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Thought for the Day: Noah's Ark -- About the Size of a Supercarrier

Since I have Google available from my phone, I decided to research how the biblical dimensions for Noah's ark, 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits compared to a modern aircraft carrier.  The results are pretty cool.

The dimensions at water level of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier (the pride of the United Stated Navy; aka nuclear supercarrier) is 333 m long by 40.1 m wide.  In other words, roughly the same shape as Noah's ark, but dimensions in meters instead of cubits.  Since a cubit is roughly half a meter, that means that Noah's ark is approximately 1/4 the size of our nuclear supercarriers.  Cool, eh?  There's more.  The ark had a draft (depth of hull below water level) of 11 cubits (see Rashi on Genesis 8:4), and the Nimitz-class supercarrier has a draft of 11.7 meters.  Given all that, it seems reasonable to look at the crew facilities to get an idea of how much life the ark, in a completely natural setting, could support.

The ark had three floors, the Nimitz-class supercarrier has four levels of crew quarters.  However, much of the lower three floors are used for other stuff than crew cabins; namely, storage for the almost 100 aircraft in huge under the hull hangars.  Basically, therefore, the ark straight out of the box could be expected to support a quarter of the population supported by a supercarrier.  How much is that?  Those babies support 5,000+ crew members!  So, again in a completely natural setting and with no necessary recourse to "well... its a miracle", we could expect Noah's ark to easily accommodate more than a thousand people.  Now, there were only eight humans there, but all of the extant (except unicorns, who missed the deadline 'cause they were too busy playing) were housed there for a year.

The Torah classification scheme for animals is different than the modern scientific (for those of you who are willing to call biology science) taxonomy.  But, it is reasonable to expect they agree on gross features.  That is, I don't know if the Torah was distinguishing between different kinds of parakeets, but we certainly know that the Torah distinguishes between camels, lions, and bears.  So I looked up how many families of animals there are.  A bit over 5,000 (5,320, according to Yahoo! Answers best answer).  Pretty darn crowded, but certainly reasonable.

Why did I do all this?  Why is it important?  Obviously, this is not going to change my belief in the veracity of the Biblical account.  On the other hand, HaShem gave us a mind with which to reason and laws that are meant (by and large) to be understandable to us.  After all, the content of the entire Talmud is based the premise that we are expected and required to utilize logical inference as a vehicle to understanding HaShem's most precious gift to us, His Torah.  Moreover, the Torah gives us details of the ark -- physical dimensions, architectural layout, and even how to utilize the space.  Going through those details and understanding them brings us from a bible story that we believe because, you know, its part of the tradition, but we are kind of embarrassed to discus it in mixed (ie, non-religious) company, to "I know, right!?  So cool with all those details that really bring it alive!"

Besides... the ten year old boy in me really likes aircraft carriers, especially nuclear super ones.


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