Answering questions on vacuum, space, rockets, and space travel

On about September 21, 2017 I received via email some questions/comments related to vacuum and how rockets and spacecraft are able to operate in space.  I replied within about 1 day and my responses are presented below slightly edited.


How can anything be propagated through space if it is a vacuum, nothing?

If space is a vacuum then what does the rocket push off of?

How does the rocket maintain its heading and not spin out of control if there is no air to stabilize off of?

Space travel believers will say that they use special propellant that when ejected out of the thruster nozzle has an equal and opposite reaction.

If that’s the case then wouldn’t the thrusters on let’s say the space shuttle when maneuvering to the ISS have to eject the special propellant faster than 17,500MPH which is the speed they are traveling?

All tests show that rockets don’t work in a vacuum.


I am going to do the best I can to answer these questions as quickly as possible off the top of my head without consulting any sources of information beyond what I currently know.  These are all good questions and certainly more could be learned by studying these things more.


First regarding the question of vacuum, I think that even in space there is not a complete vacuum in the sense that you could find a cubic mile of space that does not contain at least one atom or atomic nuclei.

But even if you could imagine a cubic mile of space without even one atom in it, I believe that other physical phenomena could take place in this space, such as the transmission of light or other electromagnetic waves, and other things possibly (I would have to research this more).

Even if you could have completely empty space, it becomes kind of a philosophical question of what is “nothing.”  I think the view of physics is that even if you could have completely empty space, that is not nothing, but instead a part of reality, known as the space time continuum in physics.  I think this view that even empty space would not be nothing goes back to early philosophers even before Christ.  I would have to double check on this.

I know we have plenty of examples here on earth of physical phenomena taking place in a high vacuum, but we really cannot create a perfect and complete vacuum.

So before we had transistors, we had vacuum tubes.  These accomplished the same sort of electrical tasks that eventually became possible to do with transistors.  When multiple transistors integrated into an electrical circuit were eventually created on a silicon chip, we got computers and relatively shortly thereafter we got computers that ordinary people could buy and use.  But realize that there were digital computers even before transistors, and these computers used vacuum tubes.

But of course, the more common use of vacuum tubes initially was in radio and then eventually television.  So there is a lot going on within the vacuum of a vacuum tube, such as the flow of electrons in the vacuum, and I am remembering how vacuum tubes need a source of heat to operate, and that is done with the filament, which is basically like a separate electrical circuit within the vacuum tube that functions just like a conventional incandescent light bulb.  Also, the screens of the original televisions were cathode ray tubes which were themselves giant vacuum tubes where a fast moving electron beam is used to create the television picture.

Now moving on to the other space questions.  I will paste the questions/comments posed and intersperse my answers/comments.

Question: If space is a vacuum then what does the rocket push off of?

Answer: It pushes off from the mass of propellant reaction products that it expels at high velocity.  I answered this more completely in a separate blog post dated September 20, 2017.

Question: How does the rocket maintain its heading and not spin out of control if there is no air to stabilize off of?

Answer: A physical solid object in space would remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force.  If we were to imagine that it were far enough out in space such that there were no significant gravitational forces acting upon it, then it would continue moving in a straight line for example.  I am using moving in a straight line, because if I said it was at rest, it would raise the question of what is it at rest with respect to, so linear motion is easier to imagine for this thought experiment.  This would be conservation of linear momentum.  The center of mass of the object would continue to move in a straight line.  But if the object had a spin or rotation to it, that spin would also continue indefinitely, unless acted upon by a force to change the rotation.  Just to complicate the example a little for illustration, let’s say it was a spacecraft traveling with a couple of astronauts in it, and the spacecraft was of a long cylindrical shape with one astronaut at one end and the other at the other end, and the spacecraft was tumbling (spinning) end over end.  If the astronauts were to move from the ends to the middle of the spacecraft the rate of the spacecraft’s tumbling would increase.  This would be due to conservation of angular momentum.  By the way, an example of conservation of angular momentum that most people on earth are familiar with is when an ice skater gets to spinning with their arms extended outwards and perhaps even a leg extending outward, and then draws their arms inward as well as their leg, and then they end up spinning noticeably faster.

Question: Space travel believers will say that they use special propellant that when ejected out of the thruster nozzle has an equal and opposite reaction.

Answer: I would have to research this for details, but I can say this.  Once you are in space, to make changes or corrections in either linear motion or spinning motion you are going to need more than one thruster pointed in different directions in order to achieve any change that you might want.  Maybe it could be done with just one thruster if you had the ability to change the direction that the thruster points from the spacecraft.  But also, for in space use, the corrections you make are usually going to be relatively small, so you want your thruster to be easy to turn on and off.  So you wouldn’t want to be burning rocket fuel and oxygen for example.  This is where your special propellants come in.  For a propellant to work all it needs to be able to do is expel a mass at a certain velocity, the higher the better, because then you get more effect for the mass that you use.

Question: If that’s the case then wouldn’t the thrusters on let’s say the space shuttle when maneuvering to the ISS have to eject the special propellant faster than 17,500MPH which is the speed they are traveling?

Answer: The unreacted unejected propellant is already going at the same speed as the spacecraft before it is ejected.  To cause a change in the motion of the spacecraft it only has to be ejected at some velocity with respect to the velocity of the spacecraft.  A thorough discussion follows.

Presumably in this example the spacecraft is orbiting the earth in a stable orbit at whatever distance from the earth that would be necessary for orbiting at 17,500 mph.  This could easily be calculated but I am not going to do that now.  I just know from having heard these orbital speeds mentioned before that this would be at a distance from the earth where you would have a very high vacuum, meaning essentially no “air” drag on the vehicle.  This would mean that the spacecraft would keep moving in this orbit unless acted upon by an external force.

The reason it is not moving in a straight line is that gravity is continually exerting a force upon it in a direction perpendicular to its velocity.  This is known as centripetal force and it causes the spacecraft to be continually curving toward the earth.  But it is going fast enough that the curving is the right amount to keep the spacecraft circling or orbiting the earth.

If you wanted to cause the spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, all you would need to do is fire a thruster in the opposite direction to the velocity of the spacecraft.  Note that the propellant used would already be travelling at the speed of the spacecraft before it is reacted and released, so it is ejected at high velocity with respect to the spacecraft’s velocity.  In so doing, if it is fired long enough to decrease the velocity enough, and this could all be calculated ahead of time based on the performance characteristics of the thrusters, the slower speed will result in the force of gravity causing it to curve more than the curve required for the orbit, so the spacecraft will start to travel to lower altitudes and eventually start entering the atmosphere.  I have never felt the need to look into the numerical aspects of all of this, but it might be interesting to gather all of this information to see if it all makes sense.  But I suppose, if it is all fake, they could have just made it all calculate out correctly to deceive us all.


Just a little note about how physics works for the equation F=ma in order to help better understand what centripetal force is.  (I am reflecting upon when I first learned about this equation, taking physics for the first time in high school 44 years ago, where I learned how this equation explains why car accidents can kill you, but that’s another story.)  In reality this equation is a vector equation.  A vector has both magnitude and direction.  F is the force vector with both its magnitude and direction.  a is the acceleration vector also with both magnitude and direction.  Acceleration is also by definition the time derivation of the velocity vector.  So in words, F(magnitude&direction) = mass x a(magnitude & direction) or

F(magnitude&direction) = mass x (change in v/change in t)

Where v is the velocity vector also with magnitude and direction.

So if you were in a drag racer, and you got the green light, and you take off, you would feel yourself being pushed from behind by the back of the seat as the car accelerates in a straight line with you in it.  Your velocity would be changing in magnitude (increasing) while its direction stays the same, straight ahead.

Now if you were traveling in a car at a constant speed and in a straight line, but then you put the car into a turn of a certain radius but at constant speed, you would feel the side of the car pushing against you in the direction that the car is turning.  In this case you are experiencing a constant acceleration, that is, a change in the velocity vector with respect to time, but the velocity vector is changing in direction but not speed or magnitude.  So in this turn the centripetal force is the force being exerted by the ground on the tires of the car perpendicular to its forward motion in order to cause it to turn (with you inside), which is a constant acceleration maneuver.  To make it a little more personal for you in the car, the side of the car is pushing against you causing you to turn, a centripetal force causing the centripetal acceleration of you.

Most people are familiar with the term centrifugal force.  If you are sitting in the turning car, from your point of view as being in the car, known in physics as a rotating reference frame point of view, you feel a force throwing you to the outside of the car, that is indistinguishable from a gravity force from your point of view from inside the car.  This reminds me of the space station in 2001 A Space Odyssey, where it is spinning so as to create an artificial gravity, so the person is able to run around it as if they were running on a surface with a gravitational attraction.

Comment: All tests show that rockets don’t work in a vacuum.

Answer: I would like to review these tests so I can comment upon them.

Rebuttal to Flat Earth argument: Lines of latitude and longitude are distorted to hide the flat earth




PROBLEM STATEMENT AND RESPONSE by T. Mark Hightower 9/19/2017


I cited to a flat earth advocate how the closest distance between Perth Australia and Sydney Australia on the spherical earth model is a little over 2000 miles, whereas the closest distance between these two cities on the flat earth model (azimuthal equidistant map most often cited and shown by flat earth model advocates) is over 5000 miles.  And surely Australians would know that the 2000 mile distance makes sense if they have driven and/or flown between these two cities, whereas the 5000 mile distance is absurd.  How can flat earth advocates explain this?  The explanation I got from the flat earth advocate I posed the question to was that the azimuthal equidistant map is not a correct flat earth map and that they do not yet have a completely correct flat earth map.   Also it was stated that, and here I am doing the best I can to explain how I understood what was said, there is evidence that on land masses on the earth the latitudes and longitudes are distorted and/or stretched to make them come out consistent with the spherical earth model, but out on the oceans where you can’t really know where you are and nobody can check these things, further distortion and/or stretching is done to make it appear that the spherical earth model is correct, when in reality the earth is actually flat.

Although I did not push the point in my conversation with the flat earth advocate, based on the above explanation it seems like flat earth advocates are not able to tell us where well established geographical locations on the earth such as major cities are on their flat earth map.


When I heard the above explanation I thought it seemed to make some sense although I couldn’t quite visualize how this might work.  Later as I have reflected upon this more, I believe that this explanation is convoluted and incoherent.  I find it difficult to explain or to prove that the explanation is convoluted and incoherent.

But if I can bring in some other information that is often seen presented by flat earth theory advocates I think I can clearly show that there is a serious problem here of convolution and incoherence.  Flat earth theory advocates often show the disk shaped flat earth represented by the azimuthal equidistant map and they show the sun and moon circling around the disk in order to explain why those on the earth see what they see and that it is consistent with their flat earth theory.  However, as soon as they claim that the sun and moon are circling around the disk shaped flat earth and that is why we anywhere on the earth see what we see, they have just implied that those on the earth can know where they are on the earth in terms of the flat earth model and its map.

But it was previously said that flat earth advocates do not yet have a flat earth map.  I say if they do not have a flat earth map, they have no business speculating about what is moving around above their undefined flat disk shaped earth.

My challenge to flat earth theory advocates is that they should start locating well know geographical locations on their flat earth map.  May I suggest the following list of cities well distributed on the earth:  Sao Paulo, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; Perth, Australia; San Francisco, United States; New York City, United States; Santiago, Chile; London, England; Berlin, Germany; Moscow, Russia; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Tokyo, Japan; Honolulu, Hawaii.

If flat earth theory advocates know how the stars, wandering stars, sun, and moon travel above the flat earth, they should be able to use this knowledge to locate where all of these cities are on the flat disk shaped map of the flat earth, and establish where any other cities or locations are on it as well.


Rebuttal to Flat Earth argument: Space travel impossible since rockets have nothing to push against in space


PROBLEM STATEMENT AND RESPONSE by T. Mark Hightower 9/20/2017


This argument describes physical behavior familiar to most on the earth where it is either clear that motion is achieved by pushing against something or it appears that this is the case.  I will describe two examples.  A car pushes against the road with its drive wheels powered by the car’s engine or motor in a direction opposite to the direction of the car’s motion.  A jet aircraft in motion in the air (atmosphere) appears to be achieving its forward motion by pushing against the air behind it with the thrust of its jet engines.  In space there is no air, but instead a vacuum.  A spacecraft in space firing it rocket engine would have nothing to push against, therefore the firing of its rocket engine would have no effect on its motion. Therefore space travel as commonly believed to be possible is actually impossible.  Therefore the space program and space travel are fake and a complete hoax.


This argument appears to make sense but it does not take into account the proper application of basic principles of physics that are well established by experiments that can be done here on the earth.  The main principle of physics here is known as conservation of momentum.  Linear momentum is the product of mass and velocity.  Let me illustrate this with a simple thought experiment that could easily be demonstrated with an actual experiment.  Let’s say you have two ice skaters who weigh the same and are at rest in the middle of an ice rink facing each other holding hands.  They each weigh 150 lbs.  The skaters then simultaneously push against each other as hard as they can and release their hands, while keeping their skates parallel and in the direction of their pushing.  These are skilled skaters able to maintain their position with skates parallel traveling backwards so that they travel in a straight line in the opposite direction of the mutual push against each other.  What will happen?  They will end up traveling in opposite directions to each other at the same speed.  Eventually they will both slow down to a complete stop due to the slight friction between their skates and the ice as well as slight air drag due to their motion in the air.  But the principle being illustrated depends on looking at their velocities right after they push away from each other, and not how they would eventually slow down.  The total momentum they had before they pushed was zero, (300)(0), because their velocity was zero.  Let’s say the magnitude of their push was enough to give them each the same speed of 5 mph.  So once they pushed off from each other, one had a momentum of (150)(5) and the other had a momentum of (150)(-5), their momentums being equal in magnitude but in opposite directions, which is taken care of mathematically by the negative sign.  So their total momentum is still zero, 750 – 750 = 0.

Let’s imagine a similar experiment.  In this case let’s say one skater weighs twice the weight of the other skater.  Keeping the total weight of the skaters the same, one skater would weigh 100 lbs and the other 200 lbs.  If they then push off from each other in the necessary magnitude of impulse to give the same individual magnitudes of momentum as the previous example, the 100 lb skater would be traveling at 7.5 mph and the 200 lb skater would be traveling at 3.75 mph.  The math works out like this.  (100)(7.5) + (200)(-3.75) = 750 – 750 = 0.  So the skaters are not pushing against the ice or against the air in order to affect their motion.  They are pushing against each other.

So for a spacecraft in space firing its rocket engine you have the mass of the spacecraft and the mass of the reacted rocket fuel that is ejected at high velocity upon firing.  In this case the spacecraft is quite heavy compared to the very light rocket fuel, but the rocket fuel is expelled at such a high velocity that it pushes against the rocket, and the rocket pushes against it as they part ways.  The total momentum of the rocket fuel system looked at as a whole will remain the same, the heavier space craft will go off in one direction at a lower velocity, while the much lighter rocket fuel will go off in the other direction at a much higher velocity.  So this is how rockets work in space so as to change the motion or velocity of the spacecraft.

But as the rocket engine is firing, it is like, if you were on the ice, for the large skater, having a huge number of tiny skaters pushing off from the large skater in rapid succession over a period of time.  The longer this process continues, the faster the large skater will be traveling.  But eventually the tiny skaters will run out, and this would be equivalent to the spacecraft running out of rocket fuel.  There are more details about how you actually calculate the behavior of rocket engines where you get into defining thrust and if I remember right something called specific impulse, but you do not need to get into that level of detail in order to understand the basic principle of how a rocket works in space according to well established laws of physics, as I have illustrated by these simple thought experiments.  Space travel is indeed consistent with the commonly understood and accepted laws of physics.  Therefore, space travel is possible.


In reality the jet engine is based on the same principle of conservation of momentum as the rocket engine in space.  It creates its thrust by expelling mass behind it at high velocity.  Here’s the difference.  The jet engine brings air in at the front to provide oxygen for the combustion of the jet fuel, so a portion of the mass the jet engine ejects at high velocity comes from the air.  The rocket engine carries its own oxygen in addition to its fuel, so the mass that it ejects comes entirely from on board fuel and oxygen tanks.

The jet engine is pushing against the exhaust gases that it is expelling at high velocity, some of which comes from the air.  The expelled exhaust gases are pushing against the engine.  Forces always occur in pairs.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In the case of the car, it is definitely pushing against the road in the direction opposite its motion with its drive wheels.  Any exhaust it expels is not contributing to its motion.


Rebuttal to Flat Earth argument: Vacuum bottle sucking up water implies atmosphere should be gone

Kelvinsong, Earth’s atmosphere, CC BY-SA 3.0


PROBLEM STATEMENT AND RESPONSE by T. Mark Hightower 9/17/2017


First pull some significant level of vacuum in a rigid bottle.  Place the bottom of the bottle into a body of water.  Create a hole in the bottom of the bottle.  A significant amount of water will be sucked up into the bottle above the level of the body of water.  Since this vacuum sucked up water, a liquid, it would be even easier to suck up air (a gas) which is what makes up the atmosphere according to spherical earth theory.  Since the atmosphere does not get sucked up into space, the spherical earth theory fails this simple thought experiment.


This argument appears to make sense in a qualitative sense, but it is far off the mark in a quantitative sense, and does not bring to bear upon the problem enough conventional physics theory to allow any meaningful conclusion to be reached.  Since it is assuming conventional physics in order to show that it gives a result contrary to common observation, I will show that a complete and correct application of conventional physics to this problem will actually give a result in keeping with the observation that pressure gets lower the higher you go in the atmosphere.  I am going to describe a more rigorous thought experiment that will illustrate what we would really expect to happen based upon conventional physics theory.

Suppose you had a rigid bottle 500 miles tall and you could evacuate it to a perfect vacuum and then stick its bottom in a body of water and introduce an opening in the bottom so the vacuum would start sucking water up into the bottle.  What would happen?  The water would get sucked up into the bottle until it reached a level of about 34 feet (atmospheric pressure is equal to roughly 34 feet of water) above the level of the water that it is sitting it.  The water at the level in the bottle would start to vaporize and begin filling the bottle from that point upwards with water vapor, that is, water in the gas phase.  The reason this vaporization takes place is that the vapor pressure of water at room temperature is about 20 mm Hg, so it vaporizes into the lower pressure of the vacuum in the bottle.  Standard atmospheric pressure is 760 mm Hg just for comparison.  Eventually the entire bottle will be filled with water vapor above the 34 foot level where the liquid water had risen to.  The water vapor in the bottle will not all be at the same pressure.  It will be highest at the liquid vapor interface, and decrease to its lowest value at the very top of the bottle.  Calculations could easily be done to determine what this pressure would be at the top, but it is not necessary to go to that level of detail to make the point of this thought experiment.  It would certainly be a very very low pressure, much like the very very low pressures (i.e. high vacuum) of space.

So this shows that the simple experiment of sucking water up into a vacuum bottle does not imply that the entire atmosphere would be sucked up or out into space according to the conventional physics model, of which the spherical earth model is a part.

Now realize that what I have just illustrated is not a final answer.  Nothing ever is.  Things can always be looked into in more detail.  I would pose this question.  Is the atmosphere losing any of its gases to space with time?  The answer may be that it is.  But the rate may be very slow.  But this would certainly be a question worth looking into further.  I have not done so yet, but I will.  Perhaps this is something all Earth Model researchers should pursue further.


Christian Testimony of Timothy Mark Hightower aka T Mark Hightower

In May 2017 I wrote up my Christian testimony and shared it with a few people, and was thinking about how I might eventually share it with a wider audience.  I thought about posting it on the web but I was not sure exactly how to best go about doing that.  So I procrastinated.  Then about a week ago I felt so strongly about conclusions and views I was coming to on the flat earth theory versus the spherical earth theory controversy that I felt I had to move forward and get something on the web, so I started this Blog in the easiest way I could find, using Google’s Blogger app.  So I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate in getting my testimony out on the web.

The only thing I think I would add for clarification at this point, is that I feel that I am definitely a religious pluralist.  Both of the books that I recently read by Dr. Boyd Purcell, “Spiritual Terrorism” and “Christianity Without Insanity,” helped me to conclude that I have to be a religious pluralist, even though it is a concept that is worthy of much further study and deeper understanding.  I simply do not feel that it is my goal to attempt to persuade those of other faiths or agnostics or atheists to believe as I do.  I would rather love them, come to know them, learn from them, share with them, and appreciate them for who they are and how they have come to where they are in their life’s journey.

Dr. Purcell has written and posted on his web site ( a truly liberating message of Good News from God.  The first 5 lines which make up the title I have pasted below for reference.

Evangelism Booklet

Five Liberating Truths—Religions in a Nutshell


The Good News of God’s

Eternal Love/Amazing Grace/Infinite Mercy/Perfect Justice

Just because God will ultimately save all, this is not an excuse to live unrighteously.  The Biblical principle is that people reap what they sow in this life and/or the life to come.  The principle of Karma from eastern religions is a very similar concept.

Also, in this brief introduction to the posting of my testimony on this Blog, I want to confess my sin of having given the gospel of Jesus Christ to many people in a spiritually terrorizing manner by threatening with hell (unending punishment aka eternal torments) to those who do not believe.  So if there are people out there who end up reading this who I gave the “turn or burn gospel” to I humbly ask for your forgiveness and I hope and pray that your life can be healed from any trauma that this caused.

So my testimony document from May 2017 follows.

A Brief Testimony to my Christian faith

By Timothy Mark Hightower, also known as Mark Hightower or T. Mark Hightower

Born 1956

San Jose, CA


I started working on this document on May 9, 2017 and I wanted to complete it in one sitting, but something pulled me away, so I am back today to complete it on May 24, 2017, on my third sitting.


I have prayed to God for guidance as I write this brief testimony and witness to my faith in Jesus Christ.  Over the last three and a half years both of my parents passed away due to failing health, the last being my dad in February 2016.  This was a very difficult time for me.  Over the last 5 years or so God has granted me repentance toward the things of God and over the last couple of years God has rescued me from a most horrible situation I got myself into of relapsing into anxiety and depression due to abusing alcohol as a means of coping with the family stresses related to my father’s failing health and his care.  I was raised in a Bible believing Christian family and when I was a senior in high school in 1974 with a troubled life and seeking answers I was introduced by a friend’s mother to the ministry of a particularly dogmatic Bible teacher and pastor who had a tape ministry, where people would listen to his teachings on reel-to-reel audio tape.  I became a hard core follower of him, I swallowed everything he taught hook line and sinker, and felt that I then knew “the truth.”  This pastor was of the same educational background as the pastor of the church where I was raised, both being graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary where a form of Christian theology known as Dispensationalism is taught, but he was super dogmatic in his approach to teaching.  I eventually left this teaching after quite a few years for less dogmatic forms of Christianity and spirituality.  I went through a skeptical phase where I explored agnosticism and atheism, but found it difficult to fully embrace atheism.  Perhaps it would be possible for me to write a whole book about my life, but that is not my intent here.  I want to keep this relatively short.

So, whereas there was a time many years ago when I thought I knew “the truth” and found a teacher who taught “the truth,” I now realize that there is much that I am uncertain about, and I am OK with that, and I still have my faith in God and Jesus Christ.  So please realize when I give my testimony here of my faith in God and Jesus Christ I am speaking as a fallible human being based upon what I have come to know and believe in my life.


I encourage people to seek religious and philosophical truth, and I even include atheism and agnosticism within the scope of this.  If one becomes enthralled by a particular teacher thinking that everything from them is the truth, I urge caution, as this can become a trap that is difficult to escape from as I learned the hard way in my life.  But I would encourage people to seek out multiple and opposing viewpoints to the extent that they are comfortable doing this, and to seek God’s help and guidance in their spiritual journeys.


So my Christian witness is going to be pretty brief.  Based upon my Christian upbringing, my experiences in life, and what I feel that God has revealed to me through the Bible, I am convinced that I am a sinner, imperfect and subject to much failure before a perfect God, my creator.  The promised coming savior of the Old Testament, the seed of the woman of Genesis 3:15, was fulfilled in the birth and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as revealed in the New Testament.  Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, was buried and rose again, and has thereby provided restoration of sinful man to a perfect holy God.  Man’s only response is to accept what God has done through faith.

Once accepted, God opens up the possibility for one to live a life pleasing to God, victorious over sin, where God is there to help you through difficulties in life, with peace in your soul even through hardships, and where beyond your life on this earth you will live with God and all other saved creatures forever in happiness.

The fact that Jesus Christ has died for the sins of the world providing salvation is known as the gospel, which means good news.


The way I originally learned the gospel was that if one did not believe in Jesus Christ during their life on this earth, that they would go to hell forever, a place of never ending punishment from God.  It took me a long time (approximately the last 10 years) and much study to eventually come to believe that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ, even those who don’t come to faith in Him until after their life on this earth ends.  What this means is that punishment beyond this life in a place commonly referred to as hell, is a place of punishment for the purpose of correction and ultimate salvation with God.  Many Christians will say that it is heresy to believe that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ.  I have even had some tell me I am going to hell because I believe this way.  The best I can do in this short testimony is to share some highlights so that those interested can pursue their own further research.

The term I like the best for the viewpoint that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ is Christian Universalism.  There are a few other terms, but if you search for this one you will find the others.  I had no idea there was such a viewpoint as Christian Universalism until I first became aware of it about 10 years ago.  Since then I have read many books and web sites on this subject, of which there are many.  I have learned that Christian Universalism is not some New Age belief system that was formulated in recent history, but that instead it can be traced back to some of the earliest Church Fathers.

I am not going to try to prove rigorously that Christian Universalism is true, but I am going to try to show that as a Biblically based viewpoint it should be considered at least on an equal comparative basis with two other commonly accepted Christian viewpoints.

I first learned the following logical analysis from the work of Thomas Talbott as presented in a couple of books, one where he was the sole author and one where he was one of several contributing authors.  I will express it in my own words so if you want to see the exact words Talbott used, please consult his work.

The Three Propositions.  There are three propositions where all three cannot be logically true at the same time.  Any two of the three can be true forcing the remaining one to be logically false.  First I will state the propositions.


It is God’s will that all will be ultimately saved.


God is able to accomplish all that He wills.


Some will be ultimately lost, i.e. unsaved.

If Two and Three are both true then One must be logically false.  This is the Christian theological viewpoint commonly known as Augustinianism or Calvinism.  Basically this viewpoint says that it is God’s will that some go to hell forever, i.e. that God predestines some to hell.

If One and Three are both true then Two must be logically false.  This is the Christian theological viewpoint commonly known as Arminianism.  Basically this viewpoint says that although it is God’s will that all be saved, God is not able to accomplish all that He wills because man’s will supersedes God’s will in this case.

If One and Two are both true then Three must be logically false.  This is the Christian theological viewpoint not so commonly known as Christian Universalism.  It basically says that it is God’s will that all be saved, and He is able to accomplish all that He wills, and therefore none will be ultimately lost, i.e. unsaved.

You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Augustinianism (Calvinism).  You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Arminianism.  You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Christian Universalism.  In each of these three viewpoints, advocates will seek to harmonize with their viewpoint the scriptures that do not seem to agree with their viewpoint.

I cannot say that I am completely sure which of the three viewpoints is true.  I am a fallible human being subject to error.  But I can say that Christian Universalism makes the most sense to me and is the most convincing to me, so I can no longer in clear conscience give the gospel by threatening people with never ending punishment in hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ in this life.

What I can say is encourage them to research the gospel and seek God’s will for their lives and if convinced believe in Jesus Christ for all the benefits that come from this, the sooner the better.  But I don’t want to try to rush people into making a hasty decision.  This ends up being witnessing for Jesus Christ in a way that resembles “multi-level marketing with Bibles,” a concept I believe I read and/or heard from author and skeptic Michael Shermer many years ago.

From my own experiences in life, I have certainly experienced hell in this life on more than one occasion, and I certainly played a major role in bringing these sufferings upon myself, but God used these things to draw me to Himself, to rescue me in spite of myself, and to bring me to repentance toward the things of God.  So this is why I encourage people to seek out God, the sooner the better, but know that God ultimately will draw you to Himself, even if it ends up being after you die.  But it is much better to come to know Jesus Christ before you die.  And the sooner the better so as to avoid the possibility of having to suffer those hells on earth that can be such horrible experiences.

I am able to read books from many viewpoints, whether within Christianity, or religion in general, or philosophy, or other areas, and I feel I am able to benefit without feeling like I have to agree with everything any particular author says or that I have to know for sure what is true about any or all issues.  In many cases I might find myself unable to determine for sure what the truth is on an issue.  I am OK with this.


I want to finish my testimony by offering one argument for Christian Universalism based on love, as well as citing some scriptures that are important to me.

The gospel is supposed to be good news.  That is what the word gospel means.  But is the typical gospel presentation, where one is threatened with never ending torture beyond this life if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ, really good news?

Does God approach man and say, I love you and I want the very best for you, but if you don’t believe in my Son Jesus Christ during your life on this earth, then I am going to put you in a place of never ending suffering?  As a man suppose I approached a woman who I was falling in love with and told her of my love and that if she would not return my love I would lock her up and keep her alive and torture her as long as she lived.  Would not such a man be considered one of the greatest monsters to ever inhabit this earth?  How could God really be like this?

I learned this verse as a child.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

I also memorized the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, three verses of which I will quote below.

And the Angel of the Lord came unto them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid.  And the Angel said unto them, do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.  For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:9-11

How could this be good tidings of great joy for all people if most people are going to ultimately end up in never ending suffering in hell?

One of my favorite verses that supports Christian Universalism.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  1 Cor 15:22

If the first “all” is not the same as the second “all” in this verse, then the verse becomes totally meaningless.

Finally a verse of God’s assurance of overcoming anxiety.

Do not be anxious for anything but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Entering the Flat Earth Theory Controversy

Strebe, Azimuthal equidistant projection SW, CC BY-SA 3.0

STATEMENT by T Mark Hightower




Within the last 2 weeks or so I have started getting into researching this flat earth theory that has become so popular in the last few years on the web by starting to do some of my own research.  So far I have found strong evidence in favor of the spherical earth theory that relates to the spherical earth model being able to explain accurate navigation and land surveying in the real world whereas the flat earth model fails miserably in this regard.  Notice that I am not making a dogmatic pronouncement that “the earth is a sphere” based on my findings so far.  I simply want to report on the results of my analyses and experiments, and will continue to do so in the future, regardless of which side of the argument they support.


Most flat earth theory advocates have been using the azimuthal equidistant (AE) map as their flat earth map for a long time.  But I have just recently learned that when you start pointing out to them problems with it, they will say that it is not right and that they are still working on getting an accurate flat earth map.  What I say to that is that if you do not have a flat earth map, then your flat earth theory is not even a scientific theory, because it is not falsifiable.  You can’t run tests to verify the model because you do not even know what the model is.


But using the azimuthal equidistant (AE) map as the flat earth map it is very easy to show its discrepancies with many examples.  I will offer two.

Basically what you do is calculate distances between well established geographical locations on both the spherical earth map and the flat earth map and compare them to each other as well as against actual measured distances on the earth. So I took Perth Australia and Sydney Australia. For spherical earth map shortest distance (great circle distance on spherical surface) is about 2050 miles. For flat earth map shortest distance (straight line between two points) is about 5160 miles. Google maps shows driving distance of about 2440 miles. Now all we need is to get someone in Australia to drive from city to city and see what distance they get with their car’s odometer. The google map also shows a flying time between the two cities of 5 h 5 min. This means that if the flat earth distance is correct the plane would need to fly around 1000 mph.  This is absurd and clearly shows that the AE map as a flat earth map fails.

The next example is similar but for an around the world route.  I discovered a guy’s web site where he has calculators for comparing the flat earth model to the spherical earth model.  He just added a flat earth flight planner calculator which I have used in this example.  So this is an around the world in the southern hemisphere test. Sao Paulo Brazil GRU to Johannesburg South Africa JNB to Sydney Australia SYD to Santiago Chile SCL and back to Sao Paulo Brazil GRU. Spherical Miles (hrs) are: 4627 (8:46) 6859 (12:46) 7054 (13:07) 1627 (3:25) for a total of 20167 miles in 38.07 hrs = 530 mph.  Flat Miles are: 9626 14576 15956 3512 for a total of 43670 miles. If this could be covered in the spherical time of 38.07 hrs the flight speed would need to be 43670/38.07 = 1147 mph.  This is absurd and clearly shows that the AE map as the flat earth map fails.

For the spherical calculations I found it easiest to enter the flights in with the airport symbols and save the web page with the tabular results as an html file, and then I used where I imported the html file which generated a nice map of the flights. From there it was easy to click on the points on the map and select to get the latitude and longitude for the airports, which I then used as input into Walter’s calculator.  I also found useful where I was able to find the airports for the around the world southern hemisphere route that I chose.


I just got through watching the video “Scientism Exposed” for the first time two nights ago.  Although this video makes some interesting and good points, it also troubles me because I feel that it defames and holds out for ridicule the things that are the most important to me in my life, my faith in a loving God, and Jesus Christ, who I believe is the ultimate savior of all.


I need to say a little about my Christian faith here, but it is not my purpose to elaborate too much on this in this writing.  I am a devout Christian with a lot of beliefs in common with many Christians, but also with some significant differing beliefs from many Christians.  A common theme of my differing beliefs is that they relate to areas where I feel that there are different views and interpretations where even though I have tried I am unable to determine for myself what is true and what is false, although I may lean toward favoring one view over another.  So many Christians will (like I once did) take dogmatic views on things because that is what they were taught, so they proceed thinking they are 100 % sure of many things when they haven’t even looked at other views, and likely they have been taught that any views not in keeping with what they have been taught are of the devil.

So I consider it to be a sin to claim certainty over things which you cannot be certain of.  So whereas there was a time in the past where I might when giving the gospel threaten never ending punishment in hell for those who do not in this life put their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior, I can no longer do this in clear conscience, because I feel I would be defaming God’s character by doing so.  This would make God out to be the God of never ending hate, and a hypocrite because He commands humankind to love their enemies.  So to me the greatest truth is that God will ultimately save all through Jesus Christ, even those who do not come to know Him until after their life on this earth.  The term I like the best is that I am a Christian Universalist.  And amazingly, Christian Universalism has been around since the earliest centuries after Christ.  And I am also a religious pluralist in the sense that I would rather learn from the faiths of others than feel that I need to convince them to leave their faith in favor of my faith.  But I will gladly share my faith with others but not force it on them.


So it is my judgment that those who are pushing flat earth theory as an overriding ultimate truth to lead people to the truth of God over atheism, are risking bringing defamation and ridicule upon God should their flat earth theories ultimately be determined to be flawed.


I am 61 years old now.  I was raised in a Christian home, attending Peninsula Bible Church (PBC) in Palo Alto, a non-denominational Bible believing Church.  My father, after high school, attended a Bible college in southern California for a year or two, but did not earn a degree there as far as I know.  He then served in the Navy for 4 years where he learned radio and electronics and afterwards went to college and got a degree in electrical engineering.  Either while in the Navy or shortly afterwards he got his ham radio license.  Prior to joining the Navy he had gotten his pilot’s license in 1947 at the age of 19 flying out of Reid Hillview airport in San Jose, CA.  After college he first worked for private companies in aerospace.  Eventually he got a job with NASA Ames Research Center in 1963.  He was never involved with freemasonry.  He retired from NASA in 1988.  So I was raised around ham radio, flying, electronics, and these things were some of my favorite hobbies while growing up.  I was quite interested in the space program and science and had posters of the planets and solar system up on the walls of my bedroom.  I also had pictures of my hero, Herb Alpert, up on the wall, as I was also into music, playing the trumpet and the piano.

I simply accepted what I was taught about the earth and the solar system and it made sense to me.  I remember learning what latitude and longitude were in elementary school.  My dad had friends at church who were also into scientific pursuits, and also I recall friends from NASA who were also devout Christians.  There was nothing about what I had learned about the earth or solar system while growing up that in any way shook my faith in my creator God or even encouraged me to believe in evolution.

I don’t want to get too much into my education and career here, but I at least want to mention it.  I ended up majoring in chemical engineering and started out in the chemical industry but ended up going to work for NASA in 1989.  The fact that my dad had worked for NASA had nothing to do with me ending up working there, as far as I can tell.  I was job hunting and saw that there were some contractor job openings at NASA Ames for chemical engineers, so I applied and got a job.  The following year I was hired to work directly for NASA as a civil servant.  I retired from NASA Ames in 2015.

While working at NASA Ames I met a lot of people who had known my dad.  And I also came to know some devout Christians, although I never did join a Bible study group at Ames.

I remember a time around 1990 when a famous Christian astronomer from South Africa came to Peninsula Bible Church to speak.  I think his name was David Block.  I think he is still alive to this day.  His presentation in no way diminished my faith, but instead enhanced my faith by showing me marvelous beauty in God’s creation that I had never seen before.  Hugh Ross is another Christian astronomer who may have spoken at PBC at some point.  I know I ended up reading one of his books, I think it was called “The Fingerprint of God.”

Around 3 or 4 years ago, out of my own interest I was looking for information about Hugh Ross, and I knew he had an organization called Reasons to Believe, and I went to their web site and ended up getting some books.  And then later I picked up a several hour long DVD set where there was a debate between old earth creationists (Hugh Ross was one of these) and young earth creationists.  I watched all of it with my dad.  I then discovered a young earth creationist organization called Creation Ministries International.  So I ended up getting some books from their organization.

So this becomes a good example of an area where I have opened myself up to hearing both sides, and I really don’t think I can figure out which side is right, or which side is more right from my view.  And there are some pretty big differences between the viewpoints of these two groups, yet I am quite sure that both of these groups agree on the spherical earth theory, and reject the flat earth theory.

So are we to now have young flat earth creationists versus young spherical earth creationists?

Another example I could give is Francis Collins, a scientist who headed up the human genome project who is a devout Christian, and he believes in evolution.  I am quite far into reading one of his books right now.  Very interesting.

I am trying to read more books on philosophy, theology, Christianity, religion, science, psychology, and history to broaden my understanding in these areas.  The more I read and study the more I realize how much more I don’t know than what I thought I knew.  Things are quite up in the air in a lot of areas, including science, philosophy, and theology.  There were probably wrong turns that were made in all of these areas that remain to be discovered and corrected in the future.

I recommend the writings of Dr. Mitch Stokes, a devout Christian with degrees in engineering and philosophy.  He makes a very strong case for why we should be much more skeptical toward what science can tell us than what a lot of scientists would have us believe.

Another area I am finding worth looking into is process philosophy and process theology.  There is David Ray Griffin, John Cobb, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Alfred North Whitehead, and Charles Hartshorne.

There is Philip Mauro, an attorney who became a Christian later in life, and ended up writing extensively on Christianity.  He was a contemporary of Cyrus Scofield of Scofield Reference Bible fame.  Scofield’s Bible popularized dispensationalism, which has had a major impact on Christianity especially in the United States.  This is where the concept of the Rapture of the Church came from.  Mauro was critical of Dispensationalism in some of his writings, even though he had initially bought into it.  If you want to look at views on the complete other side from Dispensationalism, look at books on Preterism, the view that most if not all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

I have read many books on Christian Universalism over the last 10 years or so, and have written reviews on Amazon for some of them.  Most recently I was introduced to the work of Dr. Boyd Purcell and ended up reading both of his books, which are fantastic.


I have read a couple of books by Rob Skiba related to Biblical prophecy and the Giants interpretation of Genesis 6 and other passages and extra Biblical sources, and I found this all quite interesting, but I am not sure how this information will change the way that I live my life.

And of course I have ended up watching a fair amount of Rob Skiba’s flat earth presentations.

And the other day I watched one of Skiba’s Youtube videos that was at least a year old where he claims to be getting to the issue of flights in the southern hemisphere and properly interpreting the azimuthal equidistant map (the so called flat earth map).  And he was struggling with what it meant that the map was “equidistant.”  And he ended up showing that a flight in the southern hemisphere on this map as the shortest distance between two points was not a straight line on this map, but instead a very much curved line that was much longer on this map than a straight line between the two points on this map.  What he had just shown was that to obtain reality on this map, he had to interpret it as what it is, a projection of a spherical surface onto a circular disk.  His observation was consistent with a spherical earth model, not a flat earth model.

And all you need to do to understand where the azimuthal equidistant map came from is go to the Wikipedia article on the subject.  It is azimuthal and equidistant from the north pole, which means that all points on the spherical earth project onto the circular disk taking the center of the disk as the north pole and taking the same heading angle (azimuth) and distance from the north pole of the sphere to each point on the sphere as the angle and distance from the center of the disk to each corresponding point on the disk.  The map is equidistant in the sense that the distance from the north pole to any point on the sphere will be the same distance from the center of the disk to the corresponding point on the disk.


I think that the attention that is being drawn to this flat earth issue can end up being a good thing if: everyone remains respectful of each other’s search for reality and the views they hold and/or come to; analyses and experiments are conducted that bear upon the issues being raised and the procedures and results are openly and freely shared so others can reproduce the results if they wish to; we all use this as an opportunity to practice love toward one another rather than strife and hatred.

We should recognize that none of us are capable of understanding everything.  For those who believe in a creator God, our ability to understand comes from God.  People do vary tremendously in their natural abilities and what they have been able to learn in their education and life.

So I think that each individual should be able to admit that there are things that they may not be capable of understanding.


I can remember when I was a teenager my dad telling me the Biblical principle “By their fruits you shall know them.”  My take on this now is pluralistic.  I look at one’s actions rather than at their beliefs.

If one is of some religious bent, and also believes the earth is flat, I can accept that, and I will look to their actions to see if they are of love and respect for the sanctity of everyone’s search for truth.

If they are dogmatic in trying to convince all others that they are of the one true faith, and that faith includes belief in the flat earth, and they bad mouth those who do not believe as they do, then I will find their fruits to be not in keeping with respect for “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning” of every individual.

I borrowed the above quote from Unitarian Universalist Association Principles which I copied from the web site of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale and pasted below for reference.

When I do the thought experiment of what sort of school or theological seminary would I consider going to if I had the will and energy and opportunity to do so at this late stage in my life, I feel it would have to be something along the lines of the principles of the UUA, because I would want to be totally free to explore things without constraint, although I would want to put emphasis on my Christian faith.


So I present the UUA principles below simply as the best example I know of respecting and encompassing a wide variety of viewpoints.

UUA Principles copied from

Unitarian Universalism encompasses a wide range of beliefs. These seven principles sum up the core values that our congregations promise to affirm and promote.

The Seven Principles

The inherent worth and dignity of every person

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations

Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Unitarian Universalism draws from many sources.

The Six Sources

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life

Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love

Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life

Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves

Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.


T Mark Hightower 9/11/2017