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Open letter to science editors

 

KRONOS Vol. I, Issue 3

For the Record ...

In one of those catchy doomsday articles imaginatively titled "Doomsday", the October 1975 issue of Science Digest noted "13 ways the earth could be destroyed." Item No. 6 on p. 62-- 'Plummeting Planets'-- referred specifically to Immanuel Velikovsky and summarized the whole of Worlds in Collision in approximately fifty words. Velikovsky "maintains that Venus originally was a comet cast off from Jupiter; that it made several close passes to the earth starting about 1500 B.C., leaving plague and swarms of flies in its wake; that Venus actually collided with Mars, causing the latter planet to come near the earth in 686 B.C. [sic]."

Reporter Bob Allison then continued: "The thought of such planetary anarchy might be disquieting but for the convincing rebuttals recently presented by skeptics. At a recent lecture by Dr. Velikovsky, Dr. Peter Huber, a Swiss professor of ancient history [sic] showed photos of ancent [sic] tablets; evidence that he said discredited Velikovsky's theory by documenting the existence of Venus as a planet as early as 3000 B.C."

In point of fact, the so-called "recent lecture by Dr. Velikovsky" was none other than the AAAS Symposium - "Velikovsky's Challenge to Science" - held in San Francisco on February 25, 1974. Additionally, the piece in Science Digest is apparently nothing more than a near verbatim echo of paragraphs five and six of an earlier article by Walter Sullivan which appeared in the New York Times on Tuesday, February 26, 1974. A review of what actually transpired, however, clearly reveals that:

1) Velikovsky does not claim that Venus came from Jupiter on the eve of its first encounter with the Earth, but may have existed "thousands of years before, [during which time] it could be seen."

2) Huber did not document the existence of Venus as a planet, but only indicated "that Venus, the star of Inanna, was known shortly after -3000" (when it could have been on a cometary orbit and still be visible as a morning and evening star).

3) ". . . convincing rebuttals recently presented by skeptics" regarding Velikovsky's theories are not to be found in the pages of SCIENCE DIGEST.

SELECT REFERENCES:

Pensee VII (Spring, 1974), especially pp. 32-34.
Yale Scientific Magazine, XLI, No. 7, April, 1967.


A Youthful Venus

In the concluding section of Worlds in Collision ("The Thermal Balance of Venus"), Velikovsky claimed that, as a youthful planet, "the core of . . . Venus must still be hot" (emphasis added). He also discussed the contradicting radiometric and spectrographic data which, at the time, had given rise to diverging estimates of Venus' rotational period and the problem of how to explain the phenomenon of " 'a nearly uniform [high] temperature over the planet's surface both on the illuminated and dark hemispheres'."

Velikovsky then wrote: "In reality there is no conflict between the two methods of physical observation. The night side of Venus radiates heat because Venus is hot. The reflecting, absorbing, insulating, and conducting properties of the cloud layer of Venus modify the heating effect of the sun upon the body of the planet; but at the bottom of the problem lies this fact: Venus gives off heat" (emphasis added).

The above remarks were reiterated 17 years later when Velikovsky published his article "Venus - A Youthful Planet" in the Yale Scientific Magazine of April, 1967. By then, the surface temperature of Venus was known to be 800 degrees F. Thus, Velikovsky offered the following observation: "Obviously, if the planet is billions of years old, it could not have preserved its original heat; also, any radioactive process that can produce such heat must be of a very rapid decay, and this again would not square with an age of the planet counted in billions of years" (p. 10).

Eight years after these words were printed, two Russian Venus probes-- Venera 9 and Venera 10-- have brought an amazing revelation to the scientific community. On October 22 and 25, the Russians softlanded their spacecraft on the Venusian surface and photographed "remarkably clear views of some sharp-edged, angular rocks." According to Venera scientific director Mikhail Marov, the picture is "so sharp that we can class the stones as young rocks, since we can clearly see sharp angles and flat sides . . . . In fact, says Aleksandr Badilevsky of the Soviet Institute of Geo-chemistry, the discovery of some of the sharp-edged, apparently newer rocks 'testifies to recent catastrophic processes like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes . . . . Venus, apparently, is internally active' (Science News, Vol. 108, Nov. 1, 1975, p. 276, emphasis added).

The Nov. 3, 1975 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology even goes so far as to state that the "data and photographs returned from Venera-9 and -10 Soviet Venus lander spacecraft portray a well-lighted rocky surface belonging to a young, evolving planet [and that] Venus is a planet in an early cool-down phase of evolution rather than in a final stage of suffocation in a thickening atmospheric greenhouse" (emphasis added). Soviet optics engineer, Arnold Selivanov, commented that "it was as bright on Venus as it is in Moscow on a cloudy June day" while Mikhail Marov considered Venus' "stony desert [as] documental evidence that in the scale of evolution, the planet Venus should be placed with the young, still living planets" (emphasis added, p. 19).

Cornell has chosen to remain silent on these latest conclusions.


Life on the Giant Planets and Titanian Petroleum

"Beyond Mars lies the giant planet, Jupiter. It has a vast atmosphere containing mostly hydrogen, but also some methane, water, and a nitrogen-hydrogen combination called ammonia. Life molecules could be built up out of such an atmosphere .... If life forms exist in the comfortable temperature [region of Jupiter], they may be in a rising column that is carrying them upward toward temperatures too cold for active life; or in a sinking column carrying them downward toward temperatures too hot for life of any kind. We might expect that life forms would resist rising too high or sinking too low . . . . And if there is no life on Jupiter, perhaps it may exist on the other giant planets, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune, where conditions are probably less turbulent than on Jupiter."

"Among the 10 satellites of the planet Saturn . . . is the large satellite, Titan. It is the largest in diameter of all the satellites of the solar system [Editor's note: This is incorrect. Neptune's satellite, Triton, is the largest - see the Sept. 1975 issue of Scientific American, p. 152.]." Titan "has an atmosphere, too (the only satellite we know of that has one) . . . [which] contains methane, and it may be that under Titanian conditions the small molecules of methane combine into larger molecules of the type we find in petroleum." Through the telescope, it appears "to be distinctly orange in color, and that may be the result of molecules in the atmosphere larger than that of methane, and also the result of the petroleum-like sludge on its surface."

Furthermore, "It may be that Titan is a world with a petroleum-ocean filling its hollows and dry land-areas here and there. It is conceivable that there may be both sea life and land life on Titan and that the land life might develop intelligence. (Not at all likely, indeed very unlikely, but it is conceivable [italics in text!].)

Lest the reader be misled into thinking that the above information came from Worlds in Collision, it did not! Rather, it is material that appeared in the October 26, 1975 issue of Family Weekly - the latest product from the ubiquitous pen of Isaac Asimov. What can one say about an individual who openly disparages the ideas and work of another - as Asimov has repeatedly done to Velikovsky - only to advance near identical ideas as his own, without a single word of proper referential acknowledgement? And why is it that astronomer Carl Sagan is now suddenly able to restrain himself from publicly denouncing Asimov's exobiological hypotheses and unwarrantably ascribing "Asimovian frogs" to the Jovian atmosphere? After all, has Sagan not done these very things to Velikovsky's theories in the recent past? [See PenseeVI (Winter, 1973-74), pp. 57-58; Chiron, 1, Nos. 1 & 2 (Winter-Spring 1974), pp. 12-13 and 26-28.]

For comparative purposes and to drive the point home, the reader is hereby invited to examine some relevant quotations from Worlds in Collision and Velikovsky's AAAS Address of February 25, 1974:

"The old question, whether there is life on other planets, has been debated time and again without much progress. Atmospheric and thermal conditions are so different on other planets that it seems incredible that the same forms of life exist there as on the earth; on the other hand, it is wrong to conclude that there is no life on them at all . . . . The ability of many small insects and their larvae to endure great cold and heat and to live in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen renders not entirely improbable the hypothesis that Venus (and also Jupiter, from which Venus sprang) may be populated by vermin (emphasis added)." [See W in C, "Baal Zevuv"; Science News, Vol. 104, Nov. 17, 1973, p. 309; Science News, Vol. 105, May 4, 1974, p. 285.]

"In Worlds in Collision I compiled descriptions from many sources of a widely spread pestilence that accompanied Mars' close approaches [to Earth]; it is not excluded that Mars is richly populated by micro-organisms pathogenic to man .... I do not discount the probability that the seasonal changes in the color of the Martian surface may be due to seasonal microbial or other low vegetative activity . . . . When earlier, a year and a half ago, in August, I was invited to lecture and consult at Ames Space Research Center (Division of Exobiology), I suggested also that microbial life able to catalyze can possibly be found in Venus' clouds, lower forms of insect life on Jupiter, and primitive plant life on Saturn, besides what I said now of Mars. So much for cosmology and also the evolution of life." [See Pensee VII (Spring, 1974), p. 13.]

"On the basis of [my] research, I assume that Venus must be rich in petroleum gases. If and as long as Venus is too hot for the liquefaction of petroleum, the hydrocarbons will circulate in gaseous form. . . . If the petroleum that poured down on the earth on its contact with the comet Venus was formed by means of electrical discharges from hydrogen and gaseous carbon, Venus must still have petroleum because of the discharges that passed, as we assume, between the head and tail of the comet when it was intercepted by the earth and in other celestial contacts.

"Some indirect conclusion can also be drawn concerning the presence of liquid petroleum on Jupiter. If, as is assumed here, Venus was thrown off from Jupiter in a violent expulsion, and if Venus has petroleum gases, then Jupiter must have petroleum. The fact that methane has been discovered in the atmosphere of Jupiter ... makes it rather probable that it has petroleum; the so-called 'natural gas' found in and near oil fields consists largely of methane.

"The modern theory of the origin of petroleum, based upon its polarizing quality, regards petroleum as originating from organic, not inorganic, matter. Consequently, if I am not mistaken, Venus and Jupiter must possess an organic source of petroleum. On preceding pages it was shown that there are some historical indications that Venus - and therefore also Jupiter - is populated by vermin; this organic life can be the source of petroleum." [See W in C, "The Gases of Venus"; Pensee V (Fall, 1973), p. 23.]


Argon on Mars

In a copyrighted lecture of February 12, 1945 - "Neon and Argon in Mars' Atmosphere" - Immanuel Velikovsky expressed the view that these two noble gases were abundantly present in the Martian atmosphere. At the time, this claim ran contrary to prevailing scientific theory. Astronomical observation suggested either no atmosphere on Mars or a tenuous one at best. Throughout 1946, Velikovsky corresponded with Harlow Shapley and Walter S. Adams on the subject without any resolution of the atmospheric problem.

In Worlds in Collision ("The Atmosphere of Mars"), Velikovsky repeated his previous conclusion regarding the atmosphere of Mars by intimating that argon and neon comprised Mars' contribution to the Earth when the two planets came into contact. Later, in a letter of August 7, 1969, written to H. H. Hess, Velikovsky reiterated his expectation "that neon and argon will be found as main ingredients of Martian atmosphere as [he had] claimed for almost quarter of a century" (See Pensee II, Fall, 1972, pp. 27 and 29).

Four years before, the Mariner 4 spacecraft had established that the atmosphere on Mars, already considered very thin by scientists, was "thinner beyond most previous expectations - about equivalent to the earth's atmosphere at an altitude of twenty miles."

"This finding also forced scientists to revise their earlier conclusions about the composition of the Martian atmosphere. Through spectroscopic studies at McDonald Observatory in 1948, Gerard M. Kuiper ... detected the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars. Like most astronomers, however, he had concluded that the major ingredient was nitrogen. But while Mariner 4's instruments showed a reduced total atmospheric pressure on Mars, the actual amount of carbon dioxide present did not differ from that recorded earlier. This [implied] that carbon dioxide [was], in fact, a major constituent of the Martian atmosphere" (See Exploring the Universe, ed. by Louise B. Young, second edition, Oxford Univ. Press, N. Y., 1971, pp. 495-497).

With the beginning of the 1970's, astronomers such as Cornell's Carl Sagan still did not consider argon to be a significant component of the Martian atmosphere; and in a letter to the journal Pensee dated January 4, 1973, Arthur C. Clarke, the famed science fiction writer and author of the highly successful movie "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY", wrote the following: "I believe it has now been established that the Martian atmosphere consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide, so Dr. V's prediction of neon and argon as main constituents seems to be incorrect."

Barely more than one year later, however, "the Soviet Mars 6 spacecraft detected 'several tens of percent of an inert gas' - presumed to be mainly argon - during its descent through the Martian atmosphere" (See Pensee VII, Spring, 1974, p. 47 and p. 12). The probable presence of argon in the atmosphere of Mars was also reaffirmed in the May, 1975 issue of Sky & Telescope, Vol. 49, p. 291 in an article titled "Argon in Mars' Atmosphere". In the meantime, by December of 1974, "Soviet researchers had calculated that the Martian atmosphere contains from 25 to 45 percent argon" while American scientists were independently postulating "28 percent argon in the Martian atmosphere" (See Science News, Vol. 107, June 21, 1975, pp. 398-399).

Most recently, the September, 1975 issue of Scientific American incorporated the "argon factor" in its discussion of the Martian atmosphere. "Although the atmosphere [of Mars] is composed principally of carbon dioxide, it may also contain a surprisingly large amount of argon, perhaps as much as 30 percent" (p. 110 - emphasis added).

And as the data accumulated, bringing with it a greater knowledge of the Martian atmosphere and an awareness of its argon content, the name of Immanuel Velikovsky has remained conspicuously absent from recognition credit. The history of science will indeed judge this slight.


The following letter arrived just as KRONOS was going to press.

Dear Sir:

It has recently been reported that the Soviet spacecraft Mars-6 might have detected substantial quantities of an inert gas in the atmosphere of Mars. The gas has been presumed to be Argon. From the effect of this gas on the spacecraft's mass spectrometer, the Soviet researchers estimate that the inert gas is between 25 and 45% of the Martian atmosphere.(1) American researchers measuring the pressure broadening of the lines in the spectrum of Mars' atmosphere have now confirmed that at least 30% of an inert gas exists in Mars' atmosphere.(2) The American researchers also presume this gas to be Argon.

This might be a propitious moment to draw attention to the fact that in a letter to Harlow Shapley of the Harvard Observatory, dated 15 April 1946, Immanuel Velikovsky said that "the atmosphere of the planet Mars consists mainly of Argon and Neon." At the time when Velikovsky made this claim, a result of his historical cosmology which, has now been widely printed and publicized, astronomers viewed Mars as a planet with an earth-like atmosphere. Of those gases believed present on Mars, none had been detected in 1940, (3) and only carbon dioxide had been identified by 1952.(4) Admittedly, astronomers had proposed that Argon was a constituent in the Martian atmosphere, but they had done so because Argon is present in small amounts (1.29%) in earth's atmosphere. (5) Only Velikovsky considered that Argon (or Neon) would be a major constituent of Mars' atmosphere.

The possibility that Neon is one of the inert components present on Mars cannot be excluded from the present data. Pressure broadening of molecular spectrum lines is caused by van der Waals interactions .(6) Such interactions are noted even between non-polar symmetrical molecules like carbon dioxide and the noble gases.(7) Since the van der Waals attractions for most simple molecules is almost exclusively determined by dispersion forces,(8) which for Argon are 8.72 times those of Neon,(9) it should follow that if the inert gas detected on Mars contains some Neon, rather than being mainly Argon as is presently assumed, then the actual amount of inert gas responsible for the observed pressure broadening could well exceed 50% of Mars' extant atmosphere. Thus Velikovsky's 1946 claim about Mars' atmospheric composition is consistent with contemporary data.

E. R. Milton, Associate Professor
and Chairperson
Department of Physics
The University of Lethbridge

REFERENCES

1. "The Argon on Mars: Portent and Puzzles", Science News, 107:398-9 (21 June 1975).
2. "Argon in Mars' Atmosphere", Sky and Telescope, 49:291 (May 1975).
3. Spencer-Jones, H., Life on Other Worlds, Mentor, New York, (1954), p. 129.
4. Urey, H.C., The Planets, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1952, p. 99; Kuiper, G.P. The Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets, University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1949), p. 335; Struve, O., Elementary Astronomy, Oxford University Press, New York (1959), p. 127.
5. Allen, C.W., Astrophysical Quantities, 2nd Ed. The Athlone Press, London (1955), p. 115.
6. Herzberg, G., Molecular Spectra and Molecular Structure III Electronic Spectra of Polyatomic Molecules, D. van Nostrand, Princeton, N. J. (1966), p. 421. (Molecular spectra and molecular Structure, v.3)
7. Glasstone, S., Theoretical Chemistry, Academic Press, New York (1957), p. 423.
8. op. cit., p. 430
9. Kauzmann, W., Quantum Chemistry, Academic Press, New York (1957), p. 516.

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