Genesis 8 – 1.21 Gigawatts!
So we start out with Yahweh remembering Noah and the ark, which would sound reassuring if it didn’t also give the impression that his mind was wandering elsewhere, and that saving the ark was only slightly more important to him than playing his genocidal Fantasia routine with the flood waters. The language is slightly ambiguous, but I think the wind he sends is meant to calm the waves upon the water, not to cause the waters to recede. After all, the gang is in for another six months of this business.
God turns off the water pumps and sky-spigots, which I think we hear about for the last time here. I think it’s worth noting that “the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained.” You could certainly bounce around with some mental gymnastics, but it seems clear to me that the author is referring to two different sources of water.
The boat comes to rest upon the mountains of Ararat, home of the tallest peak in Turkey, and it just kind of chills there while the mountains recede. It chills there for seven months. Can you imagine the agony, the frustration, of being trapped in that stinking boat for months eating the same crappy food, shoveling literally tonnes of waste, taking care of thousands of animals who would likely eat or at least seriously injure you if given the chance, all because you’re waiting for a God who flooded the planet to take his sweet time in draining all the water away?
And where exactly would he have drained this water to? You couldn’t stuff it in the ground. As I noted previously, only about 1.7% of the hydrosphere is in the ground, and we’re already talking about a volume of water that is several times the volume of the hydrosphere itself. You couldn’t evaporate it either because the atmosphere holds even less water than the ground.
The only thing I can think of is that, since one can separate water into hydrogen and oxygen gases utilizing an electric current, Yahweh was channeling Zeus and cooking off the oceans with massive lightning storms. This doesn’t seem unreasonable given that salinated water is highly conductive. We’d end up with plenty of usable oxygen and hydrogen has escape velocity so we wouldn’t need to account for it.
(My earlier estimate of the volume of water necessary for this story was actually too low because I didn’t account for compression factors increasing the density of the deeper water, but I’ll continue to assume that the density of seawater is uniformly 1025 kg/m3)
Given that you need 237.1 kJ of electrical energy to dissociate one mole of water into oxygen and hydrogen gasses, it would take 237.1 kJ/mol(1.493 x 1023 moles)= 3.540 x 1025 kJ of electrical energy to get rid of all the excess water and bring sea level to what it is today.
As it turns out, there’s actually almost a name for this level of energy: the yottajoule! It’s equal to 1024 joules and is approximately the amount of energy required to heat the entire hydrosphere by 1 °Celsius. So we have 35400 yottajoules. An average lightning bolt carries 500 megajoules of energy. No wonder it took so long to recede the waters! This would take 70,000,000,000,000,000,000 lightning strikes! (Fun fact: this is equal to 15 billion times the amount of energy of all nuclear weapons ever exploded of earth)
The waters started to recede after 150 days, so there were 3.6 trillion lightning bolts raging across the face of the planet at any given second until it was dry. Where all this electrical potential came from is a mystery given that all the water was on the ground now. The bigger problem would actually be, (aside from killing all the fish, of course) that hydrogen gas is highly flammable and would have created huge, Hindenburg-like explosions from the concentrations it must have been in, which would have recombined the gases back into water and made the tedious process even more lengthy. All this would have had a profound effect upon the global temperature as well, likely steam-cooking the residents of the ark.
I’m sure there’s no mention of this because Yahweh kept all the storms and extreme heat away from Noah with that benevolent wind.
So the waters recede and Noah keeps tossing birds out the window after getting fed up at being used as their personal cage liner for the hundredth time, but they keep coming back! Well, the doves do. Who knows what happened to that raven? But the dove comes back empty-taloned, then clutching an olive leaf seven days later.
Hold up. So you’re either telling me that non-aquatic plants survived six months underwater with no ability to photosynthesize or respirate, or that an olive tree grew in the span of seven days.
The next few months seem to be occupied with Noah and his family largely sitting on their asses and twiddling thumbs, except we already know they’d have to spend (more than) every waking second taking care of those animals which must have made the waiting that much more excruciating.
No wonder the first thing they did when they got off the ark was to sacrifice of every clean animal and bird. They must have been quite the zoophobiacs at that point. Cathartic, I’m sure.
Also, I can only imagine that the only reason the predators didn’t immediately kill and extinguish several thousand species from existence right then and there is that their muscles were too atrophied for pursuit. How this didn’t lead to their later starvation and subsequent extinction we can only speculate.
Yahweh caught the smell of burning animal flesh and it appeased him. He says in Gen 8:21 that he “will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing.”
Pretty sweet to get that agricultural reprieve, but wouldn’t it have been nice for all those bloated corpses if Yahweh had decided that humans being evil was just natural for them (not that that’s not an insulting and degrading idea by itself) and shouldn’t be punished en masse before the global genocide?
Was he really that capricious and starved for worship that a simple barbecue would have changed his mind? Couldn’t he have asked for that instead of an ark?
Yahweh needs to work on his communication abilities.