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Open letter to science editors


Copyright © 1967 by Immanuel Velikovsky.

[ *Formerly titled "A Rejoinder to Motz," reprinted in part from Yale Scientific Magazine, Apr., 1967.]

Part I

The Circumstances under which Venus erupted from Jupiter

The basic erroneous assumption by Motz is in ascribing to me the concept of a "volcanic eruption" of Venus from Jupiter .... that I claim Venus erupted from Jupiter in a volcanic process is wrong - and it is decisive for the argument. Not only did I not claim this, but in the paper under review ["Venus - a Youthful Planet"] I stress that a cometary body could not have such an origin. Thus the entirety of Motz' argument on this score, and only with corrected figures, could apply to the early version of Professor Vsekhsviatsky's theory of the origin of comets by volcanic eruption from Jupiter, but not to my concept.

In Worlds in Collision I started the story with the protoplanet Venus already on a stretched elliptical orbit around the sun, approaching the Earth. In the book I wrote: "I intend to go further back into the past and piece together the story of some earlier cosmic upheavals. This will be the subject of another volume. There I hope to be able to tell a little more of the circumstances preceding the birth of Venus from the body of Jupiter . . ." (from the Epilogue). "The collision between the major planets, which is the theme of the sequel to Worlds in Collision, brought about the birth of comets . . . At least one of these comets in historical times became a planet (Venus)" (p. 373). Also, in the paper under review, I wrote: "In such near collisions, eruptive forces could exceed escape velocities."

Thus, although I have not yet discussed the origin of Venus from Jupiter in any detail, I have already revealed where the escape energy came from. All calculations by Motz on a volcanic eruption and the necessary thermal state of Jupiter are not applicable. However, it was found recently that Jupiter emits almost three times as much energy as it theoretically should if, as generally assumed, it were an inert planet obtaining its energy solely from solar radiation. It is certainly in a very active state, and it was lately termed "a star" and the Sun-Jupiter system "a binary" by G. Kuiper and others.

In my paper under review, I quote the noted British cosmologist, R. A. Lyttleton, from his Man's View of the Universe, to the effect that Venus (and the other terrestrial planets) must have been born from Jupiter by disruption. In the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society for 1960, Lyttleton, after pointing to insurmountable physical handicaps in both the nebular and the tidal theory of the origin of the solar system, demonstrates mathematically the very process that I reconstructed from the annals of the past. Lyttleton writes:

"Break-up of a rotating planet: As a planet increases in mass by accretion, the range from which it can draw in material increases rapidly, and the rotary effect of the added matter will also increase, and instability be approached . . . A large gaseous planet at low density could obviously be thoroughly stable and yet on cooling to liquid or solid state find itself endowed with more angular momentum than it could store ... Indeed, in any theory that can account for the rapid rotation of the planets, there must be some mechanism by which a planet is able to rid itself from any excess of angular momentum in order to reach a final state of stability. It is here that the fission process enters to accomplish this very thing. An unstable planet would undergo division into two main pieces thrown apart with hyperbolic speed of separation."

Lyttleton claims that in the past, though remote, Jupiter reached such a state of imbalance and threw out a portion that not only escaped the gravitational attraction of the remaining mass of Jupiter, but went all the way out of the solar system and that only a minor portion of the escaped mass was retained in the solar system, and from it Venus and other terrestrial planets were formed on orbits that slowly rounded up. Motz shows no awareness of Lyttleton's computations. Neither does he think of the fact that magnetic dipole effects increase at a cube rate with the decrease in distance and may become very powerful.

Although I left the origin of Venus from Jupiter (400 times more massive) for discussion in a sequel volume to Worlds in Collision, I nevertheless disclosed to my readers that the energy came from the near collision of major planets, Jupiter and Saturn. I wish to spell out here the main consequences of this encounter, even if in the shortest possible recounting, with no references supplied, the claimed events appear startling. But I am provoked by Motz' surmise as to what is and what is not in the historical record.

In the near-collision with Jupiter, Saturn, of much larger mass than at present, was disrupted; the historical and folkloristic material on this subject fills a volume of the promised work on the earlier catastrophes, one of which was the Deluge (see Preface to Worlds in Collision). Jupiter swept up the dispersed material and later -- it could have been hundreds or thousands of years later -- underwent fission. "With increasing size, [Jupiter's] power to draw in material would increase, and its resulting speed of rotation would do so too, and eventually could render it unstable as a single mass because of centrifugal force. It can only get out of this embarrassing condition by breaking into two very unequal pieces . . ." - I quote Lyttleton once more. All this took place in much more recent times than Lyttleton assumes, but in circumstances which he envisions. He demonstrated that only by cleavage could Venus - and other inner planets - [have] been born and the solar system organized; McCrea, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, documented that no planet could have been organized inside of the Jovian orbit from the original nebular material.

So much for the eruption of Venus from Jupiter. In a memorandum submitted by me in September, 1963, to the Space Board of the National Academy of Sciences, through its Chairman, Professor H. H. Hess (a copy to Dr. Homer Newell of NASA), I suggested that "precise calculations should be made to the effect of the magnetic field permeating the solar system on the motion of the planet [Jupiter] which is surrounded by a magnetosphere [emitting radiation] of an intensity presumably 10" times that of the terrestrial magnetosphere. This is basic to the impending re-evaluation of electromagnetic effects in celestial mechanics."

Jupiter Noises

In April 1964, Dr. A. G. Smith announced that the decametric radio signals coming from Jupiter, from certain delineated areas, were retarded by 1.3 seconds, which was interpreted as a rotational slowing down of the giant planet itself, against all the rules of celestial mechanics. The energy, in ergs, involved would stagger the imagination. Jupiter possesses more than half of the angular momentum of the solar system, the Sun, however, less than one fiftieth of that momentum. Dr. K. L. Franklin, one of the discoverers of the radio noises from Jupiter (1955) -- claimed by me a few years earlier wrote in July 1964 (Scientific American) that the observed slow-down of Jupiter's speed of rotation (loss of angular momentum) may have been "caused by a cataclysmic event in the planet ... We look forward to more surprises when space probes begin to tune in to Jupiter from interplanetary space."

Jupiter was also thought to be a cold body, with an ice mantle ten thousand miles thick. But thermal radiation (at decimeter wavelengths) from Jupiter indicates that it is not cold, but hot. How hot, is not yet definitely established. D. McNally of the University of London Observatory writes in Scientific Progress (April 1965) that at a wavelength of 70 cm the temperature of the planet is "about 50,000K or about 90,000F. He commented on this unexpected find: "50,000K is an order of magnitude greater than the temperature of the solar photosphere." The detected polarization suggests the presence of a strong magnetic field, "so that radiation at [this] decimeter wavelength would be non-thermal." K. L. Franklin writes: "Since this [90,000F] was higher than the temperatures of most of the hottest stars, it was obvious that Jupiter's shortwave radiations must be generated by some energy source other than the planet's heat."

Venus, escaping from Jupiter, must have carried with it some of the intense magnetic field of its parent body. This magnetic field helped Venus to disrupt the Earth's rotation (Worlds in Collision, p. 386) and achieve for itself a circular orbit; but in the process the magnetic field, acting as a brake, was spent.

Angular momentum is indestructible, but it is transferable to other bodies and can also be dissipated into the interplanetary medium by means of electric currents and magnetic interactions. The Sun's attraction is much greater than Earth's attraction on Venus, and this is why the Sun captured the protoplanet ejected by Jupiter and placed it on an orbit, first elongated, and then, after repeated collisions with Jupiter, Earth and Mars, circular.

The reversed rotation of Venus (detected 1962) contradicts Motz' argument about conservation of angular momentum if the planet originated in the accepted way. For a long time Motz refused to accept this finding (our correspondence and debate at Princeton University, March 2, 1965). This reversed rotation, as it is pointed out in my paper, could result from any one of three phenomena: Venus was born separately from the other planets; it was captured by the Sun; it was disturbed in its motion by other celestial bodies and fields. Each of these phenomena took place, according to Worlds in Collision. None of them is acceptable to Motz: thus he has a problem.

Furthermore, the "resonance" rotation of Venus, turning at every passage the same face to the Earth (1966), clearly points to earlier contacts [or some electromagnetic interrelationship not yet fully understood] of these two bodies. T. J. Gordon, formerly chief engineer for the upper stage of the Saturn rocket, writes in Ideas in Conflict (St. Martin's Press, 1966) p. 37: "This type of resonant motion resists outside disturbances; once locked, the motion tends to remain locked. When did the earth capture Venus' rotation?"

None of the Keplerian laws was violated in the events as I described them. However, celestial mechanics can no longer continue to neglect situations like that of the Jovian satellites plowing through the magnetic field of their primary.

Having shown that Motz' argument against the origin of Venus from Jupiter does not hold, and having only touched upon his argument against the protoplanet Venus' further fate, I leave it to Ralph Juergens to continue.

* * *

Part II


The Resolution of Conflicting Orbits

Professor Motz' error in attributing to Dr. Velikovsky the notion that Venus erupted from Jupiter in "a kind of volcanic process" leads him to equate kinetic energy of escape with the explosion energy of some thermal event and inevitably turns up all sorts of unacceptable conditions; examples are "impossibly high" temperatures and ejected matter leaving Jupiter "as a stream of very hot gas [which] could never have contracted gravitationally to form a body such as Venus." Because of this erroneous first assumption, all such problems are spurious.

Incidentally, Motz advances a point that is invalid even in the context of his own argument. He equates the kinetic energy required to eject a great mass at high velocity with radiant energy. On this basis he concludes that at the moment of eruption Jupiter should have appeared "as bright as a nova." Clearly, however, if the energy were dissipated as radiation it would not be available as the mechanical energy needed to eject Venus.

Professor Motz reads into Velikovsky the idea that after Venus erupted from Jupiter, the motions of Venus were governed by the Earth; "otherwise the multiple close encounters between the Earth and Venus . . . could not have occurred." This is not so. Accepted laws of motion in gravitational fields actually yield predictions that celestial bodies on conflicting orbits will perturb one another repeatedly and from time to time, unless the orbits become separated through lesser perturbations, must suffer close encounters. At each encounter, or near-collision, both orbits may be altered radically, especially if both bodies are in the same weight class (Earth and Venus), but unless such alterations actually separate the orbits, further encounters are inevitable sooner or later.

Venus, on an elliptical solar orbit after escaping from Jupiter, would return at each revolution to a point on Jupiter's orbit near the place of birth. There would be some chance of a re-encounter with Jupiter at this point (see Worlds in Collision, p. 160), as well as at a second point of orbital intersection (if we assume that Venus reached aphelion outside the orbit of Jupiter). In the meantime, if the perihelion point of the protoplanet's orbit were inside the orbit of the Earth, and if the protoplanet's orbit were in the plane of the planetary system (as would be entirely likely for a body spun off by fission from the equatorial regions of Jupiter), there would be two chances for an encounter between Venus and the Earth for each revolution of Venus. Certainly the Earth would not be at these points of potential conflict each time Venus passed by, but occasionally, depending upon the characteristics of the two orbits, collisions would be unavoidable (especially considering the long train of debris associated with the protoplanet Venus).

The first such event, as the historical record assembled by Dr. Velikovsky suggests, might involve passage so close as to swing both bodies (Earth and Venus) into new orbits around the Sun, but orbits still intersecting. Two encounters, such as those described in Worlds in Collision between Venus and the Earth, might well be required to resolve the conflict. The historical record indicates that such a resolution came about, but it also led to an entanglement of the orbits of Venus and Mars - again resolved, but at the cost of further orbital conflict between Mars and the Earth.

Contrary to the suggestion of Professor Motz, it is not "clear that if Venus had behaved in accordance with Dr. Velikovsky's description, [the Keplerian] law of areas could never have been obeyed." An altering of orbits in close encounters necessarily involves exchanges of orbital angular momentum; if not dissipated electrically or magnetically into the interplanetary medium, the total angular momentum of the near-colliding systems (Earth with its magnetosphere and Venus with its train and any attendant magnetic fields) must be conserved. Nothing in Velikovsky's thesis suggests otherwise.

Discussing the conservation of orbital energy, Motz claims that only an object as massive as the sun and about as close to Venus as the sun could have accomplished the feat of changing its total mechanical energy by 50%" and thereby settle Venus on its present orbit. What he neglects to point out is that a much less massive body (Earth), much closer to Venus, (near-collision), and having several opportunities (repeated encounters), could do the same. Since Motz mentions mass and distance, the implication is that he considers only gravitational forces to be capable of transferring orbital energy from one object to another. In this connection, then, he might well have pointed out that if Venus passed as close as 117,000 miles from the Earth, the gravitational attraction between the two planets would be equal to the present attraction between the Sun and Venus. One cosmic body reducing the orbital energy of another through gravitational perturbation must itself gain orbital energy - other forms of energy aside - and this, too, is what the record suggests; the orbital energies and orbital periods of both the Earth and Mars were increased before Venus was stabilized on its present orbit.

Interestingly, Motz fails to criticize Velikovsky's assertions that the close approach of Venus affected both the Earth's rotation and the direction of its axis in space. These are prominent themes of Worlds in Collision and were the main targets of criticism by astronomers (C. Payne-Gaposchkin; J. Stewart) in the 1950's. Subsequent discovery of the Earth's magnetosphere and the interplanetary magnetic field, along with other considerations, such as the comparative ease with which the terrestrial axis can be turned into new directions (T. Gold), muffled these criticisms. The claim that Pluto was once a comet (F. Whipple) blunts criticism, based solely on the matter of mass, of the idea that Venus was once a comet (protoplanet) another favorite theme of early critics (O. Struve; H. Brown).

Lucky Guesses?

Professor Motz now implies that Dr. Velikovsky's astonishingly accurate predictions are in the nature of lucky guesses. What are the mathematical odds against Velikovsky's making so many correct deductions from "false premises"?

Up to now every one of Velikovsky's predictions, when made, has been in sharp conflict with accepted values. For example, when professional astronomers were in agreement that the temperature of Venus is about 17C, Velikovsky claimed that the planet had been incandescent only a few thousand years ago, so that even today it is very far from a state of thermal equilibrium and gives off heat. This prediction was clearly at odds with professional opinion, yet there was nothing haphazard in Velikovsky's chain of deduction. Another example: confirmation came by accident when radio telescopes chanced to tune in on Jupiter, but this fact cannot be distorted to make the prediction itself a matter of luck. That most confirmations of Velikovsky's predictions have come "accidentally" affirms only that scientists have not yet undertaken a systematic investigation of the thesis of Worlds in Collision.

The new test suggested by Dr. Velikovsky -- that accurate determinations of the temperature of Venus be made for several synodical periods to see whether the claimed newcomer among the planets is indeed losing its heat -- would certainly be decisive. The results of such a program could go a long way toward settling controversy over why Venus is hot.

In the meantime, I would suggest, perhaps as a project for a team of young specialists in astronomy and cuneiform studies, that the astronomical tablets of ancient Babylon be programmed for computer analysis that would yield the past orbital and rotational motions of the Earth-Moon system and the orbital motions of the planets during a period in history when these bodies were most-feared gods.

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