With the controversial movie Noah showing in theaters, their timing couldn’t have been better. Physics students at the University of Leicester decided to test if Noah’s ark could have floated with two of each animal in the world on board.
The students were shocked by their results. They found that the ark could have held the equivalent of 2.15 million sheep and easily done the job.
Speaking on behalf of the group — made up of students Katie Raymer, Thomas Moore, Oliver Youle, Benjamin Jordan, — Moore, 22, said:
You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised it would work. We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept definitely would work.”
The students presented their findings to the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics. The journal provides an opportunity for students to write articles for peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In Genesis chapter 6, God commanded Noah to build an ark giving specific instructions on the material used and dimensions:
14 Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty [l]cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. (Genesis 6:14-16 NASV)
After reading the account, there were a number of issues the team needed to resolve:
The wood used
The first was the wood. It was called gopher wood in the Bible. It is uncertain exactly what tree that referred to, but most modern Bibles translate the word as Cyprus, so that is what the researchers used. It was important as they needed to know the wood’s density to find out how buoyant the ark would be.
The size of the ark
The second thing was the dimensions that were given as as cubits. It was a term that referred to the distance from the elbow to the tip of the finger. So they had to approximate that as well. A cubit ranged in size from 18 inches to over 20 inches, so the team went with 18.9 inches or 48.2 cm. This would put the ark at 472.5′ (144 m) long by 78.75′ (24 m) wide by 47.25″ (14.4 m) tall.
Using this they were able to calculate how much weight the ark could hold.
Jordan Benjamin explained it this way:
“Using the dimensions of the ark and the density of the water, we were able to calculate its buoyancy force, which, according to Archimedes’ principle, is equal to the weight of the volume of fluid the object displaces. This meant we were then able to estimate the total mass the ark could support before the gravitational weight would overcome the buoyancy force, causing the ark to sink, which we calculated as 50.54x106kg.”
How much do animals weigh?
The third thing they needed to know was the weight of the animals. Previous research showed that 51.74 pounds (23.47 kgs) was the average weight of animals on earth. This is about the size of a sheep. So using that they determined the ark could hold over 2.15 million sheep.
How many animals would be needed?
The last thing they needed to resolve is how many animals, birds, reptiles would have been on the ark. At this point, they turned to Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb writers of Genesis Flood who estimated there were about 35,000 different species of animals, birds etc alive at the time of the flood.
Based on those calculations, the physics team determined the ark could easily hold two of each animal. They noted that this was basically a weight calculation and they did not calculate if there was enough room for all the animals to fit on the three-story ark.
The 35,000 number is probably on the high side. Evolutionary taxonomist Earnst Mayr in his book Principles of Systematic Zoology came up with a lower figure. In 1980, he estimated there were 21,000 different type of animals in the world today:
- 3,700 mammals
- 8,600 birds
- 6,300 reptiles
- 2,500 amphibians
Other creationists have suggested the number on the ark was lower. It all hinges on the Hebrew word “mikkol” defined “kind” in Genesis 6:19.
God told Noah he would not take every animal, but every “kind or sort of ” animal:
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. (Genesis 6:19 NASV)
In an interview with wnd.com, Larry Stone, the author of Noah: the Real Story, using modern dogs as an example explains it this way:
“The key is what God means by ‘after the kind.’ Did Noah have to take two terriers, two pit bulls and two yellow Labradors or just two animals representing the dog family.”
Depending on how broadly you define “kind” some have suggested the number of animals on the ark was much lower perhaps 16,000 as suggested by John Woodmorappe or 3,000 as put forward by Georgia Purdom.
Was man capable of building an ark of this size?
Some have questioned ark account saying man was not capable (intelligent) enough to build an ark at this time in their history. Well, God knowing how many animals would be showing up provided the physics.
Dr. Bert Thompson and Dr. Brad Harrub point out in their article “An Examination of Noah’s Ark and the Global Flood” that Noah existed before Abraham as did the 4th Dynasty Pharaohs of Egypt who built the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Engineers today are still trying to figure out how they built such incredible edifices.
It was also during those pre-Abrahamic days and shortly after the flood the Bible records (Genesis 11) that men built the massive Tower of Babel after which God judged the world with languages to slow down development.
- Hurrah! The animals could have floated two by two according to physicists: University of Leicester News Release
- Noah could have floated his boat, says scientists: Ark really could have coped with two of every animal: The Daily Mail
- University of Leicester physics students says Noah’s Ark would have floated with two of each of 35,000 species of animal: News.com.au
- An Examination of Noah’s Ark and the Global Flood: Apologetics Press
- Scientific stunner: Ark would have worked: WND