- NASA scientists produced this illustration
of the "solar nebula", called upon to resolve mysteries posed
by the dust from Comet Wild 2.
- Of Comets and Planetary Catastrophe
- Reverberations of the Stardust mission
continue to rock the scientific community in the weeks following the recovery
of dust samples from Comet Wild 2. Minerals in the dust were not what comet
experts had expected.
- Guided by longstanding theoretical assumptions,
scientists expressed great confidence that comets formed at the outer margins
of the solar system billions of years ago, at the time of the system's
birth. And they believed they would find the required indicators of water,
since water ices were assumed to be the primary constituent of comets.
- The shock came from the discovery of
minerals that can only form at extremely high temperatures, up to thousands
of degrees Fahrenheit. The minerals could not have been created in the
cold depths scientists had envisioned. Also, the investigators have yet
to find any markers left by water, and some components appear to exclude
the presence of water in their formative phase.
- An article in Aviation Week and Space
Technology (March 19, 2006) summed up the present situation: "The
new Stardust sample data are themselves colliding headlong with previous
comet theories compiled without the benefit of samples".
- "The findings stunned the more than
1,500 international planetary scientists and managers at the 37th annual
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) here near the Johnson Space
Center (JSC)", the article states. In fact, the findings are the "opposite
of existing models of comet formation", and they will "affect
broad theories on the formation of this and other solar systems".
- But already the "explanations"
cobbled together reveal the persistence of the very concepts that set comet
experts on a dead-end path. While acknowledging the stunning surprise,
the AWST story says, "The analysis shows the diverse minerals found
in the Wild 2 Stardust samples had to have been formed as extremely hot
materials near the core of a primordial planetary nebula around a star
-- either the Sun or some other distant star".
- A "primordial planetary nebula"?
The reference here is not to something known, but to an age-old conjecture
about the birthing of stars. Searching through official and quasi-official
comments on the Stardust findings, we do not find any NASA scientists wondering
if something might be amiss in the speculative framework that spawned the
now-defunct comet theory. Rather, NASA investigators quickly settled on
the idea that the Wild 2 minerals were created in an early stage of star
formation (gravitational collapse of a nebular cloud to form our Sun) only
to be catapulted out to the Oort Cloud far beyond the orbit of Pluto where,
billions of years ago, it mixed with primordial ices that slowly gathered
into chunks to became a comet.
- Skeptics suggest that this confusion
of fact and theory in popular science can only end in an embarrassment.
No one ever proved the nebular hypothesis or even showed that it deserved
to be honored as a "default" position. No one ever demonstrated
that the "Oort Cloud" exists. No one ever established that comets
formed billions of years ago. And no one ever demonstrated that comets
are constituted primarily of water ice and other volatiles. (As we have
already noted, all of the evidence so far is against the abundance of water
-- or the hydroxyl radical OH. Water in the coma of comets does not mean
water in the nucleus).
- How, then, would the NASA scientists
save the "big picture" in the face of the Stardust revelations?
The illustration above suggests an unwitting step toward the Electric Universe,
combined with a new leap of faith. In this case, the scientists moved the
imagined place of the comet's origin inward to the Kuiper belt, a ring
of objects beyond the orbit of icy Neptune, but much closer to the Sun
than the legendary Oort Cloud. Then they took a page, or a portion thereof,
from plasma cosmology, envisioning a bi-polar nebula (innumerable examples
now known in our galaxy) whose magnetic fields produced electric currents
and polar jets while heating nearby material to produce the minerals discovered
in the Wild 2 dust. The jets then supposedly ejected the heated material
out to the Kuiper belt. And here the minerals supposedly mixed with ices
to provide the building blocks of Wild 2.
- Michael Zolensky, Stardust curator and
co-investigator at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, put it this way:
"We have found very high-temperature minerals, which supports a particular
model where strong bipolar jets coming out of the early sun propelled material
formed near to the sun outward to the outer reaches of the solar system".
- The "model" given traces to
the "The X-wind model" of Frank Shu a few years ago when he was
at the University of California in Berkeley. Shu and his colleagues suggested
that "intense electrical currents" and magnetic fields might
have been generated by a rotating dusty disc interacting with the magnetic
field of the infant Sun. But Shu's group was seeking to account for the
composition of meteorites and did not find that its computer models worked
- Of course, it was just a computer simulation,
and no doubt the input can be adjusted enough to achieve the desired results.
The real problem is that the entire framework for rescuing the standard
"big picture" is arbitrary. The reasoning begins with an electrically
neutral universe, despite the rapidly accumulating evidence of electricity
at every observable scale. It then seeks to create regional electric and
magnetic fields through the paltry force of gravity. It thus keeps gravity
in the driver's seat, and saves the cosmologists' underlying equations
for another day. But it requires them to ignore what the best experts on
plasma and electricity in space have been telling us for too long now:
Bi-polar nebulas show every expected feature of plasma discharge. The discharge
is energized by vastly larger electric fields than could be generated by
gravity acting on such a minimal scale. It is electric currents threading
through the galaxy that provide the observed nebula energies, not mere
particles of dust in a diffuse local cloud.
- The most compelling message of Stardust,
the point many theorists may be eager to overlook, is that all ideas in
the sciences must be judged by their predictive ability. On this ultimate
test, modern comet theory has failed completely. Not just on a few ideas
about the "Oort Cloud", but on every fundamental principle. And
if someone tells you this statement is excessive ask him to enumerate just
two or three discoveries about comets since the beginning of the space
age that the accepted models predicted.
- The only answer to this conundrum is
to allow for the fair consideration of another vantage point, one that
has not failed. Over the past ten years, the electric theorist Wallace
Thornhill has stated scientific predictions again and again. The predictions
have held up extraordinarily well.
- It is only to be expected that in the
minds of most space scientists today the Electric Universe is too far removed
from things already "known". This mistaken perception will not
be easily corrected, but we have the advantage of contrast. On an issue-by-issue
comparison, the predictions of the Electric Universe are highly specific,
and most are unique to its vantage point. They will be easily distinguished
from the predictions of "standard theory".
- In the electric model, a comet has nothing
to do with the imagined beginnings of the solar system billions of years
ago. Most comets are, when placed on a geologic timescale, newcomers to
the solar system. Most comets are neither dirty snowballs nor icy dirtballs.
Like asteroids and meteors, they are pieces of planets and moons, tracing
to intensely energetic violence in an earlier phase of solar system history.
The events were electrical. Charged bodies moved through a dense plasma
and engaged each other with cosmic thunderbolts.
- Planets were carved electrically from
pole to pole, and the only force that can replicate the patterns as a whole
is electric discharge. (See Discharges and Scars,
- Smaller moons exploded or disintegrated
under the electric stresses, just as comets, even today, at times explode
as they move through the electric field of the Sun. The comet is a residue
of planetary instability and violence.
- In this sense the comet can tell us more
about planetary history than space scientists ever imagined. If you want
to know what force sculpted the diverse and battle-scarred surfaces of
planets and moons, look at the surfaces of comets carved by electric discharge.
The most common features of rocky planets and their satellites will be
there -- craters, crater chains, rilles, ridges, spires, mesas, and mountains.
But in the case of the comet, we have a laboratory in space ready to yield
its secrets. If we will devote the resources that comet investigation deserves
-- and ask the questions science forgot to ask -- the comet will be the
fulcrum for a sweeping revolution in the sciences. Old ideas about the
formation of stars and galaxies, the origins of the solar system, and the
history of our Earth will all be subject to critical examination. And mere
conjectures in the sciences will not be permitted to continue masquerading
- Photo Credit: NASA