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KRONOS Vol III, No. 3For the Record . . .
The Sun's Magnetic Field
In "Cosmos Without Gravitation" (Scripta Academica Hierosolymitana, N.Y., 1946), Velikovsky claimed that the Sun, planets, satellites, and comets are interdependent charged bodies. He also stated: "The solar surface is charged negatively in relation to the charge of the earth, as the spectral lines (with the dominant red line in the spectrum of hydrogen) reveal. The sun carries a charge and rotates: it is an electromagnet" (p. 17, emphasis added).
Velikovsky then cited the earlier work of G.E. Hale (in 1913) who, when he undertook to detect the Zeeman effect,* noted that " 'the form of the corona and the motion of the prominences suggest that it [the Sun] is a magnet' . . . The Zeeman effect proved to be most pronounced at 45° of both hemispheres of the sun" (p. 17).
[*The Zeeman Effect is "an effect of a moderately intense magnetic field upon the structure of the spectrum lines of a gas when subjected to its influence. The phenomenon, sought unsuccessfully by Faraday and finally observed by Zeeman in 1896, consists in the splitting up of each line into two or more components. In the simpler cases, when the source is viewed at right angles to the field, there are three components, of which the middle one has the same frequency as the unmodified line. This component is plane-polarized to vibrate parallel with the field, while the two side components vibrate at right angles to the field. When the source is viewed in the direction of the field, there are only two components, displaced in opposite directions, and circularly polarised in opposite senses. These phenomena constitute the so-called 'normal' Zeeman effect." - Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, 4th ed., Princeton, 1968, p. 2003.]
Although Velikovsky agreed with Hale's basic conclusion that the Sun is a magnet, he nevertheless did question the experimental results which seemed to indicate a relatively weak solar magnetic field. To the contrary, Velikovsky maintained that the Sun had both a powerful charge and a strong magnetic field.
"The lines of the corona suggested the existence of a magnetic field on the sun to the scholar who discovered it. But the form of the corona suggests a powerful magnetic field .... A revised investigation of the magnetic power of the field around the sun is here suggested. It should be kept in mind that the observations have been made from the solar magnetic field, in which the earth is embedded, if our concept is correct. It is possible also that the strongest Zeeman effect will show itself in latitudes higher than 45°. As is well known, the angle of observation must be taken into consideration in observing the Zeeman effect" (p. 17, emphasis added; also see p. 21).
"The sun is a rotating charged body, and it creates a magnetic field. WE ASSUME THE SOLAR CHARGE TO BE LARGE ENOUGH TO PRODUCE A MAGNETIC FIELD WITH LINES OF FORCE REACHING THE ORBIT OF PLUTO" (p. 18, capitalisation and emphasis added).
These remarkable words, particularly the last quoted sentence, were written by Velikovsky over 30 years ago and conceived five years before that. Bearing this in mind, let us examine a key scientific find made in December of 1976 by the Pioneer XI space probe, presently on a rendezvous course with Saturn.
As reported in the New York Times (12/7/76, p. 1), data relayed back to Earth by Pioneer XI reveals the following information about the structure and extent of the Sun's magnetic field:
"The magnetic field envelops and pervades the entire solar system . . . It is roughly spherical, extending several billion miles above the sun's north and south poles and probably AS FAR OUT AS THE ORBIT OF PLUTO, the outermost planet" (capitalisation and emphasis added).
Science News (12/11/76, p. 373), likewise, discussed the momentous discovery. "Pioneer's results, reported by Edward J. Smith of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, have now shown that the sun's magnetic field . . . probably reaches all the way to Pluto, more than 4.5 billion kilometers from the sun" (emphasis added). Pioneer XI's achievement was the result of measurements taken from high above the plane of Earth's orbit, a region never before traversed by spacecraft. Its position was such that a line from the centre of the Sun to Pioneer XI would have passed through the Sun's surface at about 16°N latitude.
Our knowledge of the Sun and the electromagnetic nature of the Solar System have been immeasurably enhanced by the Pioneer space probes. It is, therefore, indeed regrettable that the pioneering theoretical work of Velikovsky regarding the electromagnetic aspects of our Sun and its system remains unacknowledged by orthodox science. Yet, this same body of establishment authority which is so niggardly with its recognition has not hesitated to vilify Velikovsky's electromagnetic hypotheses. Thus, the late Harvard astronomer Donald Menzel (in the Oct. 15, 1952, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society) "offered calculations to show that if Velikovsky were right about electromagnetic forces in the solar system, the sun would have to have a surface electric potential of 1019 (10 billion billion) volts – as absolute impossibility, according to the astronomer" (See The Velikovsky Affair, p. 52). Eight years later, V.A. Bailey, Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney, Australia – unaware of the Velikovsky-Menzel debate – also claimed that the Sun is electrically charged and that it carries a surface potential of 1019 volts – precisely the figure calculated by Menzel. The Harvard astronomer remained unrepentant, however, and was recalcitrant to the end of his days where Velikovsky was concerned.
Another early critic of Velikovsky's electromagnetic theory was Martin Gardner who displayed the same unenlightened attitude as Menzel.
In 1952, Gardner wrote a book titled In the Name of Science which contained a disparaging chapter on Velikovsky. Minor revision led to a second edition renamed Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957). The book has been left unaltered ever since.
Among other critical commentary about Velikovsky, Gardner wrote the following: "He [Velikovsky] invents electro-magnetic forces capable of doing precisely what he wants them to do. There is no scientific evidence whatever for the powers of these forces .... They explain the unexplainable. But so convinced is the hermit scientist that everyone is prejudiced except himself, that he can – with a straight face – belabor the 'orthodox' for refusing to recognise these imaginary energies!"
Time has ultimately placed Gardner in proper perspective. His indiscreet criticism of Velikovsky now stands as a fallacy in its own right, representing one of many petrified monuments to an Unenlightened Age. Unfortunately, this has not dissuaded others from citing Gardner's anachronistic words as an argument against Velikovsky; and as recent as September of 1976, L. Sprague de Camp another outspoken critic – was doing just that. This from an individual who once told his readers "to examine all the evidence yourself at first hand" when it came to "judging between new and old theories, between the orthodox and the heterodox".L.M.G.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCESPensee I (May, 1972), p. 11; Nature, 186 (May 14, 1960), p. 508; Nature, 189 (January 7 and March 25, 1961), pp. 4345 and pp. 994-995; The Velikovsky Affair (N. Y., 1966), pp. 232ff.; I R (Feb., 1977), pp. 25ff. 80