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Open letter to science editors


Mulholland's Arguments: A Brief Assessment
R. E. Juergens

In my opinion, Professor Mulholland occupied solid ground in only one of his arguments at the AAAS symposium--that bubbling of a molten surface cannot be called upon as an explanation for lunar craters. His comment was that "rock does not cool fast enough to freeze such rings." Even before the question of preserving the rings arose, however, I would ask whether molten rock, under lunar or any other imaginable conditions, possesses the necessary molecular cohesion to form bubble membranes tens and hundreds of kilometers in diameter. Could such vast structures of liquid material hold together while gas pressures built beneath them and elevated them to heights in keeping with bubbles the size of any but the very smallest of lunar craters?

The bubble mechanism, which seems to go back to ideas suggested in the seventeenth century by Robert Hooke (Cf., R. B. Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 392), would seem incapable of explaining even the small lunar domes, which were its inspiration.

It must be pointed out that the concept of burst-bubble craters is of entirely peripheral importance to the theme of Worlds in Collision, for there are ample signs of other forms of catastrophism on the surface of the moon. Should Velikovsky choose to yield on this point, his action might be expected to evoke gleeful cries of victory from some of his shallower opponents. On the other hand, however, such action might well increase his stature in the eyes of others and open some minds that have up to now been closed by biased accounts of his work in the general press and in archival literature.

Mulholland argues that the regularity of the spacing of planetary orbits in the solar system is strong evidence against recent changes in the makeup of the system. He might have admitted, however, that celestial mechanicians find it no easier to explain the so-called Titius-Bode law in terms of conventional cosmogony than in terms of Velikovsky's thesis. The same "law" appears to be in force in the satellite systems of Jupiter and Saturn, but these facts argue neither for recent nor for ancient origins. Unless and until it can be shown that the Titius-Bode orbital-spacing relationship is a consequence of forces that can come into balance only over eons of time, the assumption that this must be so carries little weight.

It seems to me that it might be profitable to analyze all possible resonances that could develop, were the inner planets to occupy orbits different from those now occupied. Proceeding on the assumption that "forbidden orbits" are those whose periods are simple fractions of the orbital periods of the major planets--as seems indicated by the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt--as well as those resulting in mutual resonances among the inner planets themselves, one might plot a series of circular and elliptical orbits from which the inner planets might be excluded. The remaining non-resonant "slots" in the system might be very few. I would not be surprised if such an analysis showed, for example, that Mars--the last planet to find a home in the present system, according to Velikovsky--now occupies an almost unique "permitted orbit" in a dense tangle of nearby "forbidden orbits."

To judge from the last century's performance by Comet Pons-Winnecke (Cf., F. G. Watson, Between the Planets, Garden City, Doubleday, 1962, p. 62), orbits verging too closely on resonance are rather quickly abandoned by small bodies. The same could be true for planetary bodies on time scales measured in centuries.

When Mulholland insists that the capture of Mercury's spin by the sun and of that of Venus by the earth constitute evidence against recent near-collisions, he seems to be falling victim to what Rose (Pensée, Winter, 1973, p. 18) calls the "astronomers' dogma"--"the uniformitarian attitude that the solar system has for untold years been just as it is now." Mulholland says: "We do know something about the magnitude of the tides and the time required for them to be effective." The argument ignores the fact that tidal forces would be much stronger during close encounters.

Furthermore, although a celestial-mechanical rationalization has been "found" for the two-to-three rotation-to-revolution resonance of Mercury, no such explanation has been forthcoming as to why Venus should be locked to the earth instead of to the sun. It would seem that a legitimate attack on this problem might take this form: Suppose Velikovsky is right; can this postulate provide us with a better explanation of the apparent rotational lock of Venus on the earth?

The existence of lunar mascons, according to Mulholland, further refutes Velikovsky--in this case, so far as recent melting of the lunar surface is concerned. How this follows is not quite apparent, since the mascons are generally held to indicate that the interior of the moon cannot be molten. I am sure that Velikovsky would argue that the mascons, far from disproving his thesis, are further products of the catastrophes described in Worlds in Collision and of earlier events of the same type.


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