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Urban Legend - NASA Scientists Discover Biblical 'Missing Day'

Outline
Long circulated message claims that detailed calculations performed by scientists at NASA identified a missing day in time, thus proving as fact the Biblical stories that God at one time made the sun stand still and on another occasion made the sun go backwards by ten degrees.



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message are total nonsense. The event described never happened. No scientific calculations performed by NASA or any other credible entity have ever identified the "missing day" described in the story. The story is just a baseless legend that has circulated in various forms for decades and even predates NASA itself.

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Last updated: October 19, 2012
First published: October 19, 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example

Subject: NASA and the BIBLE

What a mighty God we serve!

NASA & THE BIBLE

Thought this was pretty amazing and interesting!

For all the scientists out there, and for all the students who have a hard time convincing these people regarding the truth of the Bible, here's something that shows God's awesome creation, and that He is still in control.

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called 'myth' in the Bible is true?

Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development.

'I think one of the most amazing things that God has done for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland ...

They were checking out where the positions of the sun, moon, and planets would be 100 years and 1,000 years from now. We have to know this so we won't send up a satellite and have it bump into something later on in its orbits.

We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down.

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries, and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong with either the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards.

They called in the service department to check it out, and they said, 'What's wrong?' Well, they found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.

They scratched their heads and tore their hair out. There was no answer.

Finally a Christian man on the team said, 'You know, one time I was in Sunday School, and they talked about the sun standing still.' While they didn't believe him, they didn't have an answer either, so they said, 'Show us, '

He got a Bible and went to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for any one with 'common sense.'

There they found the Lord saying to Joshua,

'Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand before Thee.'

Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy! And if darkness fell, they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right.... 'The sun stood still and the moon stayed and lasted not to go down about a whole day!'
(Joshua 10:12-13)

The astronauts and scientists said, there is the missing day! They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes.. Not a whole day.

They read the Bible, and there it was about [approximately] a day. These little words in the Bible are important, but they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes, you'll still be in trouble 1000 years from now.

Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. As the Christian employee thought about it, he remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS.

The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings that told of the following story: Hezekiah, on his death bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said 'Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 degrees?'

Hezekiah said, 'It is nothing for the sun to go ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backward 10 degrees.' Isaiah spoke to the Lord, and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARD! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes!'

Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in Second Kings make the missing day in the universe! Isn't it amazing?

References: Joshua 10:8, 12-13 and 2 Kings 20:9-11.

Forward this to as many people who you believe would think this is equally as cool.
If God could do this then; how much more can he do for us today, if we only believe in His word.

Never be afraid to try something new.

All I have and all that I am is by the Grace of God!




Detailed Analysis
According to this story, which has circulated in various forms for decades, scientists at NASA have performed calculations that prove old Bible stories that claim God once made the sun stand still for a day and, on another occasion, made the sun go backwards. The message claims that the space scientists at NASA's Green Belt, Maryland facility were at first puzzled by computer calculations that showed that a day was missing in time until a Christian team member pointed out that the Bible story of God making the sun stand still explained the apparent anomaly. And, suggests the message, a 40 minute shortfall in the "missing day" calculations was resolved perfectly by factoring in the story of God making the sun go backwards. The message asks recipients to send on this "amazing and interesting" proof of God's awesome power to as many people as possible.

But, the story is utter nonsense. The event described never took place. NASA scientists have not discovered a missing day in time. Nor has any other credible scientific organization. There are no anomalies in the scientific data that give any credence whatsoever to the Biblical stories of the sun standing still or going backwards.

The story has circulated in various forms for decades. In fact, the story actually predates the founding of NASA and was apparently first told by a Presbyterian minister named Harry Rimmer in his 1936 book, "The Harmony of Science and Scripture". In his book, Rimmer relates an encounter between a Christian professor and a skeptical astronomer that closely mirrors the later NASA version included above. But Rimmer never produced any evidence or documentation to prove that the encounter was anything more than a fictional anecdote.

And, although he always claimed the story was true, Harold Hill, the man who first told the NASA version of the story, quite clearly adapted it from earlier variants. In his book "The Truth Never Stands in The Way of a Good Story" American folklorist Jan Brunvand notes:

NASA's Public Affairs Office at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has issued a terse press release in response to questions about Harold Hill and the missing day. The release states that the center "has no knowledge of the use of its computers supposed by Mr. Harold Hill and attributed to our scientists. Goddard does not apply its computers to the task of projecting thousands of years into the future or past, as this would be irrelevant to the operational lifetime of satellites, which rarely exceeds a dozen years. The release concludes by saying that Hill "worked briefly at Goddard early in the 1960s as a plant engineer, a position which would not place him in direct contact with our computer facilities or teams engaged in orbital computations"

And in 1997, NASA again responded to the story by publishing the following article in the "Ask an Astrophysicist" section of its website:

The Question

(Submitted March 25, 1997)
Can the event that took place in Joshua 10:13 be confirmed, for example by counting the positions of heavenly bodies backward in time?

The Answer

According to the laws of physics, there are only two possible explanations for having the Sun stand still in the sky for a day: (1) the Earth would essentially have to stop spinning on its axis...for which there is no evidence. -or- (2) the Sun would have to start moving about in the solar system in a very specific way so that it appeared to us on our spinning Earth to be standing still. There is no evidence of this occurring either.
We, too, have heard an "urban legend" about scientists at NASA GSFC finding the "missing day" in computer calculations of the motions of the planets. The legend has been around for longer than NASA itself, but turned into a NASA "event" sometime in the 60's. The story goes that some scientists were doing orbital mechanics calculations to determine the positions of the planets in the future, for use in determining the trajectories of future satellite missions. They realized they were off by a day. A biblical scholar in the lot remembered the passage from Joshua and all was set right. But these events, in fact, never occurred. It is easy to understand why:

The "GSFC finds missing day" urban legend doesn't make sense for the following reason. If we want to know where the planets will be in the future, we use accurate knowledge of their initial positions and orbital speeds (which would be where they are located now), and solve for their positions for some time in the future. We solve a very well determined set of equations that describe their motions. The major dynamical component of any planet's orbital motion is determined by solving an equation (force is equal to the mass times the acceleration) which is the perhaps the most fundamental in classical physics. The validity and predictive power of this equation are well documented and can be seen every day: a recent example is the lunar eclipse that was visible to much of the world last Sunday. This calculation would not cover any time before the present, so some missing day many centuries ago, if it had occurred, could not be uncovered with this method.

In general, trying to prove events that are said to have occurred in the Bible, using scientific principles, doesn't work. Most scientists draw a clear distinction between things that are taken on faith, and those that are testable and therefore falsifiable. Science deals with the latter, and religion with the former.

It is high time this silly tale was laid to rest once and for all.


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References

NASA and the 'Missing Day in Time'
The Truth Never Stands in The Way of a Good Story
NASA - Can Science Confirm the Missing Day Referred to in the Bible?

Last updated: October 19, 2012
First published: October 19, 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer