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Open letter to science editors


A Candid Look at Scientific Misbehavior

Magnetic Remanence in Lunar Rocks

Robert Treash
Robert Treash teaches at San Diego Evening College

Prior to the first Apollo moon landing July 21, 1969, Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky on three occasions successfully predicted the scientifically unexpected—that remanent magnetism would be discovered in the lunar rocks.  Outlining his ideas in a memorandum submitted to H. H. Hess, chairman of the Space Science Board, National Academy of Science, on May 19, 1969, Velikovsky wrote:

"The moon was repeatedly heated and its entire surface melted less than 35 and 27 centuries ago.  At the times the moon's surface was molten in near approaches with other celestial bodies, it was enveloped in powerful magnetic fields; if the surface cooled below the Curie point before the magnetic fields were weakened and removed, then it is to be expected that lavas on the moon (most of its rocks are lava) still possess a high magnetic remanence."

Again on July 2, 1969, Velikovsky wrote to H.H. Hess, Guyot Hall, Princeton University: "When I maintain (see the way I expressed myself in my memo) that the rocks on the moon may be magnetic though the moon possesses hardly any magnetic field of its own, I suggest something that is not expected.  I have urgently advised and I repeat it here — that the orientation of the rocks before their removal should be noticed and marked .... You said to me that this simple task of marking the orientation is not included in the program; if it will be omitted, you will have a question instead of an answer."

Again on July 21, 1969 on the eve of man's first landing on the moon, Velikovsky wrote in the N. Y. Times early city edition: "The moon has a very weak magnetic field; yet its rocks and lavas could conceivably be rich in remanent magnetism resulting from strong currents when in the embrace of exogenous magnetic fields.

"Before their removal from the ground, the specimens should be marked as to their orientation in situ .... This simple performance, I was told, is not in the program of the first landing."

On September 19, 1969, confirmation of this prediction was published: "Natural remanent magnetization has been found in the crystalline rocks and breccias ... the result of processes not yet understood."[1]

After the discovery of remanent magnetism in the rocks brought by Apollo XI astronauts, it was ruefully stated in a NASA release that "there was no attempt, in Apollo XI, to document individual samples photographically."[2]

NASA also announced that the prime task of the next, Apollo XII, mission would be to register the orientation of the rocks before their removal by photographing them while on the ground. (Apollo flights cost a few billion dollars each.)

The remanent (or "fossil") magnetism of the lunar surface was confirmed on the rocks brought back from the sites of all subsequent Apollo missions.

Scientific deliberations grew in intensity after the third (Apollo XIV), and the fourth (Apollo XV) missions testified to the bewilderment among astrophysicists.  It transpired that sometime in the past the moon must have been heated in the presence of a strong magnetic field.  The best guess was: "It is a thermoremanent magnetism acquired when the specimen cooled in the presence of a magnetic field." Other possibilities were weighed.[3]  Was the inducing field due to a close approach of the moon to the earth?  "In this model the hard remanence suggests a distance of closest approach of 2 to 3 earth radii." But this is "an uncomfortable proximity to the Roche limit.[4]  The moon would have been broken into pieces if it ever approached the earth so closely.  Another team of scientists found that the magnetization "shows a well defined Curie temperature at 775°C"[5]: the lunar surface must have been heated above this temperature in the presence of a magnetic field and must have cooled off thereafter. (To melt the rock a temperature over 1200°C is needed.)

Hess died on August 25, 1969, barely five weeks after the Apollo XI flight, leaving vacant his position as chairman of the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences.  With him passed the only prominent geophysicist who demanded a hearing for Velikovsky's proposals.  Twelve years earlier, on the eve of the International Geophysical Year, he wrote to Velikovsky (January 2, 1957): "Scientific discoveries and ideas are produced by the intuition, creativeness and genius of a man.  Dollars of themselves don't produce this any more than they could be expected to produce another Mona Lisa.  This is something which I believe you can readily understand."

Mis-educated Generation

Twenty years of systematic barring of Velikovsky from publishing in the scientific journals has left its cruel mark, primarily on those scientists and their following public whose silence and incomprehension indicates a helpless ignorance in dealing with certain larger problems.  During a score of years spent climbing to academic and professional success, constantly bombarded by harsh, anti-Velikovsky words, a whole generation has grown up mis-educated by the very scientific educators themselves, with notably few exceptions.

I have witnessed at least four local events bearing this fact out.  In an interview in a local magazine[6] Dr. Harold Urey, Nobel prizewinning chemist and "cold-moon"ologist, took advantage of his platform by interjecting an irrelevant jab at Velikovsky: the mass of material we get is so consistent that no one fails to recognize that it is true except crazy folks.  There are always fringe people — people who still talk about a flat earth.  And there are men in science like Emanuel (sic) Velikovsky, author of Worlds in Collision, who can toss out all the excellent work of centuries and assume that Venus moves in some curious and funny orbit that suits him."

"The magnetic people immediately started to look for magnetic effects on the moon.  The idea of the magnetic effect in the lunar samples occurred to everybody." - Dr.  Harold Urey in a letter (October 4, 1971) to Dr. D. Carlyle disputing the significance of Velikovsky's prediction that remanent magnetism would be found in lunar rocks.

"When we received the Apollo landing sample, as with the other groups who had been studying the magnetic properties, we were all surprised to find remanent magnetization." - Dr.  S. K. Runcorn in a speech (December 29,1971) to an AAAS gathering.

Urey, who was present at the meeting, offered no challenge to the statement.

"The Apollo XVI astronauts will return a moon rock to the lunar surface next month to prove that the moon has its own magnetic field ... The discovery of a magnetic field on the moon has been one of the biggest surprises of the Apollo program ... These findings did as much as anything to upset prevailing theories about the origin and formation of the moon, especially the theories that held that the moon has always been cold and lifeless.  The discovery of fossil magnetism in the moon rocks tells scientists that the moon once was hot . . . " - Los Angeles Times (March 5, 1972).

Like most scientists Urey here assumes what he must prove, namely, that the orbit of Venus (a highly atypical planet) has always been as stable as at present.  Investigation will indicate, however, that Velikovsky's supposed "curious and funny orbit" of Venus is not his own fantasizing but the verdict based on the surviving documents from all ancient civilizations, too many to enumerate here: ancient Rome's most celebrated man of science, Varro, wrote of what happened at an earlier age: "To the brilliant star Venus ... there occurred so strange a prodigy, that it changed its color, size, form, course, which never happened before nor since." [7]  Velikovsky's "crime" has been precisely not to "toss out all the excellent work of centuries."  Instead he has preserved and sifted and explained the thoughts of great men since antiquity, retaining also from early religious and mythical traditions those scientific facts which are now so needed and usable.

How could he have successfully predicted remanent magnetism on the moon if he had discarded the sound evidence that Venus drastically shattered the old Earth-moon system in historical times, as witnessed by all the Earth's survivors?

Again on January 25, 1971, I attended a meeting at UCSD at La Jolla to hear a report by famous scientists just back from the Houston 2nd Lunar Science Conference.  Urey, Hannes Alfven, (Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist), cosmo-chemist J. R. Arnold, English geophysicist S. K. Runcorn, and other professors and students listened to Professor G. Arrhenius, one of the principal investigators of the moon rocks, reporting on the Houston deliberations.  His report was followed by a discussion amongst these luminaries.

Arrhenius reported the baffling new discovery that the moon had apparently at one time entered an ancient magnetic field, from which it had picked up a remanent magnetism.  At Houston no general agreement as to the source of this astounding remanent magnetism could be reached.  Five theories had been put forth: 1) shock from meteorite impact; 2) solar or galactic magnetic field; 3) solar flare; 4) internal moon magnetic field; 5) earth's magnetic field.

Each of these theories was outlined and discussed, ending with no agreement.  A gloomy attitude prevailed that more evidence is needed.  At one point someone from the floor asked how much remanent magnetism (RM) the moon was thought to have had prior to Apollo.  The answer was none at all, or extremely little.  No one disputed the fact that previous theory had provided no clue.  No one disputed the stated assumption that the RM had been acquired, astronomically speaking, very early.

Enormous Burden of Doubt

Again on November 10, 197 1, I attended a Physics Colloquium at UCSD where Urey reviewed "Evidence Relating to the Origin of the Moon."  He opened with the statement: "I do not know the origin of the moon, I'm not sure of my own or any other's models, I'd lay odds against any of the models proposed being correct."  The impression thereafter was that an enormous burden of doubt obviously underlies the thinking of all these scientists. (I recalled hearing J. R. Arnold refer ironically and modestly to the earlier certitude with which he himself used to make speeches only a few years ago.)  Urey made no reference to RM but did manage to state that his own well-known, longtime thesis of a cold moon "proved not to be true."

Yet when the Physical Sciences Division of Cosmos and Chronos (initiated in 1965 by Hess) published a bulletin, "Lunar Probes and Velikovsky's Advance Claims," Urey wrote a letter of depreciation to each of the sponsoring groups at three universities in Texas.  He claimed that every one expected what was later discovered on the moon, remanent magnetism included.  Yet, soon thereafter, in the last week of December, 1971, Runcorn spoke at the annual meeting of AAAS, and stated that nobody in the scientific world anticipated remanent magnetism on the moon.  Urey, in the audience, kept silent.

Finally, on January 24, 1972, I heard Prof.  Arrhenius report again, this time on the recently concluded Houston 3rd Lunar Science Conference.  The principal new point concerning RM was that magnetic concentrations (magcons) exist within the impacted meteorite mascons (mass concentrations) below the surface.  Urey thinks many such have soft-landed on the moon, preserving their magnetism, thereby throwing off existing RM figures.  Alfven claims magcons vaporize on hitting the surface at high speeds. (Otherwise, this meeting was enlivened by a running dispute between Urey and Alfven/Arrhenius, the former leaving the room finally, protesting: "No use trying to discuss this subject if you call in miracles." Alfven countered: "It's regrettable if people take part in a discussion completely ignorant of six papers [on the subject]").

Scholastic Farce

Now it is planned in all earnest to send a lunar rock back to the moon with Apollo 16 to exclude the possibility that somehow it acquired its remanent magnetism on its voyage to the earth.

What can one make of these events adduced as illustrative symptoms from the heart of science?  The following points seem obvious to me:

1.  In spite of the crying need for "more evidence" to account for the moon's unsuspected RM, no scientists at La Jolla (and presumably Houston) has ever listed, much less discussed, Velikovsky's successful prediction as a possible clue.

2.  Whatever the cause of this default (ignorance, forgetfulness, willful spite, etc.), it must be adjudged as reckless incompetence.

3.  High incompetence in scientific strategy (great technical competence being granted) denotes a dangerous departure from reality, making further errors highly likely and very costly.  One or more Apollo missions could have been spared were Velikovsky's books and memoranda considered.

4.  Immense theoretical and practical labors to make credible some "proof of the moon's origin" hidden in swirling gases for billions of years, are a scholastic farce in a context where science refuses to recognize or even consider the drastic upheavals involving both Earth and moon within the historical memory of man.

5.  To reap the full benefits of the space program, the shutout of Velikovsky's views from scientific discussion must be ended.

6.  The American taxpaying public will, if given the chance, support the space program better when it is presented as a means of learning about humanity's past experience with disasters involving Earth, Moon, Venus and Mars.  Perhaps only through such enlightenment can mankind rise to the intellectual and emotional levels needed for continued progress into the space age.


[1]  Lunar Sample Preliminary Examination Team (LSPET), Science (September 19, 1969).

[2]  Release by Sutton and Shafer of the U. S. Geological Survey.

[3]  D. W. Strangway, et al., Science, 167 (January 30, 1970),691.

[4]  P. Dyal, et al, Science, 169 (August 21, 1970),762.

[5]  R. R. Doell, et al., Science, 167 (1970),695.

[6]  M.H. Hall, "Harold Urey on the Moon," San Diego Magazine (August, 1969), 69.

[7]  I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Doubleday, 1950),158.

PENSEE Journal I

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