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Open letter to science editors

 

KRONOS Vol II, No. 1

Some Additional Comments On Tektites
RALPH E. JUERGENS

I would like to applaud Cardona's suggestion that tektites may be products of interplanetary electrical discharges to the surface of the Moon. It seems to me that this is an idea whose time has come.

One criticism, directed less at Cardona than at most of the other scientists who have addressed themselves to the tektite puzzle over the past several decades, concerns a tendency to persist in either-or attitudes about tektite sources: Either the tektites originated on the Moon; or they originated on the Earth. In terms of the electrical fusion hypothesis, and in the light of Velikovsky's disclosures that both the Moon and the Earth were involved in discharges with intruding planetary bodies, there would appear to be no reason to insist that tektites now found on Earth could not have derived from both bodies (or, indeed, in some measure from Venus and Mars as well).

O'Keefe's claim to have found tektite glass in an Apollo sample makes a case for a lunar origin for some "fire pearls." A long trek into the interior of Laos by Barnes some years ago pretty well established that certain, massive, "Muong Nong" tektites, peculiar to Indochina, must have been fused in situ from native soils. There is much more evidence to be considered, of course, but these two findings seem sufficient to suggest that tektites have formed by fusion of materials from more than one cosmic body.

I suspect that the most important clue to tektite origins was Barnes' observation, back in the 1930's, of similar glassy objects produced from soil by arcing currents from a fallen power line. In his report of this finding, he tentatively suggested a connection between electrical discharges and tektites. He was at a loss, however, to account for the enormous disparity in scale between atmospheric lightning and what have come to be known as "strewn fields" broad geographical areas that have clearly been peppered with tektites of common origins. Drawing inspiration from Velikovsky's work, I struck up a correspondence with Barnes some 15 years ago and pointed out that interplanetary bolts, could they be given credence, offered a way out of his dilemma.

Barnes was sufficiently intrigued by this suggestion to respond with considerable enthusiasm. But I got the impression that he really didn't care to jeopardize his academic position by citing Velikovsky's work in support of his own. And of course electricity was then, as now, a subject almost totally alien to the field of geology. Barnes, however, encouraged me to prepare a paper on the subject of electrical origins for tektites and was kind enough to review several preliminary drafts and offer helpful suggestions. (Fortunately, I now believe, my effort to enter the tektite controversy at that time proved abortive; the overly long paper I labored over for some months, circulated in photocopy form among a few scientists prominent in the field, drew little favorable comment and was soon buried in the depths of my files. Now Cardona, approaching the problem from an entirely different direction, has come to much the same conclusion; he deserves full credit for bringing the idea to light.)

A turning point in tektite research was a celebrated experiment in which Chapman demonstrated that peculiar, button-like forms (flanges) commonly displayed by Australian tektites could be duplicated with remarkable precision by immersing cold glassy spheres in a plasma jet from an electric-arc device. Aerodynamicist Chapman, engaged in research on re-entry shielding for manned spacecraft, picked up on the aerodynamic implications of his accomplishment. He assumed that the physical conditions of his experiment merely simulated natural phenomena involved in tektite sculpturing, in that they provided rapid heating and high-velocity gases to shape glass melted from the leading surface of a cold object. He quite correctly concluded that the flanges were the result of ablation, but he perhaps went too far in insisting that such ablation could only result from a high-velocity plunge into the Earth's atmosphere from the outside.

What if Chapman's experiment duplicated tektite-formative conditions much more closely than he imagined? After all, stony meteorites show signs of severe ablation and glazing of their forward surfaces, but they do not develop button-like flanges. Could it be that the electrical discharge that generated Chapman's plasma jet had as much to do with the final effects he achieved as did the mere frictional heating and aerodynamical forces of high-velocity gases? These, it seems to me, are questions that might be answered in detail by further investigation.

Numerous other peculiarities of tektites are suggestive of origins involving electricity. As just one example, I would point out that some tektites are quite massive, yet they clearly melted almost instantaneously throughout their volumes. They were not heated from the outside. It is claimed that mechanical shock, as from impact, might account for this. But it is known that electrical breakdown could produce such an effect.

I would add only that, about 1960, Hawkins (of Stonehenge fame) produced respectable artificial tektites by subjecting Earth materials to a beam of electrons. He, too, may have been closer to the truth of things than he realized.

[*!* Image] The Moon

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