Zoom via satellite

 27 June 2021 |

Since the beginning of lockdown, over a year or so ago, those of us that have access to the internet on a tablet, smart phone or laptop have been able to communicate via the marvel of technology, online, through an app (a mobile application computer programme) called Zoom or, on a one to one basis on Skype or Facetime. So those of us able to use the internet have been blessed with having church services on Zoom as well as Elders and other meetings. Our thanks to Martin and the other worship leaders in our cluster who have ‘mastered the tech’ so we that have internet can participate in the services and meetings.

So what is Zoom and how does it work. This particular app is owned by Zoom Video Communications Inc., of San Jose, California. A software app that specialises in video conferencing when in person meetings are not possible and it certainly came into its own when the pandemic struck as I’m sure most of us would never have used it otherwise. But how does it work? That’s all down to satellite communications. So when you connect your device to the app, a signal is sent to the satellite which then transmits it to your recipient. Which is the same principal for all our modern forms of communications, mobile phones, television and emails etc. Without satellite communications we would not be able to communicate the way we have done for nearly 60 years.

This month on 10th July, we celebrate the 59th anniversary in 1962 of the launch of the first and probably the most famous communications satellite ‘Telstar’. Made famous by the hit record of the same name written by Joe Meek and recorded by The Tornados which reached No.1 in the hit parade in August 1962.

Telstar 1 was part of a multi-national agreement between US companies, AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories and NASA. GPO of the UK and National PTT of France to develop experimental satellite communications over the Atlantic Ocean and was launched by NASA aboard a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. It was placed in an elliptical orbit completed once every 2 and ½ hours. Six ground stations were built to communicate with Telstar, in the US, France, Canada, Germany, Italy and for the UK at Goonhilly Down in Cornwall.

On 23rd July 1962 Telstar relayed the first publicly live transatlantic television signal across the Atlantic from CBS in New York with Walter Cronkite to Eurovision in Brussels with the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby. Since then, with what was then seen as a new technical achievement, there have been, over the last 50+ years, 22 more Telstar launches.

The latest -Telstar 18v – was launched in September 2018 on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket, from Cape Canaveral. Space X being the company founded and owned by US entrepreneur Elon Musk, which is the highly successful privately owned spacecraft company that has sent astronauts to the International Space Station. The original Telstar 1 and a lot of its forerunners still orbit the earth, though no longer functional, so adding to a lot of ‘space junk’ that’s up there!

But do technical advances have any relevance for us when reading the Bible? Probably the most well known reference to technical information is God’s specific advice to Noah when building the Ark. In Genesis 6 : 13-16, there are very specific measurements God gives Noah to construct the Ark.

“God said to Noah “I have decided to put an end to all mankind, because the world is full of their violent deeds. Build a boat for yourself out of good timber; make rooms in it and cover it with tar inside and out. Make it 133 metres long, 22 metres wide, and 13 metres high. Make a roof for the boat and leave a space of 44 centimetres between the roof and the sides. Build it with 3 decks and put a door on the side” (GNT)

The passage continues with God’s instructions how He will send a flood to destroy every living being, but makes a covenant with Noah to protect him, his family and two each of every animal and bird that are on the Ark to keep them alive. So do these technical requests from God make structural good sense. A study by the University of Leicester, concluded that by applying basic physics principals, found that the Ark full of animals and people with the dimensions given are structurally sound and could in theory float.

The other point of view about technical advances is the reference in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world” (GNT). So one could conclude that everything we have seen in technical advancement over the years is nothing new, even though to us in the 21st century the technical innovations we experience are new and perhaps something we could not now live without.

Keith Ramsay