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Open letter to science editors


The Ten Points Of Sagan

Immanuel Velikovsky

Copyright © 1977 by Immanuel Velikovsky

See also note (1).

At the AAAS Symposium that dealt with the challenge my work presents to the established views in science, Prof. Carl Sagan of Cornell presented ten points.

I. The Ejection of Venus by Jupiter. Sagan calculates the energy required to overcome the escape velocity of Jupiter and concludes, "whatever the ejection mechanism–volcanoes or collision", Venus would have absorbed a portion of this energy as thermal and would be "completely" molten. "Incidentally", he says, "this would appear to be a good Velikovskian argument for the high temperature of the surface of Venus", but he adds, "this is not his argument."

In Worlds in Collision, the "natal heat of Venus" is, in fact, mentioned before other causes of the high temperature of the planet as claimed by me a decade before it was found (the section "The Thermal Balance of Venus"). It is difficult to see what makes this pro-argument into a counter-argument, even if I had not spoken of the natal heat of the protoplanet.

In his underlying calculations, Sagan estimates the mass of Venus and the escape velocity from Jupiter "which is about 70 km/sec." Sagan is mistaken: the escape velocity from Jupiter is not 70 but 59 km/sec., from which figure three quantities need to be subtracted:

1. The great rotational speed of Jupiter at the latitude of the disruptive effect–on the equator the speed is ca. 13 km/sec., and at the 20° south latitude where the Red Spot is centered, somewhat less.

2. The difference m in km/sec. between the present–resultant–rotational speed of Jupiter and the speed that it had before fission (the conservation of angular momentum requires that Jupiter slowed its rotation upon ejecting Venus).

3. The difference n in km/sec. between the 100% escape velocity that determines an orbit extending to infinity (and out of the solar system) and 71% of it which is the minimum necessary to carry the escaping object on an elliptical orbit.

In squaring the erroneous figure (70 km/sec.) instead of a much smaller figure, Sagan squared an error and came up with wrong results. (It seems that Sagan borrowed the mistake from Lloyd Motz in his paper in Yale Scientific Magazine, the April 1967 issue of which was dedicated to "Venus–A Youthful Planet"; but there the mistake was also corrected in the article by myself that followed.)(2)

In his paper Sagan does not question the possibility of generating the great amount of energy involved in the birth of Venus, and only stresses that it must have become all molten before it solidified.

The required energy for the birth of Venus, erroneously calculated by Sagan, was not overlooked by Lyttleton in his theory of the origin of Venus and other terrestrial planets from Jupiter by spin-off. With its present rate of spin Jupiter's escape velocity is certainly high, and was an impediment to the Vsekhsvyatskii theory of the birth of comets from Jupiter by volcanic eruption. In my reconstruction of the past the fission of Jupiter followed, though not immediately, from a close encounter between the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn (Worlds in Collision, p. 373) followed by collection by Jupiter of the spread matter of Saturn; electrostatic forces could have played a role.

II. Repeated Collisions Among the Earth, Venus and Mars. The statistical argument of marksmanship was used twenty-five years ago by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin of Harvard (Popular Astronomy, June 1950) and the following year by John O. Stewart of Princeton (Harper's, June 1951). I answered Stewart in the same issue of Harper's. "The image of 'marksmanship' is not well derived ... If a comet with a tail 100 million miles long should move in the ecliptic, no good fortune would keep the planets from passing through its fabric; at its every passage inside the terrestrial orbit, the Earth would have a better than 60 to 40 chance of going through its tail or head."

Since it took centuries or millennia before the Earth came into collision with the protoplanet's trailing part (the encounter did not, as some critics assumed, immediately follow the fission of Jupiter), I need to explain why it took so long to happen. If the place of Venus' separation was the Red Spot (centered at 20 southern latitude of Jupiter), the protoplanet would have moved originally in a plane inclined to the ecliptic, and would only periodically have crossed it - to this effect we have the testimony of various ancient sources, like the Chinese Soochow Astronomical Chart (Worlds in Collision, Section "Tao" and others).

In his statistical approach, Sagan considers all events described in Worlds in Collision as independent of one another, whereas they are clearly interdependent, and indeed each of them in turn increased the likelihood that the next would follow. His calculations, therefore (dealing with independent, direct collisions instead of the much more probable interdependent near-collisions described in my book), yielded the staggering odds of 1023-to-one against my thesis. (The typescript version of Sagan's lecture, distributed at the AAAS meeting and used by reporters, even though it was plainly marked "Draft", contained the figure 109-to-one; this was altered to 1023-to-one by hand, but the basis for the inked-in change is not obvious, since the "Appendix" that Sagan referred to was never produced.) Sagan's conclusion that odds of "1023-to-one" make any hypotheses "untenable" was widely quoted in press accounts of the symposium.

It should also be borne in mind that the basic subject to be addressed by opponents is "did it happen" and not "how likely was it". Events of perhaps much less probability have occurred. Discovery of two new comets on one photographic plate is unlikely, but has happened.

III. The Earth's Rotation. The problem whether there are available forces, even at near contact with another body (Venus), to bring the Earth to a rotational stasis is discussed.

Sagan [1976] says: "But it is easy to see (Appendix 2) that a gradual deceleration of the Earth's rotation at 10-2 g or so could occur in a period of much less than a day. Then no one would fly off and even stalactites and other delicate geomorphological forms could have survived. Likewise, we see in Appendix 2 that the energy required to brake the Earth is not enough to melt it, although it would result in a noticeable(3) increase in temperature: the oceans would have been raised to the boiling point of water, an event which seems to have been overlooked by Velikovsky's ancient sources.)"(4)

Sagan continues: "These are, however, not the most serious objections to Velikovsky's exegesis of Joshua. Perhaps the most serious objection is rather at the other end: how does the Earth get started up again, rotating at approximately the same rate of spin?"

It is salutary that Sagan dropped the argument often heard concerning the "fly-off of the army of Joshua" and also the breaking of stalactites, both used among others by Asimov and actually by Sagan himself as recently as his course lecture on "Velikovsky and Venus" at Cornell on March 28, 1973. Appendix 2 was not supplied with the text of his AAAS paper.

As to the question how the Earth gets started again, I was not unaware of the problem; therefore, at every occasion where I spoke of deceleration of the Earth's rotation, I also suggested that "if rotation persisted undisturbed, the terrestrial axis may have tilted in the presence of a strong magnetic field, so that the sun appeared to lose for hours its diurnal movement" (Worlds in Collision, Section "The Most Incredible Story", where I also promised to discuss the question in the "Epilogue"). There ("Epilogue") I presented the problem and stated that the "cessation of the diurnal rotation could also be caused–and most efficiently–by the earth's passing through a strong magnetic field; eddy currents would be generated in the surface of the earth, which in turn would give rise to magnetic fields, and these, interacting with the external field, would slow down the earth or bring it to a rotational stasis." This sentence in Worlds in Collision I wrote after consulting with Lloyd Motz.

I referred in general to the strength of the field necessary to slow down the diurnal motion or to change the inclination of the terrestrial axis, but gave no figures; the figures, as approximately calculated by von Weizsacker in a personal meeting in January 1950, shortly before Worlds in Collision went to press, I gave in my printed debate with Stewart without referring to Weizsacker.(5)

Sagan correctly observes that magnetic dipole forces would increase as the inverse cube of the distance. He points to the very small magnetic field of Venus. However, this is no indication as to what Venus' charge and magnetic field amounted to before the events described in Worlds in Collision, when great discharges between the protoplanet and its trailing part took place (Section "The Battle in the Sky") and when Venus came into near contact with Earth, Jupiter (Section "The Blazing Star"), and Mars.

Publishing Worlds in Collision, I was cognizant of the problem of the renewal of terrestrial rotation upon slowing down, if it really took place: "If the interaction with the magnetic field caused the earth to renew its spinning, it would almost certainly not be renewed at the same speed. If the magma inside the globe continued to rotate at a different angular velocity than the shell, it would tend to set the earth rotating slowly" ("Epilogue" to Worlds in Collision).

I also discussed elsewhere the possibility of the Earth passing through two halves of a magnetic field, with the effect that the passage through the second half (of opposing polarity) would nearly correct the retardation caused by the passage through the first half.

The phenomenon observed in 1959 and 1960 by André Danjon, Director of the Paris Observatory, that after solar flares the Earth slowed down in diurnal rotation by milli-seconds, but thereafter started to speed up by microseconds, may contain the solution to the problem. Danjon's finds were questioned because of their revolutionary significance, but later confirmed in more recent observations. B. Schatzmann showed that the slowing down was due to electromagnetic, not thermal, effects.(6)

Prof. Irving Michelson of the Illinois Institute of Technology, in his paper at the same AAAS Symposium, found that "the energy required to turn the Earth's magnetic dipole through 180 (interchanging the positions of the north and south poles) happened to be equal to that of a moderately strong geomagnetic storm" (Science, vol. 185, 107-8, 19 July 1974).

Sagan writes: "There is no sign in rock magnetization of terrestrial rocks ever having been subjected to such strong field strengths." In this Sagan errs: The problem that vexes the geophysicists is exactly this–how to explain the remanent magnetism of terrestrial rocks and lavas which is in great excess of what the global magnetism could have imparted in them when they were cooling below the Curie Point; the excess is several hundredfold and even thousandfold and very much has been written on the subject. As to the most recent instance of reversal of the geomagnetic field, the work done by the originator of paleomagnetic studies, G. Folgheraiter, on Attic and Etruscan vases, indicates a reversal in the eighth century before the present era (P. L. Mercanton, in Archives des sciences physiques et naturelles [Quatrieme Periode, Tome XXIII, Geneva, 19071).

IV. Terrestrial Geology and Lunar Craters. Concluding this point, Sagan asks where is the geological evidence of wholesale transgressions of the oceans and seas; "and what of the archaeological and paleontological evidence? Where are the extensive faunal extinctions due to such floods?"

The evidence was cited by me on 300 pages of Earth in Upheaval, a book the reading of which is indispensable for the discussion of this and other geophysical problems raised by my work. Omitting purposely any reference to all literary heritage of ancient civilizations, Earth in Upheaval brings geological and paleontological evidence from all parts of the world by culling it from the scientific literature of authoritative field studies.

The other question raised in Point IV is the question why the Moon has so many craters due to meteorites, the Earth, however, so few. In the first place, I do not subscribe to the, till recently, largely accepted view that the lunar circular formations are all due to impacts of meteorites. I attribute many of them to interplanetary discharges, especially those of the "rayed" appearance, like Aristarchus or Tycho. While not excluding the origin of some of them in "meteoric" collisions, I would attribute the major part to the bubbling activity of the surface of the Moon; this view of bubbling (first offered, as also the impact theory of the "craters", by R. Hooke in the 17th century) finds new converts in modern times. In my Forum lecture of 1953, 1 drew attention to numerous lunar domes as unburst bubbles, a view shared by Dr. H. Percy Wilkins, the late selenographer.(7)

The Moon, smaller than the Earth, must have suffered, in near collisions, greater thermal effects (also, the Moon has no oceans or ice caps which could absorb as latent heat much of the thermal energy developed in near-collisions); therefore, Sagan's statistical approach based on impacts of meteorites would not apply; the Moon has also no atmosphere and the bubbling activity could result in greater circular formations. The impact theory requires that meteorites or asteroids, arriving from many sides, never created on the Moon pronounced oval features like the Carolina bays, thought to be caused by such impacts.

I also attributed the surface features on the Moon not only to the last near planetary contact, but to earlier catastrophic events as well (Worlds in Collision, Section "The Moon and Its Craters", p. 362: "The great formations of craters, mountains, rifts, and plains of lava on the moon were formed not only in the upheavals described in this book, but also in those which took place in earlier times."). As to the time of the last heating of the Moon, I suggested thermoluminescence tests from cores three feet deep (New York Times, early city edition of 21 July 1969, the night man first stepped on the Moon). My discussion as to when the last heating of the lunar rocks took place is found in a debate with Prof. Derek York, one of the principal lunar rock investigators, on the pages of Pensée I (May, 1972), pp. 18-21. Prof. R. Walker of Washington University, St. Louis, found that the last thermal event on the Moon was as recent as 10,000 years ago; however, the presence of radioactive elements in the lunar regolith could reduce the result by a factor of two or three.

S. Tolansky, in a paper in Science (Vol. 176, 12 May 1972), discusses interferometric evidence of lunar glass and arrives at the conclusion that the glass, and thus the lunar surface in general, must have undergone some shock, most probably thermal, at a temperature near 700°C. (The melting of the rocks requires, depending on their structure, temperatures of over 1200°C. However, many metals have melting points below 700°C.)

V. Chemistry and Biology of the Terrestrial Planets. Sagan accuses me of taking "no note of the fact that Jupiter is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium while the atmosphere of Venus . . . is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide" and maintains that, according to my work, "there are carbohydrates on both Jupiter and Venus". He also alleges that I confuse hydrocarbons and carbohydrates.

I have not given cause in my works for such an allegation of confusion. I described from ancient sources the bituminous outpouring on both hemispheres when the Earth was in its first near contact with the protoplanet Venus. Mesoamerican sources are very vivid; the Morning Star is regularly represented as disgorging "burning water" (the title of a book by L. Séjourné, 1956).

How could heavier molecules of hydrocarbon result from methane and ammonia, known constituents of the Jovian atmosphere? I discussed the problem in Worlds in Collision (Section "The Gases of Venus"), where I wrote: "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."

I referred also to the known constituents of the Jovian atmosphere–the gases methane and ammonia–and drew the "indirect conclusion" that hydrocarbons would be found on Jupiter, too.

My suggestion in Worlds in Collision that, by electrical discharges in a mixture of hydrogen and gaseous carbon, and also in a mixture of ammonia and methane, heavier hydrocarbons may result, was made before Miller's well-known experiment with electrical discharges, in which he obtained amino acids, and Urey's suggestion that led to it.

A. T. Wilson, in 1960, succeeded in creating heavier hydrocarbons by electrical discharges in a mixture of methane and ammonia (Nature, 17 December, 1960); he also concluded (Nature, 6 October, 1962) that petroleum is of cosmic origin.

Oro and Han (Science, 153, 1966, 1393) proposed that "aromatic hydrocarbons and other organic compounds may have been formed as a result of collisions of comets with planets or satellites such as the moon and collisions of large meteorites with planets containing reducing atmospheres."

Furthermore, "some of the petroleum from the Venus encounter may have originated on Jupiter. W. F. Libby has suggested (seminar at University of Houston, July 12, 1966) that 'oil' is raining on Jupiter, and Oro and Han cite the possibility that petroleum is now being formed in localized areas of Jupiter" (Pensée V, Fall, 1973, p. 23).(8)

Before the space probes the general expectation among astronomers was that free nitrogen constitutes ca. 90% of the atmosphere of Venus; therefore, it was a disappointment when this was not substantiated in space probes and instead the atmosphere of Venus was found to consist of up to 90% of carbon dioxide. The question was asked by many–what is the source of such a large proportion of carbon dioxide? Already in 1955 Fred Hoyle assumed that: "Carbon was much more likely to be initially present in combination with hydrogen, not with oxygen. . . . If all the carbon was initially locked away in the higher hydrocarbons, an oxidation process was necessary in order to produce the carbon dioxide that we now observe. It is possible that the oxygen derived from the dissociation of the water was all absorbed in the oxidation of hydrocarbons." Hoyle postulated oceans of oil on Venus; I, however, claimed that Venus must be very hot and any hydrocarbons, if present in lower levels, must be gaseous.

VI. Manna. Having explained how hydrocarbons could result from hydrogen and carbon, or also from methane and ammonia, by electrical discharges, I wondered what process was at action in the assumed conversion of hydrocarbons into the edible substance known to the Israelites as "manna" or "bread from the sky", to the Greeks as "ambrosia", to the Hindus as "madhu", or to the Scandinavian people as "a sweet morning dew" which sustained the few survivors of the cosmic disaster.

I was attacked on this score by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who claimed that if a conversion of hydrocarbons into edible products were possible, the question of feeding the hungry of the world would have been solved. I replied in Harper's (June 1951), after consultation with the late V. Komarewsky of the Illinois Institute of Technology, an international authority on catalysis and petroleum, that: "After the catastrophe, clouds of thick dust and vapor enveloped the earth for many years. It is possible that in the dust and vapors, as a result of bacterial activity, organic compounds were formed–for instance, carbohydrates."

In subsequent years a process was developed (and used by the Agricultural Administration of the United Nations) to convert hydrocarbons (asphalt) into edible products by bacterial action.(9)

Interestingly, Sagan in recent years assumes the fall of "manna" from clouds on Jupiter(10) (whereas in Point V he ascribes to me the notion that "there are carbohydrates on both Jupiter and Venus"). In his recent book, The Cosmic Connection, he also says that: "there are organic molecules–for example, some with a complex ring structure–that would be quite stable under the conditions of Venus" (p. 92).

Sagan applies calculations as to how much manna was necessary to feed the surviving population of the world after a global catastrophe on the assumption that manna did not fall only in the Sinai peninsula, and assumes that the entire solar system must have been permeated by organic material. These calculations have a tinge of a debate among scholastics. According to the ancient traditions, the quantity of "manna" deposited was truly large (Worlds in Collision, Section "Rivers of Milk and Honey"). The finds of organic material in meteorites and hydrocarbon spectra of comets are subjects possibly related. But Venus did not need to spray the solar system with "manna", that as I assumed developed by bacterial action in the clouds that caused the "Shadow of Death" (Jeremiah) or "Goetterdaemmerung", nor with hydrocarbons, the raw material from which the manna was probably synthesized.

Sagan deals also with the biology of the terrestrial planets. Ever since 1950 the content of the Section "Baal Zevuv (Beelzebub)", Lord of the Flies or Lucifer, in Worlds in Collision has been a favorite target of criticism. There I described the plague of vermin observed in China, India, Arabia, Egypt, and many other places, connected with catastrophic events, as the Earth was passing through the trailing part of the cometary body that I recognized as the protoplanet Venus. I wrote: "The internal heat developed by the earth and the scorching gases of the comet were in themselves sufficient to make the vermin of the earth propagate at a very feverish rate. Some of the plagues, like the plague of the frogs ("the land brought forth frogs") or of the locusts, must be ascribed to such causes."

Then I wrote: "The question arises here whether or not the comet Venus infested the earth with vermin which it may have carried in its trailing atmosphere in the form of larvae together with stones and gases. It is significant that all around the world peoples have associated the planet Venus with flies." I brought quite a few examples of the worship of the god of the fly; the Aztecs thought that the comet–Venus–contaminated the Earth with larvae; the fly also became the emblem carried by the Egyptian priests in Egypt after the Middle Kingdom.

I expressed myself cautiously that "the persistence with which the planet Venus is associated with a fly in the traditions of the peoples of both hemispheres ... create[s] the impression that the flies in the tail of Venus were not merely the earthly brood, swarming in heat like other vermin, but guests from another planet." After remarking that the idea of the arrival of living organisms (microorganisms) from interplanetary space is not new, I wrote: "Whether there is truth in this supposition of larval contamination of the earth is anyone's guess." I left open the question whether Venus and also Jupiter may be populated by vermin, saying that "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" this hypothesis.

Sagan, ascribing to me the falling of mice and frogs from the clouds of Venus (his Cornell lecture of March 28, 1973) or frogs (press conference of December 2, 1973), violates what I explicitly said in my book (mice, of course, were not among the Egyptian plagues), despite his present saying how I "approvingly" quoted the Bundahis, where Ahriman is said to disseminate all kind of vermin over the earth.

Sagan omits any reference to possible larval contamination and speaks of fried flies.

The question of what kind of life should be looked for in space investigation of the solar system was the subject of an invited lecture by myself before the scientific staff of the Exobiology Section of Ames Space Research Center in 1972. 1 discussed Venus (microorganisms in the clouds), Mars (microorganisms pathogenic to man), Jupiter (possibly vermin) and Saturn (low plant life). The mutations connected with transplant from one habitat to another under violent thermal and radioactive conditions need to be considered for the possible metamorphoses in the life forms themselves and in their biological adaptations. Sagan, on several occasions, speculated about life on Jupiter and also proposed some peculiar life forms for Mars–primitive organisms the size of large terrestrial mammals, and capable of hibernating for thousands of years.

Flies appear in the paleontological picture as the most recent among insect forms.

VII. The Clouds of Venus. This point actually deals with the same problem as points V and VI, but with an emphasis on spectroscopy. Sagan claims that the clouds are composed of sulfuric acid and that there is no evidence for hydrocarbons or other organic molecules.

The question of the presence of hydrocarbons or of organic molecules in the thick cloud cover of Venus was discussed by me at length in my answer to Prof. William T. Plummer, who in the March 14, 1969 issue of Science raised objections upon comparing the features between 2.3 and 2.5 microns (near infrared) with the spectra of a few selected hydrocarbons, himself claiming that the spectrum in this wavelength range shows features accountable by water ice crystals. Sagan, too, considered water and ice crystals to be the main component of the cloud cover (Carl Sagan, "The Venus Greenhouse", Sky & Telescope, July, 1960; James B. Pollack and Carl Sagan, "The Case for Ice Clouds on Venus", Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 73 No. 18, Sept. 15, 1968).

In my answer to Plummer I stressed among other things that the refractive index of water or ice crystals is definitely lower than the 1.44 observed from the upper layer of the clouds. The claim of ice crystals and water comprising the clouds was subsequently rejected primarily on this very ground of refractive index (J. E. Hansen and A. Arking, Science Vol. 71, 19 Feb. 197 1, pp. 669 ff.).

In the high temperature of Venus, one would not expect hydrocarbons (petroleum derivatives) to remain for thousands of years free from chemical reactions; in the clouds I took into account the possibility of changes due to bacterial action, photosynthesis, or electrical discharges.

The heavy molecules could be below the reflective level of the clouds. I was careful in expression: "On the basis of this research, I assume that Venus must be rich in petroleum gases .... the spectrogram of Venus may disclose the presence of hydrocarbon gases in its atmosphere, if these gases lie in the upper part of the atmosphere where the rays of the sun penetrate" (Worlds in Collision, Section "The Gases of Venus"). Fourteen years later, in 1964, Sagan subscribed to such a possibility in his article "The Atmosphere of Venus" from The Origin and Evolution of Atmospheres and Oceans (ed. P. J. Brancazio and A. G. W. Cameron; John Wiley and Son, publ.). "The fact that [at the level of the clouds, low vapor-pressure organic compounds like CH4, C2H2, C2H4, etc.] have not been successfully identified does not entirely exclude to possible existence of some hydrocarbons in the lower atmosphere. . . ."

As admitted by Plummer, the region 2.3 to 2.5 microns is most unsuitable for observing organic molecules because of interference by CO2 and other molecules. This, too, I stressed in Worlds in Collision, Section "The Gases of Venus", suggesting, at the advice of W. S. Adams of Mount Wilson Observatory, to wait until "the technique of photography in the infrared is perfected so that hydrocarbon bands can be differentiated" for establishing the possible presence of organic molecules. He also suggested the use of the technique and instruments applied by petroleum industrial research.

But, I would be bolder today and point to my reply to Burgstahler (Pensée VI, Winter, 1973-74, pp. 31-37.). In the table (see Fig. 1) supplied, I showed that "in the near infrared a few hydrocarbons tested by Plummer (out of tens of thousands of hydrocarbons and other organic molecules possible) produced reflection spectrum features which are 'not observed, or rather, observed less strongly in the near-infrared spectrum of Venus' (Burgstahler) and this despite the admitted fact that C-H bands would be obscured in this range by CO2 bands, this therefore being an inferior range for the identification of hydrocarbons on Venus (Burgstahler)."

In 1973 Young and Young (Icarus 18, pp. 564-582) wrote that certain features in the deep infrared (the 11.2 micron band) could be attributed to sulfuric acid. To meet, however, the refractive index (1.44), the acid was assumed to be diluted in 25% of water. This last assumption was actually unnecessary: Prinn (Science 182, pp. 1132ff.) supported Young's claim, but showed that only a very small part of the clouds was suggested to contain sulfuric acid.

It is clear that besides the features at 11.2 microns and generally in the 8-13 micron region, the entire gamut of the spectrum of Venus' clouds in the ultraviolet, near infrared, and infrared, cannot be accounted for by sulfuric acid. Kuiper and his colleagues have argued that sulfuric acid is incompatible with various chemical conditions on Venus–its presence is incompatible with ammonia detected by the Russians deeper into the atmosphere in direct chemical analysis in a search for this compound. On the other hand, I could show that the features are those of organic molecules, and this by quoting Burgstahler himself; I was also confirmed in this view by Prof. Fowler Bush of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Prof. Bill Harris of Furman University, both working on the infrared spectra of organic molecules.

Peter R. Ballinger, a researcher in organic chemistry, also had this to say about the possibility of sulfuric acid in Venus' clouds: "It is likely that sulfuric acid would be gradually decomposed by solar radiation of ultraviolet and shorter wavelength, particularly in the presence of iron compounds (F. S. Dainton and F. T. Jones, Transactions of the Faraday Society, 61 [1965], 1681) to give hydrogen and oxygen. This process would also be expected to result in the preferential retention of deuterium, as discussed in another context... Because of this and other chemical reactions, sulfuric acid might well have a relatively short lifetime, consistent with a recent installation of the planet in its present orbit.

"The presence of sulfuric acid in the clouds of Venus is still only hypothetical. The ratio of water to acid is chosen so as to agree with the observed refractive index, and the infrared spectrum of this mixture, while consistent with that of the atmosphere, does not completely account for it" (Pensée VII, Spring, 1974, p. 49 - emphasis added).

The yellowish color of Venus was ascribed to iron molecules absorbing light in the ultraviolet. Sulfur and iron in the atmosphere of Venus was claimed by me over fifteen years before these elements were claimed there by Young and Young. In answer to my inquiry "whether the spectral analysis gives reason to assume that Jupiter and Venus alike have iron and sulphur in an ionized state", Prof. W. S. Adams wrote me in a letter dated July 25, 1955: "Ionized iron and sulphur could not possibly be present in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Venus, because their spectra are atomic and would require very high temperatures for their production."

Of course, sulfuric acid could not be formed in the absence of sulfur. I had my reasons for my early claiming these two elements on Venus: Iron must have been present in the trailing part of Venus because of particles "of ferruginous or other soluble pigment" that caused the bloody coloring of the seas, rivers, and landscapes (Worlds in Collision, Section "The Red World"); hydrocarbons could not be expected to remain in their original form in the high heat of Venus below the clouds (I spoke of fires on Venus in the presence of oxygen), CO2 and H2O being the ensuing molecules–some of the oxygen of water recycled but some also fused into sulfur (two atoms of oxygen resulting in one atom of sulfur) in discharges of great potentials. The quantity of hydrocarbons still remaining in the clouds could be a clock to show how long the process has been going on.

After the AAAS Symposium, the data of the Mariner X probe were made known (Science, 1974); it was announced that the upper atmosphere of Venus contains the four elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and helium. The first three elements are indicative of the possible presence of carbohydrates in the clouds of Venus; Sagan, however, in the discussion at the AAAS maintained that no oxygen is found in the upper atmosphere of Venus.

If the clouds of Venus consist of oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid), no algae that Sagan proposed to seed there, to break down the carbon dioxide and make Venus habitable, could persist.

Future investigation (possibly by a scoop-carrying probe) will show whether the clouds of Venus contain organic material: Wildt's idea of formaldehyde (Astrophysical Journal 92 (1940), pp. 247-255) in Venus' atmosphere was duly reported by me in Worlds in Collision, Wildt upon inquiry in 1946 answered me that "the absorption spectrum of Venus' atmosphere cannot be interpreted as resulting from gaseous hydrocarbons, but gives definite evidence of large amounts of carbon dioxide." Therefore Sagan's reference to Wildt as the first to claim hydrocarbons on Venus is incorrect.

Sagan's discussion of the NASA report after Mariner 11 announcing the presence of hydrocarbons on Venus was based on the claim of Prof. L. Kaplan (to whom Sagan refers), whose publications and memoranda preceding the Mariner 11 probe refer to the fact that the cloud has similar physical properties in all layers, with temperatures at the top -25F and at the bottom +200F, which could be, in his original opinion, due to the polymerized radical C-H.

Three months after the AAAS Symposium, Prof. James B. Pollack, et al. published in Icarus 23, 8-26 (1974) a series of aircraft-based measurements of Venus' reflection spectrum between 1.2 and 4.1 microns. Their graph (fig. 2) shows a "modest decline in reflectivity" in the range between 2.3 and 2.4 microns, the exact range, characteristic of hydrocarbons, which according to Plummer's argument in 1969 failed to show a decline–by which the presence of hydrocarbons in the clouds was said to be disproven. In the abstract of their paper the authors ascribe the decline to "impurities in the sulfuric acid droplets". On a later page (p. 20) they refer to Plummer's article with the comment that "hydrocarbons show a feature near 2.4 m which is not present in either our spectra or that of Kuiper and Forbes (1967)". Yet, as said, their own graph shows unmistakably the missing feature in the range that is characteristic for hydrocarbons.

VIII. The Temperature of Venus. Sagan starts this section with the discussion of the temperature of Mars and accuses me of wrongly stating that according to the data known before the publication of Worlds in Collision in 1950, "Mars emits more heat than it receives from the sun" (Worlds in Collision, "The Thermal Balance of Mars"). Sagan says: "This statement is however dead wrong."

But Sky and Telescope, March 1961, reported Sagan's opinion: "It has long been known that the observed surface temperature of Mars is about 30 degrees centigrade higher than would result from the sun shining on an airless planet at its distance." Sagan wished to ascribe the 30 degree difference to a greenhouse effect produced by the very rarified atmosphere on Mars and for this he assumed the presence of a certain (not proven) quantity of water (vapor? at what temperature?) besides carbon dioxide.

As I indicated in Worlds in Collision, Mars, being smaller than Earth, and having more surface area per unit of mass, must have cooled down more quickly than the Earth, if created about the same time and not having experienced any disturbances since then. The probable explanation of any excess of heat on Mars I saw in its having been more disturbed in the near collision with Venus or near approaches to Earth, bodies more massive than itself. I finished by saying: "interplanetary electric discharges could also initiate atomic fissions with ensuing radioactivity and emission of heat." The planetary probes proved the existence of hot spots, ascribed to radioactivity, on the Moon and on Mars.

Between the theoretical and observed temperature values of Mars–reflecting as a grey body–there is an actual excess of heat given off by Mars (table accompanying the article "Mars", volume 8, Encyclopaedia of Science, McGraw Hill, 1971).

At an earlier page of his paper (point V), Sagan claims that the surface of Mars as photographed by space probes is a proof that Mars was not involved in celestial disturbances. This statement violates facts and logic.

I was in conflict with the accepted views among astronomers when I wrote in Worlds in Collision ("Planet Mars") that it is a dead planet, that if there were ever higher forms of life there, they already saw their Last Day. "Their work could not survive either. The 'canals' on Mars appear to be a result of the play of geological forces that answered with rifts and cracks the outer forces acting in collisions."

But many an astronomer to the very end maintained that intelligent life may exist on Mars. It was a great surprise for the scientific world when the photographs made by Mariner IV disclosed a moon-like terrain; closer photographs by Mariner IX showed remarkably clearly how true my view was. Crater formations occupied large portions of the surface, seas of lava occupied an even larger area; cracks, one of them 1100 miles along the surface, and a tremendous structure–Nix Olympica–looking like a place of direct collision could also be seen. How could these finds be turned into arguments against my thesis?

Refractive Index Volatility and Chemical Compatibility Ultraviolet Spectrum And Color Near Infrared
2.1-2.5 Microns
3.2-3.5 Microns
Deep infrared
8-15 Microns
"Various organic compounds, including certain types of unsaturated hydrocarbons, have refractive indices and volatility properties that are reasonably consistent with those of the cloud particles." "Some [organic compounds, including unsaturated hydrocarbons] possess at least part of the ultraviolet absorption displayed by Venus" "The many intense CO2 lines in this spectral region [of Venus] make detection of the generally weak C-H (and related N-H & O-H) overtone and combination bands extremely difficult and uncertain. Such bands often coincide with positions of CO2 bands" "In the infrared proper (2.5 to 15 microns), hydrocarbons and their derivatives display much stronger C-H absorption bands than in the near infra-red."
"Olefinic substances [Hydrocarbons]... could havethe observed refractive index."
"In particular, the Strong fundamental C-H (bands) in the 3.2-3.5 microns region are especially useful for identification. This portion of the [Venus] spectrum shows intense absorption, only a small portion of which can be due to CO2"

"Although the origin of these bands in the spectrum of Venus is still uncertain, they are not inconsistent with an assignment to C-H [bands]."

S u


"In apparent contradiction to the Venera 8 report concerning the presence of ammonia in the lower Cytherian atmosphere, a proposal has been advanced by G. T. Sill and developed recently by A. T. Young that the cloud particles consist mainly of 75 percent sulfuric acid [oil of vitriol] in water. At the temperature of the upper part of the clouds (ca. -23°C) 75 percent H2SO4 [sulfuric acid] has a refractive index of 1.44." "As a liquid at [-23°C] it can be expected to exist as spherical droplets."

"Co-existence of free ammonia with ... sulfuric acid ... would appear to be contraindicated. Moreover, the view has been expressed [by Kuiper et al.] that sulfuric acid clouds must 'most certainly be rejected due to other complications this model would create.'"

"The short-wave length absorption of Venus in the near-ultraviolet, which produces the light yellowish color is not accounted for by strong solutions of sulfuric acid."

"75 percent sulfuric acid [exhibits] prominent absorption bands at 9.5 and 11.2 microns."
"The infrared spectrum of Venus exhibits a significant amount of absorption in [the 6-8 and 10-14 micron] regions... absorption that is not due to CO2, sulfuric acid, or other known constituents of the atmosphere. Assignment of at least a portion of this absorption to olefinic and/or other organic compounds is not unreasonable."

Figure 1
Reprinted from Velikovsky Reconsidered by permission of the author.


1. [These replies to points one through eight were written in 1974. Quotations from Sagan's paper (with one noted exception) are from the version that Sagan distributed to the press in February, 1974, at the time of the AAAS Symposium. All of Velikovsky's quotations from the 1974 paper are verbatim, but Sagan later reworded some of the passages involved, as he continued to rewrite and to expand. Sagan did not produce the finished version of his paper until February, 1976, over a year and one-half after Velikovsky had written these replies, and nearly two years after the Symposium itself–The Ed.]
2. Also see the article by Eric Crew, "Stability of Solid Cores in Gaseous Planets," KRONOS III: 1 (August, 1977), pp. 22ff.–The Ed.
3. ["but not lethal" in the distributed 1974 version was deleted from the 1976 revision.]
4. Sagan is once again incorrect; Worlds in Collision has an entire Section on "Boiling Earth and Sea". The Zend-Avesta says, "The sea boiled, all the shores of the ocean boiled, all the middle of it boiled" (W in C, p. 92). Similar traditions are also cited on p. 92.
5. See also my answer to W. C. Straka in Pensée II (Fall, 1972), p. 16.
6. See R. E. Juergens, "On the Convection of Electric Charge by the Rotating Earth," KRONOS II: 3 (February, 1977), pp. 12-30–The Ed.
7. See C. J. Ransom, "The Moon," KRONOS II: 1 (August, 1976), pp. 34-35–The Ed.
8. Also see C. J. Ransom, The Age of Velikovsky (Glassboro, 1976), pp. 79-82 - The Ed.
9. See also K. K. Wong, "The Synthesis of Manna," Pensée III (Winter, 1973), pp. 45-46. (See, too, M. G. Reade, "Manna as a Confection," SIS Review (Spring, 1976), pp. 9ff.–The Ed.]
10. Cf. Pensée VI (Winter, 1973-74), p. 57.

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