May 2010

Petaflops, Qubits and God

This morning I did some brain training over breakfast. I didn’t mean to, I was quietly munching through my bowl of muesli and browsing through David’s BBC Focus science magazine left open on the kitchen table.

So now I know what a petaflop is. I even have a rough idea about a Qubit which is not bad going for an arts graduate with limited mathematical ability. If the BBC has dumbed it down for the likes of me, then what follows is the ”blue peter’ version:

A petaflop is a measure of speed for computers. One petaflop is equivalent to a thousand trillion operations per second.The fastest computer in the world can perform 1.759 petaflops a second. That’s fast! Here is a computer that could probably give you the answer about half an hour before you thought of the question!

But that’s nothing. because the current fastest computer in the world is not a quantum computer which are apparently being developed somewhere out there at the extreme boundaries of science. Here is a comparison between a quantum computer and today’s supercomputer:

‘It would take our best computer today 10 million years to perform the factorisation done in seconds by quantum computing’

Even given that I don’t know what ‘factorisation’ means, I’m impressed!

Quantum computers use Qubits. Ordinary computers use ‘bits’ of data, a bit is either a ‘zero’ or a ‘one’. A qubit can be a ‘zero’ and a ‘one’ at the same time. To which the only possible response is ‘Taaa Da!’

That’s a neat trick!

Feeling throughly entertained I pressed on into the next article all about the cosmos. I learnt that according to ‘string theory’ there are 10 dimensions in our universe, maybe even 26! Then I finished my muesli and as things were starting to feel seriously weird I gave up (you’ll have to write your own ‘child’s guide to particle physics’).

What has all this got to do with God? Recently I was reading for a college assignment about the anthropic principle (the idea that the cosmos seems to have been ‘finely tuned’ to bring about life on earth) and I came across a quote from Richard Dawkins (who wrote The God Delusion):

‘I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable – but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect…. If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed’.

Astonishing! Here is the world’s most famous atheist admitting that the idea of God would be ‘a worthy idea’. Why then can’t he allow himself to believe in the possibility? Firstly, because he can’t imagine a God big enough or incomprehensible enough. This is a very weak argument because if God were comprehensible he would be no where near big enough. What Dawkins is basically saying is ‘I can’t imagine him, therefore he doesn’t exist’. But the world is full of unimaginably fantastic creatures, most of which I could never have imagined, that doesn’t mean to say they don’t exist. His second argument doesn’t stand much scrutiny either: he has never heard of such a God from any theologian. Well, if you’ve ever read any Dawkins you will know he argues from a position of very little knowledge of the Bible or Christianity, dismissing it all as myth without examination, so he clearly hasn’t listened to any theologians. How can you hear what you’re not listening to (‘those that have ears to hear, let them hear’ Jesus). Very short-sighted. He really hasn’t done the cause of atheism any favours.

So going back to petaflops and qubits and other mind boggling stuff, I’m not suggesting that God is some kind of ‘quantum computer’. But if we, ‘mere humans’, can conceive and create something that can be two things at the same time and perform trillions of functions a second, doesn’t that make it just a tiny bit easier to believe that an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent deity might be possible?

(For more info on this see June’s edition of BBC Focus or for more about the anthropic principle Paul Davies’ book The Goldilocks Enigma. Paul Davies is highly respected scientist, not a Christian as far as I know but making the point that the universe appears to have been created uniquely in order for us to exist).

Petaflops, Qubits and God Read More »

June Devotional – Friendship

Friendship in life is precious, a gift from God, it cannot be earned, it’s freely given and received. It signifies trust and honesty even when the truth hurts.

St Augustine knew that true joy in life was not to be found without friends and the gift of their love and company. He wrote ‘…what consolation have we in this human society, so replete with mistaken notions and distressing anxieties, except the unfeigned faith and mutual affections of genuine, loyal friends?’. For Augustine, God’s grace of salvation is not something that is had in isolation but only experienced in the chorus of friendship.

We see from 1 Samuel 18:1 that true and lasting friendship can occur suddenly ‘After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself’. Friendships can be life long as in this case but sometimes friends come into our lives for a season and maybe for a divine purpose.

We are told by God that loyal friends love through difficult times, who in being sincere, speak the truth in love. Faithful friends are a rare treasure who never give up on each other. In Proverbs 22:11 purity and integrity gain the friendship of Kings, ‘One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend’.

God blesses us with gifts that add beauty and joy into our lives through those times of suffering and even in our day to day routines whether at work, at home, with children or with family and friends. Friends strengthen and help each other through hard times, ‘…though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’. – Ecclesiastes 4:12.

Jesus marked friendship by sacrificing His life ‘Greater love has no-one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ – John 15:13. For if while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! – Romans 5:10.

If you have a friend in mind as you read this, maybe you would like to pray for them and thank God for your friendship with them. Or maybe you have lost touch with someone dear and would like to drop them a line reaching out in friendship and love.

June Devotional – Friendship Read More »

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