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Open letter to science editors


Anatomy of a Criticism

Straka: Science or Anti-Science?
Copyright 1972 by Immanuel Velikovsky


A scientist, by definition, is concerned with an objective evaluation of data; he applies proper figures and cites correct facts; he is unbiased as far as humanly possible, in drawing his conclusions; his dedication is to progress in the search for truth.

Asked to comment on "Science and Anti-Science" by C.W. Straka, I limit myself to examination of his figures.  Science is quantitative, and application of sterling data and figures is even more binding on a scientist than application of true measures and weights on a merchant.

Straka writes: "In all this discussion it is well to keep in mind the energies involved.  The rotational energy of the Earth (_1038 ergs) is a hundred million times larger than the orbital kinetic energy (~1030 ergs)."

The true figure for the rotational energy is on the order of 1036 ergs (more exactly 2.138 X 1036 ergs) and for the orbital energy 1040 ergs (more exactly 2.9 X 1040 ergs). (See C.W. Allen, Astronomical Quantities, Oxford University Press, New York, 1963.) In other words, Straka made a mistake of a trillion: the rotational (axial) kinetic energy is not a hundred million times greater than the orbital energy, but ten thousand times smaller.  A hundred million multiplied by ten thousand is a trillion.

That Straka's figures are not a result of a slip of a pen, is seen from his repeating them: "I shall not take the time to discuss the obvious point of the consequences of such forces on the orbit of the Earth, beyond pointing out that some idea can be gained, even by the untrained layman, by noting the relative amounts of energy involved--orbital is a hundred million times less than rotational."

An untrained layman can spot Straka's mistakes: A point on the equator, where the rotation is the swiftest, travels nearly one quarter of a mile in a second, but the Earth travels on its orbit nearly 20 miles in a second.

A mistake of a trillion (one thousand billion) is, in general parlance, astronomical, and to use Straka's simile, the salary of an assistant professor, multiplied by a trillion, would suffice not only to pay the national debt of the United States, but also of all nations, and of all corporations and private people on the earth. (A yearly salary of $ 10,000, multiplied by a trillion, amounts to 10 quadrillion; with three billion people on Earth, it amounts to over three million dollars per person.)

With the rotational kinetic energy improperly reported, none of Straka's subsequent calculations is true.  "If a mass the size of Venus were to come within three Earth radii, the time to slow the Earth to a stop is 8000 years," and the like.

Straka also writes: "Similar results obtain for a magnetic interaction," and without producing any calculation, he claims: "The magnetic field energy required is of the order of the total energy output of a supernova."  Therefore, "what Velikovsky asks" is "orders of magnitude beyond belief.

In January, 1950, shortly before Worlds in Collision went to press, I had a conference with the noted cosmologist, Weizsacker, and he performed for me the required calculations, the result of which is found reproduced in my debate with the Princeton University astronomer, J.Q. Stewart (Harper's, June, 1951).  There I wrote (p. 54):

"The magnetic field sufficient to tilt the terrestrial axis is weaker than the field necessary to change the rotational speed of the globe [both could produce a similar optical effect of disturbed solar motion] ... Calculations show that the magnetic field in both cases would be of magnitudes which are easily achieved in the laboratory . . ."  The figures of Weizsacker followed in a footnote: "Approximately H_2.5 X 105 [gauss] in the first case, and ten times weaker in the second--in order to shift the axis by one half of a radian." (H is a symbol for the strength of the magnetic field, given in gauss; _ means "equal to or approximately"; and a radian is the angle subtended by an arc of a circle equal in length to the radius of the circle, or 57.2958 degrees.)

Straka, comparing the necessary "magnetic energy" to an output of a supernova, committed this time an error, or indulged in a hyperbole, vastly greater than a trillion.

Earth in Upheaval carries the story of the deliberations in which, among others, Sir George Darwin and Lord Kelvin participated, discussing the forces needed to change the position of the terrestrial axis.  More recently Thomas Gold of Cornell, writing in Sky and Telescope (April, 1958) and in Nature (175, March 26, 1955, p. 526) showed that an infinitesimally weak force would suffice to change the position of the terrestrial axis were the Earth a perfect globe (according to him a crawling insect could, theoretically, achieve it) and all this without taking into account any electrical or magnetic fields or forces.  However, the Earth is not a perfect globe; on the other hand, it is a magnet.

Objectivity, correct data, precision in estimates, unbiased evaluation are the desirable traits of a scientist.  Some of these attributes are missing in the exhibition titled "Science and Anti-Science."

Immanuel Velikovsky


• Straka teaches a course on "Velikovsky, Whiston, and Horberger."  He does not know the title of Whiston's book on catastrophes.  He says that Whiston ascribed the parting of the Sea of Passage to a comet and that, after considering gravitational forces to account for the parting, Whiston has recourse to electrical and magnetic forces.

The title of Whiston's famed book is A New Theory of the Earth; it was first published in 1696 and saw six editions.  Velikovsky repeatedly referred to it in Worlds in Collision (pp. 39-42 and elsewhere).  As far as we can verify, Whiston did not discuss in his book the electromagnetic pull of a comet at the Sea of Passage, nor did he discuss a comet at all in this connection, nor did he discuss the passage through the sea.

Straka is also unfamiliar with Hoerbiger, who authored a theory of cosmic ice pervading the universe, and who claimed that this resulted in the capture by the Earth of a series of moons, which later fell to Earth, broken up.  Twice Straka refers to Hoerbiger, both times calling him "Horberger." This author is referred to in Earth in Upheaval on page 84. 3">

Again, Straka is unfamiliar with Velikovsky's Earth in Upheaval and its presentation of oceanographic evidence and problems (as they stood in 1955), or with the consistent dating of many natural changes to 34-35 centuries ago: the ocean level suddenly dropped (Daly, Kuenen); the climate changed in a Klimasturz (Sernander, Gams, and Nordhagen); the present glaciers in the Alps started to be formed; and other such data in great abundance from lakes, deltas, waterfalls, and so on.  Straka claims not to know any such phenomena, but then he does not claim to have read Earth in Upheaval

Neither is he familiar with Worlds in Collision, since after three alleged readings he asks why Velikovsky omits mentioning Atlantis.

•  NASA did not print its report on the Mariner II mission by gleaning from newspaper accounts.  The announcement by Dr. Homer Newell of NASA on February 26, 1963, and later the official publication of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, were based on observation of the physical properties of the cloud enshrouding the planet: this cloud was found to be 15 miles thick and situated 45 miles above the ground, ca. -25° F at the top, and over + 200° F at the bottom, yet homogenous in its physical qualities throughout.  According to Professor L.D. Kaplan of the JPL, as explained in several papers and memoranda, this homogeneity could be accounted for only by the polymerized radical CH (hydrocarbons or carbohydrates)--other substances, water included, would exhibit varying consistencies through such a temperature range.

(In a letter to a Princeton friend, Kaplan expressed surprise at the violence of the opposition to his finds and conjectures.  Perhaps he realized later that it had to do with Worlds in Collision, where Velikovsky anticipated organic substance in Venus' clouds.)

Seven years later, on the basis of laboratory research, Professor William T. Plummer contested Velikovsky's and NASA's original view (Science, March 14, 1969).  Straka accuses Pensée of deception concerning the presence of hydrocarbons in Venus' clouds, but Plummer's opposition was reported in "A Record of Success," (Pensée, May, 1972, p. 12). 4">   5">

The current state of the question is this: it is not known of what the clouds consist--so G. Kuiper and C. Sagan (Astronomical Union Symposium No. 40, Planetary Atmospheres, D. Reidel, Dordrecht-Holland, 1971).  They do not consist of ice crystals, certainly not predominantly so, as Plummer claimed, because the refraction indices of ice and of the clouds differ.  The Russians have not investigated the clouds, but rather the lower atmosphere, and have looked only for single elements and simple molecules.  Albert Burgstahler, professor of chemistry, University of Kansas, delivered a paper at the Velikovsky Symposium, August 16, 1972, at Lewis and Clark College, pointing out evidence for the presence of hydrocarbons in Venus' atmosphere.  His paper will be printed in Pensée.

•  The energy necessary for Venus to part by fission from Jupiter was discussed in the April, 1967, issue of Yale Scientific Magazine (pp. 12-15) by Professor Lloyd Motz and Velikovsky.  The latter corrected the former's misconceived notion that Venus must have been volcanically erupted from Jupiter.  While Velikovsky has promised to discuss in a separate volume the earlier catastrophes in the Solar system (which led to Venus' ejection from Jupiter), Jupiter's fission has been elsewhere proposed by the British cosmologist, Lyttleton (1960), who ascribes the phenomenon to a much earlier age.  Straka claims to read literature on Velikovsky's work, but he missed this special issue of the Yale Scientific Magazine.

 •  Straka asserts that Velikovsky has not made a single correct prediction, giving the case of Venus' heat as an example.  When asked to substantiate this, instead of supplying the sources, he answers that if Venus was incandescent in historical times, it must now be much hotter than it is.  But even at its current temperature (close to 900° F) many metals are molten, and in Kuiper's view the surface of Venus is largely covered by molten metals.  Physicist C.J. Ransom writes Pensée that "If Venus' temperature is taken to be 700° K now (a conservative estimate) and 701° K ten years ago (allowing for error in the Pettit and in the Strong and Sinton measurements[1]), then the temperature 3500 years ago would be 1184° K"--or fully incandescent.

This graph, taken from Frank Stevens' Stonehenge Today and Yesterday, shows those stones (not shaded) which were fallen before the work of reconstruction in 1958.

•  Whatever the additional claims by Thom or Hoyle (who would attribute to the Stone Age Stonehengers--not yet in possession of a wheel--amazing astronomical knowledge, sometimes even superior to ours), the facts remain: Stonehenge was repeatedly reordered (Atkinson, Hawkins); not even one in some 27,000 possible alignments points to any planet or conspicuous star (Hawkins); the sun does not rise on summer solstice over the heelstone and will not do so for 2,000 years (Atkinson); the present arrangement can predict only lunar eclipses, and then only during one or two months in the winter (Hawkins); there is no such thing as the 56-year lunar eclipse Cycle claimed by Hawkins (Martin, et al.). (More about this may be read in Velikovsky's paper, "Decoding Hawkins' Stonehenge Decoded," in the May, 1972, Pensée.   A future issue of Pensée will carry a paper by Dr. Euan MacKie, University of Glasgow, concerning the alignments claimed for various megalithic monuments by Thom and others.)

Straka asks how the stones of Stonehenge might remain in their places while the walls of Jericho fell.  Stonehenge Today and Yesterday, by Frank Stevens, curator of Salisbury Museum (London, 1936), provides the answer: "At first it may seem difficult to disentangle the chaos of fallen stone which meets the eye."

In 1958 a work of partial reconstruction took place and some of the stones were lifted to their previous places.  In his 1959 guide, Stonehenge, published by the Ministry of Works, Ancient Monuments and Historical Buildings, R.S. Newell describes the large Sarsen circle: "Of the 30 linters that once crowned the uprights, there are only six in their original position today; two or parts of two are on the ground, and 22 are missing altogether... five of the uprights are missing in the circle."  In order to overthrow those monoliths an extraordinary force was required: "The bases of these stones are buried in the ground to a depth of from 4.5 feet to 6 feet."

Inside the Sarsen circle are still larger monoliths--Trilithons--originally five in number.  Of one Trilithon, only one stone stands.  The other stone and lintel are missing.  Of another Trilithon, one stone fell and broke in two, and the lintel is lying on the "Altar Stone," once itself erect, now "almost buried beneath the remains of the fallen Trilithon." (Stevens).

•  The finding of grown stalactites in the Gnome Cavern, New Mexico, one year after an atomic explosion in the cavern, caused much surprise.  But the deeper question at issue is this: Would all stalactites break if the Earth were brought to a stop in a matter of hours?  This question was already answered when Professor Alfred de Grazia (The Velikovsky Affair, University Books, N.Y., 1966, p. 231) remarked: if the Earth required six hours to decelerate, the inertial push on a body at the equator would equal about 1/500th of its weight, which means that a man weighing 160 pounds would feel a push of about six ounces.  Stalactites would not break.  As Pensée reader James Downard points out, they have not broken even in caves that have, in recent centuries, experienced earthquakes severe enough to fracture the cave ceilings (Timpanogos Cave, Utah), or in submerged caves that have been subjected to upheavals so drastic as to tilt the entire cave and leave all stalactites hanging at non-vertical angles.

Further, Straka knows that Velikovsky has offered an alternative to the slowing of Earth's rotation--namely, a shifting of the terrestrial axis.  As to the renewal of Earth's rotation, once brought to stasis, it could be caused by the passage of the Earth through the other half of the extraneous magnetic field, which would possess oppositely directed lines of force.  In theory, also, the continuing rotation of Earth's molten core would bring the mantle and crust into rotation.

•  Having written that Velikovsky made no correct, original predictions, Straka was asked to substantiate this in a series of cases. (See editor's letter to Straka.)  He declined to name a single author, instead sending the editor to hunt through a century's astronomical literature in English and German.  Such a survey was already performed by Opik, and was the basis for statements by Princeton University physicist, V. Bargmann, and Columbia University astronomer, L. Motz, in their letter to Science (reprinted here on page 17).  Referring to Velikovsky's claims concerning Venus' heat and the emission of radio noises from Jupiter, Bargmann and Motz wrote: "Although we disagree with Velikovsky's theories, we feel impelled to make this statement to establish Velikovsky's priority of prediction of these two points and to urge, in view of these prognostications, that his other conclusions be objectively re-examined."

•  The last passage in Straka's reply is intended to convey the impression that the claim that Venus was once a comet was presented two years before Velikovsky in the Journal of the British Astronomical Society (June, 1948).  Did Straka himself read the piece?  What is reported in a half-page reference to an article in Weather (May, 1948) is that toward the end of the 17th century a citizen of Westminister, named Gadbury, noted on two occasions that Venus appeared "like a comet," due to an unusual optical phenomenon caused by conditions in Earth's atmosphere.

Straka consistently fails to provide references for his statements, and where he does supply them, he appears not to be familiar with the texts.  He presents some current theories as facts, but disregards what are truly facts.  He seems intent upon following the path of others before him, who have preferred invective and misstatement to dispassionate analysis.

On the Discoveries Concerning Jupiter and Venus

The following is reprinted from Science (December 21 , 1962, Vol. 138, pp. 1350-52). Copyright 1962 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In the light of recent discoveries of radio waves from Jupiter and of the high surface temperature of Venus, we think it proper and just to make the following statement.

On 14 October 1953, Immanuel Velikovsky, addressing the Forum of the Graduate College of Princeton University in a lecture entitled "Worlds in Collision in the Light of Recent Finds in Archaeology, Geology and Astronomy: Refuted or Verified?," concluded the lecture as follows: "The planet Jupiter is cold, yet its gases are in motion.  It appears probable to me that it sends out radio noises as do the sun and the stars.  I suggest that this be investigated."

Soon after that date, the text of the lecture was deposited with each of us [it is printed as supplement to Velikovsky's Earth in Upheaval (Doubleday, 1955)].  Eight months later , in June 1954, Velikovsky, in a letter, requested Albert Einstein to use his influence to have Jupiter surveyed for radio emission.  The letter, with Einstein's marginal notes commenting on this proposal, is before us.  Ten more months passed, and on 5 April 1955 B. F. Burke and K. L. Franklin of the Carnegie Institution announced the chance detection of strong radio signals emanating from Jupiter.  They recorded the signals for several weeks before they correctly identified the source.

This discovery came as something of a surprise because radio astronomers had never expected a body as cold as Jupiter to emit radio waves (1).

In 1960 V. Radhakrishnah of India and J. A. Roberts of Australia, working at California Institute of Technology, established the existence of a radiation belt encompassing Jupiter "giving 1014 times as much radio energy as the Van Allen belts around the earth."

On 5 December 1956, through the kind services of H. H. Hess, chairman of the department of geology of Princeton University, Velikovsky submitted a memorandum to the U. S. National Committee for the (planned) IGY in which he suggested the existence of a terrestrial magnetosphere reaching the moon.  Receipt of the memorandum was acknowledged by E. O. Hulburt for the Committee.  The magnetosphere was discovered in 1958 by Van Allen.

In the last chapter of his Worlds in Collision (1950), Velikovsky stated that the surface of Venus must be very hot, even though in 1950 the temperature of the cloud surface of Venus was known to be -25°C on the day and night sides alike.

In 1954 N. A. Kozyrev (2) observed an emission spectrum from the night side of Venus but ascribed it to discharges in the upper layers of its atmosphere.  He calculated that the temperature of the surface of Venus must be +30° C; somewhat higher values were found earlier by Adel and Herzberg.  As late as 1959, V. A. Firsoff arrived at a figure of +17.5°C for the mean surface temperature of Venus, only a little above the mean annual temperature of the earth (+ 14.2°C) (3).

However, by 1961 it became known that the surface temperature of Venus is "almost 600 degrees [K]" (4).   F. D. Drake described this discovery as "a surprise . . . in a field in which the fewest surprises were expected."  "We would have expected a temperature only greater than that of the earth ... Sources of internal heating [radioactivity] will not produce an enhanced surface temperature.  Cornell H. Mayer writes (5), "All the observations are consistent with a temperature of almost 600 degrees," and admits that "the temperature is much higher than anyone would have predicted."

Although we disagree with Velikovsky's theories, we feel impelled to make this statement to establish Velikovsky's priority of prediction of these two points and to urge, in view of these prognostications, that his other conclusions be objectively re-examined.

Department of Physics,
Princeton University,
Princeton, New Jersey

Department of Astronomy,
Columbia University, New York


(1)  See also the New York Times for 28 October 1962.

(2)  N. A. Kozyrev, Izv.  Krymsk.  Astrofiz.  Observ. 12 (1954).

(3)  Science News 1959, 52 (Summer 1959).

(4)  Phys. Today 14, No. 4,10 (1961).

(5)  C. H. Mayer, Sci. Am. 204 (May 1961).

[1]   See Pensée, Vol. 2, No. 2 (May, 1972), 51.

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