As biblical literalists and skeptics continue the debate over whether Noah truly built a massive ship that saved his family from a catastrophic global flood, researchers now say that at least one element of the story is scientifically plausible.
Masters-level students at Leicester University's Department of Physics and Astronomy in England examined the ark's dimensions as described in Genesis 6:13-22 and came to a stunning conclusion.
"University of Leicester students show Noah’s ark would have been strong enough to carry pairs of each animal species," proclaims a statement on the university's website.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Student researchers Oliver Youle, Katie Raymer, Benjamin Jordan and Thomas Morris found that Noah's ark could have theoretically floated even under the weight of 70,000 animals and creatures, the Telegraph reported.
Despite not being able to know for sure whether all of the animals could actually have squeezed onto the giant boat, the researchers say the weight, at least, wouldn't have been a problem.
Using past analysis that posited there were 35,000 species for Noah to collect onto the vessel, the students looked at the biblical dimensions (300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide by 30 cubits high), considered the weights of the animals, then relied upon Archimedes principle of buoyancy.
"Every object when immersed in a liquid has an upwards force acting against it -- a buoyancy force," explained Youle, who led the project. "It also has a weight acting downwards -- a downwards force, and in order for it to float, these two forces need to be equal."
The cubits measurement presented a bit of a problem for the students, considering that the archaic measure, which is based on the distance of one's elbow to the tip of the middle finger, isn't uniform.
So researchers settled on an average of the ancient Hebrew value and the ancient Egyptian measurement, according to the university's statement.
But that wasn't the only conundrum. Since gopher wood -- the biblical material said to have been used to make the ship -- is still unknown to scientists, the researchers instead crunched the numbers using cypress wood.
Russell Crowe stars in the new film "Noah." (Image source: YouTube)
A number of students expressed surprise at the finding that the ship could have supported up to 2.15 million sheep without sinking (a comparable figure to the notion that two of every kind joined Noah and his family on the ark).
"You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work," said Morris. "We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept would definitely work."
The results were published in the university's student peer-reviewed Journal of Physics.
There are differing views surrounding whether Noah would have actually been able to rally all of the animals onto the ship. Answers in Genesis, a creationist group, claims that there were only "flying creatures and air-breathing land animals" on the ship.
Thus, the organization has said that there may have only about 16,000 animals on the ark, a much smaller number than was referenced in this most recent study.
The Leicester University research project comes following the release of "Noah," a feature film that has brought along with it a fair amount of criticism and debate.
Featured image via Shutterstock