Breaking the Sound Barrier

At first I laughed when my father said an airplane could break a sound barrier – whatever that meant. But I grew up with many funny ideas, such as: dawn can crack, night can fall, stories have sharp points, and there are different zones in town where we can speed. And now sound has a barrier that can break? Maybe it could. We learn a lot as we grow up, don’t we?

A barrier is something that impedes or blocks movement or progress. Does sound do that? No. But there is something about a certain speed that causes problems. It is called the speed of sound, and that speed varies according to temperature, air pressure, and humidity. So, at 68 degrees F, near sea level in low humidity, that speed is about 768 mph.

As an object moves through the air, pressure builds in front of it. You experience it as you stick your hand out the window of a moving car. A column of compressed air is actually amassing against the front of the car. Also against your hand.

Interesting things happen to a jet airplane as it passes from subsonic to supersonic speed. At that critical speed, battling enormous pressure, it seems that the laws of physics change: a shock wave is generated which creates a sharp noise (sonic boom), the shock wave generates heat, and the aircraft control surfaces reverse their intended purposes: called control reversal. As the pilot tries to raise the nose of the plane, it goes down. As he attempts to bank to the right, it turns left. Because they weren’t aware of that, several pilots lost their lives in crashes in the early days of testing.

Chuck Yeager in the experimental aircraft, the Bell X-1, was probably the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight. He and his craft were dropped from the belly of a B-52 at high altitude so Chuck would have a head start – and plenty of room for error. But he did well!

We experience sonic booms as bullets leave the gun barrel, bullwhips crack, and meteorites crash into the atmosphere. Of course, the larger the object that breaks the sound barrier, the louder the boom. Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona was created by a meteor that was possibly 150 feet in diameter and weighed possibly 300,000 tons, and hit the desert at possibly 27,000 mph – over 33 times the speed of sound. The resulting explosion generated energy that might have exceeded 1,000 times the power of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, and the sonic-boom might have been heard hundreds of miles away.

Why the “mights, possiblys, and approximates” in the previous paragraph? It’s because no one was there to prove the data, and those are our best guesses.

The Blackbird, the Lockheed SR-71, flew at greater than 2,300 mph (three times the speed of sound) and friction between the plane and the atmosphere generated heat of about 1,100 F. It took four air conditioning units to cool both the interior and the exterior surfaces of the plane in flight.

Although the sound barrier is no longer a problem for us because we understand it, there’s another “barrier” many folks haven’t yet understood; and that is the barrier that prevents or hinders communication with our Father in heaven.

The first step in “breaking” this barrier is accepting the fact that God exists, and that He wants to hear from us. The second step is understanding that our eternal future depends on communicating with God. It’s called prayer.

The third step is learning what prayer is. Very simply: prayer is talking with God. You talk with God just like you talk with anyone whom you can see. There is no special formula, and you don’t have to use the King James language. Tell God what’s on your mind.

Step four is learning that God actually hears you. First John 5:14 says, “And we can be confident that He [God] will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will.” He listens to us!

Step five is knowing that God cares for you. God’s love is manifested throughout Scripture, but here are two references to hang onto. You know John 3:16, but here is 1 John 3:1a – “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us….” God, our Creator, wants to hear from you.

Ready for step six? Talk To God. You might be surprised at how He responds, because He reveals Himself to those who sincerely desire to know truth.

So break this barrier. God is waiting.

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