the hull together. Wood is fairly flexible when subjected to large strains – trees caught in torrential floods bend and don’t break. It’s why wooden ships only reached certain sizes during real-life world history, bigger ships had to be made out of steel.

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