Physicists: Go mano-a-mano with Allah the Allmerciful

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Do we still have any science skills in the Hit & Run crowd? If so, here's a challenge from Almighty God himself:

Relativity in Islam

The Quran (Koran, the book of Islam) defined :

The speed of light in vacuum at 299792.5 km/s.

Time Dilation (Faster moving objects experience slower time).

General Relativity (Time passes slower near bigger mass).

Pulsars and Black Holes.

Wormholes (Length Contraction).

Gravitational Lensing.

Redshifting and Expanding Universe

Can anyone prove us wrong?

Sample proof:

299,792.458 km/s is the speed of light in vacuum. But 1400 years ago it was stated in the Koran (Quran, the book of Islam) that angels travel in one day the same distance that the moon travels in 1000 lunar years, that is, 12000 Lunar orbits / Earth day. Today we know that if we remove the Earth-moon system from the gravitational field of the sun all observers will see the speed of light outside gravitational fields to be equivalent to 12000 Lunar orbits / Earth day.

Physicists, astronomers, far-out space nuts, concerned citizens, be part of the phenomenon. Use your skills; shoot some holes in these moon-happy muallims.

NEXT: Free to Google

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  1. Interestingly, the Quran says that the 7 days of Genesis were not literal days, but in fact much longer. An Iranian physicist (a very, very, very, very secular guy and naturalized US citizen, FWIW) told me that some Muslims (not him) take this as proof that Muhammed knew that time is relative.

    To me, it proves that Muhammed spoke to somebody who could read Genesis in the original language. The story was written in very figurative language, but most of that rich figurative aspect is lost in translation.

  2. I think I proved time is relative last time I had a crippling hangover and couldn’t get a drink earlier than 11am. It was geologic time right inside my skull.

  3. Suppose that’s the distance that the moon travels around the Earth in 1000 lunar years. Isn’t the distance the moon travels around the Earth merely a subset of the total distance traveled by the moon in the same 1000 lunar years? When you add in the distance that the moon travels around the galaxy, or the distance the moon travels away from the epicenter of the big bang, the distance traveled around the earth is just a tiny fraction of the total distance that angels can travel.

    On the other hand, presumably angels have supernatural powers–why should they be bound by physical laws such as the speed of light in the first place?

  4. Science is for pointy-heads.

    I’m gonna wait for Pat Robertson to get the inside scoop.

  5. Interesting. This passage:

    “About the first day (Big Bang), Allah says:

    [Quran 21.30] Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the Earth were meshed together then We tore them apart? And then We made of water everything living? Would they still not believe?”

    Could as easily refer to the Babylonian myth of Tiamat:

    “In Babylonian myths, Tiamat is a huge, bloated female dragon that personifies the saltwater ocean, the water of Chaos. She is also the primordial mother of all that exists, including the gods themselves. Her consort is Apsu, the personification of the freshwater abyss that lies beneath the Earth. From their union, saltwater with freshwater, the first pair of gods were born. They are Lachmu and Lachamu, parents of Ansar and Kisar, grandparents of Anu and Ea.”

    And also,

    “Marduk cleaved her body in half, and from the upper half he created the sky and from the lower half he made the earth.”

    http://www.pantheon.org/articles/t/tiamat.html

  6. the distance the moon travels away from the epicenter of the big bang

    From what we understand of the expansion of the universe in the various versions of the expanding universe model, there isn’t an actual center. There was no point, it was just that all of space was curved into a tiny space, and rapidly expanded to be much bigger. However, given that the universe is curved the way it is, it’s not as if there’s an ‘edge’ to the universe or a ‘center’ of the universe. So there’s not an epicenter to move relative to. However, since the speed of light is always constant, and the speed of the moon varies depending on where you measure it from (relative to earth, relative to the sun, relative to galactic center, relative to another galaxy) then angels must also move relativistically, and therefore must have mass, and must travel slower than the speed of light.

  7. ‘Distance travelled’ is meaningless without a given reference frame. You can choose whatever reference frame you’d like to allow for the ‘distance travelled’ to equal the distance travelled by light in the same amoun of time. I didn’t read the proof very carefully, but my take on it is that if the passage said ‘100 years’ it would make no difference.

  8. Oh, I get it! Muhammad is the Emissary and Allah is just one of the wormhole aliens (peace be upon them) from the “celestial temple”!

  9. in 1000 lunar years, that is, 12000 Lunar orbits / Earth day.

    Doesn’t this imply that there are twelve lunar months in a year? The actual number is thirteen.

  10. Actually, make that “thirteen and one-twenty-eighth.”

  11. since the speed of light is always constant
    in a particular medium of course…and gravitational field as well?

  12. I didn’t know there was mention of angels in the Quran. They musta stole them from the bible.

  13. a) Orbital Circumference = 2,413,402 km
    b) Above, times 12,000 = 28,960,824,000 km
    c) Length of day = 86,400 sec
    Ratio b/c = 335,195 km/sec
    Speed of light = 299,792 km/sec

    Ooops….Close, but no cigar. Over 10% error is really sloppy physics, especially for someone (pbuh) who supposedly was taking dictation from Allah.

    (Physical values are from the Wikipedia articles on “Moon” and “Speed of Light”.)

  14. Interestingly the Quran isn’t that far off but it’s hardly exact. First what is a lunar year? An earth year is one orbit around the sun so wouldn’t a moon year be one orbit around the earth? If so then the calculation is way off by a factor of approximatly 10.

    (1000 lunar years)/24 hours
    =
    (1000 x (2xPIxAvg. radius))/(86400 sec)
    =
    (1000 x (2xPIx384400km))/(86400 sec)
    =
    27940 km/s, not 1/10th the speed of lignt(299,792km/s)

    But if you say that a lunar year is equal to an earth year then the number is 12 to 13 times higher as the moon orbits the earth almost 13 times per year. So the final answer is…
    (12 x 27940 km/s) or 335282 km/s which is faster than light, but close.

    It is odd how close the Quran is though when using the second method. I think that the authors of the website are trying to massage the numbers though to make it look like the Quran was exactly right by accounting for siderial instead of solar relatively.

  15. Drew:

    Yeah, looks like another schism coming on. Move over, Sunnis and Shias! Now we’ve got the Siderites vs the Solariis!

    I thought the Koran was supposed to be immune to interpretation ambiguity, and perfect in every way. I guess we’ll have to settle this difference in physics the usual way: Let the bombings begin!

  16. If the Quran contains within its pages the theory of relativity then why did it take a Jew to expain it to Muslims?

  17. “If the Quran contains within its pages the theory of relativity then why did it take a Jew to expain it to Muslims?”

    Ouch, that’s gotta hurt!

  18. “If the Quran contains within its pages the theory of relativity then why did it take a Jew to expain it to Muslims?”

    DAMN!

    I smell a new fatwah a-brewin’, and it has selfworm’s name written all over it.

  19. if we remove the Earth-moon system from the gravitational field of the sun all observers will see the speed of light outside gravitational fields

    How much is a beam of light slowed down by the gravitational field of the sun if it, say, passes the radius of the Earth’s orbit from the sun vs if transverses the Solar system sans the gravitational field of the sun?

  20. Where does it say that angels travel at the speed of light?

    Or is “Raef Fanous” engaged in the usual nonsense of looking at his particular brand of mumbo-jumbo and, on seeing something in it that looks like something in science, then claiming his mumbo-jumbo predicted the science?

  21. And the Lord said to Einstein, saying:

    “When you sit with a pretty girl, 15 minutes feels like a few seconds…
    But when you sit on an electric burner, 15 minutes feels like a lifetime!”

    Oy.

  22. The SPEED of light is a constant, for all observers in all reference frames, it is only its PATH that is distored by the presence of a mass.

  23. It’s still closer than the biblical estimate of pi. πŸ™‚

  24. Jennifer:

    You are confusing lunar and solar years. The definition of a lunar year is 12 lunar months. In Islam, a lunar month is the time from (1) the appearance on the eastern horizon of the first waxing crescent moon after a new moon to (2) the next such appearance after the next new moon.

    The measure you gave is the number of lunar months in a solar year, the time the earth takes to orbit the sun.

    That is why, on the secular calendar, the Muslim month Ramadan comes 14 or 15 days earlier each year.

  25. Jennifer:

    Slight self-correction: I should have said: “That is why, on the secular (more or less, solar) calendar, the Muslim month Ramadan comes 10 or 11 days earlier each year.”

  26. It’s still closer than the biblical estimate of pi. πŸ™‚

    Hell, the Egyptian estimate of pi was closer.

    I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I learned that the “Alabama legislature declares pi equal to 3 in accordance with Bible” story turned out to be a joke.

  27. On the other hand, presumably angels have supernatural powers–why should they be bound by physical laws such as the speed of light in the first place?

    Because, if I am not mistaken, for Muslims (like the Mormons) there is no such thing as “the supernatural”. God is a real physical being and subject to all physical laws. If God does something “miraculous” it is only our limited knowledge of the true physical universe that causes our lack of understanding. Just as the operation of an internal combustion engine is “mysterious” to a child or even an adult who has not studied the subject so are the workings of God.

    There can, therefore, be no separation between religion and science just as there can be no separation between religion and the state.

  28. There can, therefore, be no separation between religion and science just as there can be no separation between religion and the state.

    A devout Muslim might believe no separation between religion and science but no one could believe the laws of conservation hold for the state. Any state worthy of the name is capable of making something out of nothing and taking something and turning it into nothing.

  29. “Moslems ask how could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have figured out the velocity of the moon relative to the speed of light?”

    Well, H.P. Lovecraft has a few answers for that question.

  30. a) Orbital Circumference = 2,413,402 km
    b) Above, times 12,000 = 28,960,824,000 km
    c) Length of day = 86,400 sec
    Ratio b/c = 335,195 km/sec
    Speed of light = 299,792 km/sec

    Ooops….Close, but no cigar. Over 10% error is really sloppy physics

    You’d need to adjust the first number down slightly because Muhammad was presumably using the lunar orbit as it existed in approximately 620 AD. The Moon drifts away from the Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm per year, so the radius of its orbit was roughly 52.6 m smaller when Muhammad allegedly received the revelation. I know that the final result would still be off, but it would be closer. (Although, on the other hand, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down so a day would have been shorter at the time of Muhammad too.)

  31. The Quran (Koran, the book of Islam) defined :
    The speed of light in vacuum at 299792.5 km/s.
    … etc …

    There’s nothing to ‘disprove’ since the silly comic book never defined any of those things.

    Have fun with the numerology.

  32. Cute, but its all a very big stretch. The “speed of angels” is determined from the phrase:

    (Allah) Rules the cosmic affair from the heavens to the Earth. Then this affair travels to Him a distance in one day, at a measure of one thousand years of what you count.

    Somehow we’re supposed to take for granted that “a thousand years of what you count” not only refers to the distances the moon travels in 1000 years, but also without the presence of the sun. Why would this be more correct than including the distance that the earth-moon system travels around the sun in that period of time? Because that throws his numbers waay off. So clearly one must eliminate the sun from the picture. Then he procedes to make some shit up that he claims is getting rid of the influence of the sun (which by the way it doesn’t). On average the suns gravity provides zero net energy change to the system it does not increase it like he says. Otherwise the moon would be constantly speeding up by 10% / year if you go by his numbers. He attempts to calculate the moons apparent oribital period to a distant observer, who does not move relative to the fixed stars. Giving a period less than the actual. But clearly the passage says “what you measure”, so it should be the plain old orbital circumference. To actually isolate the system from the sun one would assume the same mean radius and orbital eccentricity, giving you back the a number which is about 10% too high.

    The time dilation part is even more ludicrous. According to him the quran says:

    “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day, the measure of which is fifty thousand years.”

    Even though the phrasing is almost identical to the previous passage this now means that 50000 years pass for us while only a day passes for angels. Then assuming that this is due to angels accelerating from earth, gives him a speed extremely close to the speed of light. But any large number works there. Even one year produces a number that is 99.999% the speed of light. That proves nothing, especially when taking into account how far off the previous one is.

    And it just gets more ridiculous from there

  33. Refuted here.

    The essential number, the only one that has no validity here but that is required for the result to come out as the speed of light, is the compensation factor. There is no basis whatever for introducing this. The calculation without it is entirely correct whether the system orbits the sun or not. Moreover, there is no logic in multiplying lunar velocity by the cosine (why the cosine? No answer) of the degrees of solar arc crossed by the earth in a lunar siderial month (why a month? No answer).

    This bogus import was noted by Dr. Neumaier, who aptly called it “pure nonsense.” He was also clever enough to catch the fact that if we have to account for that (for whatever reason), then we are also obligated to account for the sun-earth-moon system’s revolution around the galactic center (and, I might add, the orbital motion of the milky way within the local cluster), but Dr. Hassab-Elnaby didn’t think of this. Ooops!

    In the end, what the Islamic Fundamentalists are doing is finding any string of numbers they can dig up that produce any number significant to modern science, and then claiming the Koran predicted modern science. But that is like saying, on account of amazing but contrived coincidences, that Elvis is the Son of God. Remember: all this started with nothing more than a commonplace phrase “a day is like a thousand years.” From this Dr. Mansour Hassab-Elnaby deduces the speed of light! At the very best he might have claimed that there is an amazing coincidence between the distance crossed by the moon in a thousand lunar years, and the distance light crosses in a day, but the Koran actually failed to predict this, since it fails to state so simple a sentence as that, and never mentions light or, in that context, the moon. But he cannot even claim this, because the math doesn’t work out anyway. He had to invent an arbitrary and thus bogus “cosine of a 27 degree arc” to get even this “amazing” result.

    Ho hum.

  34. I’d be much more impressed if someone derived a new theory of physics from the Koran. Maybe reconciling classical and quantum gravity or finding me a way to travel faster than light. I’ve got business in the Tau Ceti system and don’t have 12 years to get there, so please let me know if you find anything.

  35. Well, if Allah handed the Muslims one of the basic facts of physics on a silver platter, I guess they have even less of an excuse for being a bunch of backwards, 3rd world illiterates today.

    Gobs of oil, and now physical constants, and they still do stupid shit like gold-plate AK47’s and blow up pizzarias.

    Face it: God’s chosen people are a bunch of fucking retards.

  36. That’s what you say now, mediageek, but they haven’t used their transporter to beam antimatter bombs over your hometown just yet. And don’t get me started about phasers!

  37. Plenty of people can prove these jackasses wrong, but there’s no place to post the proof. Why should I have to prove a book of theology to be false? Since most of the “science” is just an extrapolation of what these people interpret the Koran to mean to fit the constructs of modern science, why should I have to track down the changes in etymology and the nuances in translation over the centuries just to prove some over-the-top whack job wrong? They should have to prove their case.

  38. No, Lamar. As Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinarily little proof.” Or something like that.

  39. Pro-Lib is on to something. If the Koran has any helpful suggestions on either verifying or disproving string theory, or m-theory, or whatever they’re calling it these days, that would probably be helpful.

    Or even just on observing a graviton or a sparticle, that would be cool.

  40. I’m Sparticle!

  41. I am not a big partisan of the Quran or the Bible or whatever the Jews have, but something about alot of these comments strikes me as similar to the scene in young frankenstein where the monster is booed off the stage because he sings poorly. The accuracy of the estimate (given interpretations, etc.) is pretty good for an illiterate herder in 700AD: roughly the right order of magnitude. If we believe that he was trying to estimate the speed of light and that is his estimate, I think we should be pretty impressed that this dead man can sing, so to speak.

    The ACCURACY of the comment is besides the point. You either believe that Mohammed was getting advice from God, having a lucky guess, or talking aout something else entiely. I myself lean towards the last two. If I sat down with a bunch of peyote and wrote everything I thought of for three or four years, I’m sure an army of devotees could eventually cull a few bits of truth out of it.

    But again, the accuracy is not the point. The premise is the point. And besides, isn’t Islam a faith? Where does proof come into that sort of thing? Wouldn’t that be blasphemy or something?

  42. Forget string theory. I’d be happy if the Quran had some advice on how to deal with the measurement problem in quantum mechanics.

  43. All this really amounts to is an Islamic form of (Jewish) Kabballah. Kabballah is at least 400 years older than the Quran, by the way.
    There is no proving or disproving it. It will say whatever the practicioners want it to say.
    Plug for a great movie that involves Kabballah: “Pi”.
    (“Eleven forty-five. Restate my assumptions…”)

  44. Let’s put it this way: If y’all hear about me winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, then there may be something to this Koran-as-science-reference-guide theory.

  45. far-out space nuts

    By the way, does anybody else hate the collected works of Sid and Marty Krofft? This was the only one of their spawn that I could tolerate, even in my kindergarten years.

  46. lunchstealer,

    The way I figured it back then, anything with Gilligan in it had to be good.

    Speaking of odd science fiction shows, wasn’t there something with Richard Benjamin and twin models? I could google it, of course, but why bother? Someone else will do it for me πŸ™‚

  47. The notion that the Quran contains nuggets of prescient knowledge of physics is not new. I have a 10-15 year old edition of the Quran at home wherein the translator’s notes reference the concept of the atom being introduced in the text. I recall Idries Shah made some similar claims about the Quran and the poetry of Rumi.

  48. I looked at some of the stuff briefly, and it appears to require some mighty stretchy interpretations.

    However, I couldn’t help noticing this passage from Quran 51.47: “…We built it with craftsmanship and We are still expanding.”

    That would make a nice slogan for any number of businesses. Especially tool or car manufacturers.

  49. “However, I couldn’t help noticing this passage from Quran 51.47: “…We built it with craftsmanship and We are still expanding.””

    Isn’t that from the rarely-quoted seventh verse of that Starship hit, “We built this City (and now we have sprawl)”?

    Jest askin.

  50. Look! Fusion!

    24.35: Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not — light upon light — Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.

  51. “Thus it is remembered: [O Sun] you who traverse 2202 yojanas in half a nimesa.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayana
    Even closer to actual measurement!

  52. Speaking of odd science fiction shows, wasn’t there something with Richard Benjamin and twin models? I could google it, of course, but why bother? Someone else will do it for me πŸ™‚

    So you think you can just lie back like a lazy bastard and wait for someone else to —

    Oh hell, it was Quark, which I remember liking quite a bit as a lad.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark_(TV_series)

  53. Stevo, it’s a law of Hit & Run that such questions cannot be resisted. Just like gravity πŸ™‚

    I loved that show! The Head! The twins! Buck Henry! I wonder if I’d like it now, as a, you know, adult type person. I suppose I’ll be eighty before it’s actually on DVD. Which will be an obsolete format by then.

    I read on IMDB that the show was run on Comedy Central at some point, so maybe it’s not entirely forgotten.

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