Are the planets growing?

Beyond the boundaries of established science an avalanche of exotic ideas compete for our attention. Experts tell us that these ideas should not be permitted to take up the time of working scientists, and for the most part they are surely correct. But what about the gems in the rubble pile? By what ground-rules might we bring extraordinary new possibilities to light?

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nick c
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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by nick c » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:55 am

Another problem to consider; the denser atmosphere hypothesis is comparing dinos, flying pterosaurs, etc. to aquatic animals, but that logic is flawed. Aquatic animals either breathe using gills or surface and hold their breath while swimming underwater.
Dinos, pterosaurs definitely used lungs and that is the problem. Atmospheric density reaches a point where lungs do not work, hence the need for gills or to periodically surface. If the atmosphere were dense enough to support a sauropod's enormous body weight the animal could not breathe using lungs.
Also, sauropods could not use their long necks as a snorkel. Think of it this way, imagine trying to submerge yourself in 10 feet of water and breathe through a 12 foot snorkel. It is not possible. That is why diver's snorkels are limited in length to a foot or so.

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Fri Mar 03, 2017 4:35 pm

Hi Aardwolf,
Aardwolf wrote: sketch1946 wrote:
This is a hypothesis,..

And a useless one at that.
With respect, this higher atmospheric pressure as a valid hypothesis is
quite reasonable, it's worth some careful thinking...

btw, it's not my hypothesis, but it makes sense to me

Do you have any idea how the huge dinosaurs and birds of the fossil record could have survived? Including flying, most theories postulate changed conditions.

'flying' in water is not my idea, it's all over the place in the literature....

"Some short and simple quantitative analyses:"

"If the pressure and density of atmosphere are increased 4 times then, yes, the drag for the same size and speed would increase 4 times. But so would lift, and the weight would be nearly unchanged. Water is about 800 times denser than air. Many waterbirds - all of them small - manage to fly in both water and air. "

"Obviously they are slower in water than in air. Note that not all diving birds fly in water - many fold their wings in water and swim with webbed feet instead."

"If you increase the pressure and density of air 4 times, a bird of given weight and size would be able to support its weight by flying at a 2 times slower speed. While the drag would be unchanged, it would be developing only half the power needed to fly on Earth - it would expend same amount of energy to fly the same distance, but it would have twice as long time to do so - and therefore it could do with weaker heart, and possibly lungs."

"Alternatively, the bird could fly at the same speed, but have 4 times smaller wing area, or half the wingspan, for the same weight. Shorter wings would be mechanically easier and stronger. Again compare with water. While swimming animals are generally slower than flying animals, some of them are quite fast. Tunnies, dolphins, penguins... The fast swimmers are stocky and muscular. Their relatively short but strong flippers could not lift their weight into thin air, but are useful in water."

"In 4 atm air, the contrast between water and air density would be only 200 times, not 800 times. So it would be easier for waterbirds to adapt to both air and water. Regarding oxygen: at 0,13 bar oxygen in lungs, 100 ml human blood contains 20 ml oxygen in hemoglobin, but just 0,3 ml in water solution. Increasing oxygen partial pressure a few times would not significantly improve oxygen supply." ... re.658711/

"For terrestrial vertebrates, it is the net force produced by their weight that often limits their size. But this is not true for species that exist in the water. For the latter species it is not their weight but rather other factors, such as the availability of food that might limit the size of these species. Without the weight limitation some of these aquatic species grow to display gigantism. It is the buoyancy of water that allows the whales, the largest animals of today, to grow so large. Without this buoyancy to counteract gravity, the poor whale that finds itself stuck on a beach is soon having its bones broken from its own weight.

"To produce an effective buoyancy force on dinosaurs the Earth's atmosphere would have to be thick enough to have a density comparable to the density of water. By summing the forces acting on a typical dinosaur such as a Brachiosaurus the density of the necessary atmosphere is calculated as:"

"ρF = ρS (1 - 1/S.F.)"

"where ρF is the density of the fluid, ρs is the density of the substance submerged in the fluid such as the dinosaur, and S.F is the scaling factor. Inserting into this equation a scaling factor of 3.2 and an overall vertebrate density of 970 kg/m3, the Earth's atmospheric density during the late Jurassic period can be calculated to be 670 kg/m3. This says that to produce the necessary buoyancy so that the dinosaurs could grow to their exceptional size, the density of the Earth’s air near the Earth’s surface would need to be 2/3’s of the density of water."

"It may be difficult for some people to imagine how the Earth could have had such a dense atmosphere. But nevertheless, the wonders of our reality often exceed the limitations of many people’s imagination. Esker’s Thick Atmosphere Theory violates no property of science. It is the correct solution."

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by allynh » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:15 pm

Wow, sketch1946,

It took me a while to understand your post, but it seems that you are claiming the atmosphere was once 2/3rds the density of water, and somehow did not kill all life on the planet. How can I explain this to you.

wiki - Underwater habitat

wiki - Oxygen compatibility

wiki - Oxygen toxicity

wiki - Destruction of chemical weapons

wiki - Venus

The bottom line is called "oxidation." Organics and everything else would literally burn up under the gas densities and pressures with the "hypothesis" that you are "suggesting."

Decades ago, they considered "burning" toxic chemicals in water, under pressure, along with oxygen at high pressure. The levels of pressure and oxygen were very low compared to what you are "suggesting" for an atmosphere that is 2/3rds the density of water. The reason they did not continue the process is that the pipes would have been oxidized along with the toxic materials. Meaning the pipes were starting to "burn" at those oxygen and pressure levels, which are orders of magnitude below what you are "suggesting."

Why did I have you wiki "Venus" as well? Simple, it has a really thick, dense, atmosphere, equal to 92 atmospheres. Still orders of magnitude below what you are "suggesting." Still a dead planet.

Just for fun:

wiki - Dead Sea

and notice what just 1,412 ft below sea level is like. At the lowest elevation on Earth, the atmosphere is thick enough to massively reduce ultraviolet, so you don't have to wear sunscreen while you float on the high density salt water.

On a fun personal note:

I have a series of novels I have plotted out where the Earth has doubled in size from where it is now because of GET. I have the continents floating well above the surface of the vast ocean below. I'm using a kind of air coral(Think the floating rocks in the movie Avatar, but continent size. Neat!) that was developed by an advance AI that runs the Solar System. Earth is a low tech preserve for natural Humans. The people travel around using sky boats. When someone dies they drop the bodies into the ocean, and they burn as they fall into the high oxygen levels in the lower atmosphere. Only their ashes reach the ocean far below. Very moving ceremony.

And that atmosphere is still magnitudes less dense than what you are "suggesting."

BTW, one of the many things that the sky boats do is hunt sky whales. This video is close to how I see the sky whales, but the sky boats are not high tech like in the video.

The Leviathan -- Teaser

I always laugh like a madman at the end of the video. You'll see why. HA!

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Fri Mar 03, 2017 10:49 pm

Hi Allynh,
allynh wrote:The bottom line is called "oxidation." Organics and everything else would literally burn up under the gas densities and pressures with the "hypothesis" that you are "suggesting."
the atmosphere doesn't have to have the same proportions of gases.. in the literature
it is suggested that there was much more CO2, and less oxygen...

I know about oxidation, but thanks for the tip...
sketch1946 wrote:"Our sister planet and nearest neighbor, Venus, has an atmosphere of 90 bar pressure, consisting of 96% CO2 (5). Why should Earth be so different? Ronov measured the equivalent of at least 55 bar of CO2 tied up as carbonates around the world (6), whereas Holland estimates that at least 70 bar of CO2 is bound as carbonate materials (7). These carbonates had to come from the atmosphere, by way of the oceans, so we propose that, after the original oxidation of CH4 and CO, Earth’s early atmosphere was at very high pressure, up to ***90 bar, and that it consisted primarily of CO2."

"Today, vast deposits of sedimentary carbonate rocks are found on land and on ocean bottoms, >1,000,000 km3 throughout Earth’s crust. Above the continents, the CO2 was taken up by rainwater and by groundwater. This CO2-rich water reacted with rocks to form bicarbonates, followed by transport to the ocean and precipitation as calcium and magnesium carbonates. In the ocean, dissolved CO2 combined with the calcium hydroxide to form deposits of chalk, or it was taken up by coral, mollusks, and other living creatures to form giant reefs. A study of the distribution through time of these deposits gives us clues to the history of CO2 in the atmosphere."
Did you read all the recent posts?
sketch1946 wrote:"...During the Carboniferous period, 350–280 Mya, these plants proliferated widely, covering the land surfaces with lush forests of giant ferns, trees, and plants of all types. Because the atmosphere was rich in CO2, but very poor in oxygen, dead plant material did not decompose rapidly, so layer upon layer of it was laid down in thick blankets that would transform over time to coal."

"...At the same time, the concentration of oxygen slowly rose. These two changes, the decrease in CO2 and the rise in oxygen, thinned the forests and the dead material began to be oxidized more rapidly

so that dense layers of dead organics were no longer deposited. Evidence of this change in atmospheric conditions is that we cannot find any massive coal deposits younger than 65 million years."
allynh wrote:Why did I have you wiki "Venus" as well? Simple, it has a really thick, dense, atmosphere, equal to 92 atmospheres. Still orders of magnitude below what you are "suggesting." Still a dead planet.
The atmosphere of Venus is mostly CO2, but the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, i agree it's not a good place for plants and animals... but that's not the point... the point is that scientists speculate that the earth's atmosphere was once much higher in CO2, the hypothesis is talking about a greater mass ie denser atmosphere, with a different composition of gases... explaining huge beds of coal formed by plant matter that ***didn't decompose [oxidise] quickly ... there was a massive atmosphere composed of mainly CO2, and relatively less oxygen,

"there is evidence for very high CO2 volume concentrations between 200 and 150 million years ago of over 3,000 ppm, and between 600 and 400 million years ago of over 6,000 ppm. In more recent times, atmospheric CO2 concentration continued to fall after about 60 million years ago..." ... atmosphere

You would have noticed if you study this stuff there is no shortage of competing theories...
Do you, Allynh, have a believable theory that appeals to you about how these giant animals lived and trotted around, and breathed through their giant necks, and how giant 9 meter wingspan birdie things took to the air.. whatever composition and density it might have been?

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Sat Mar 04, 2017 3:13 am

Hi Allynh,
I just checked out the current world record for 'saturation diving'
an ordinary modern human could breath at 70 bar provided the gas mix is right...

"In 1992 Greek diver Theodoros Mavrostomos achieved a record of 701 msw (2300 fsw) in an on shore hyperbaric chamber. He took 43 days to complete the scientific record dive, where a hydrogen–helium–oxygen gas mixture was used as breathing gas...

So it's not too far fetched to imagine animals adapted to a high pressure atmosphere could survive OK

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by allynh » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:42 am

sketch1946 wrote:You would have noticed if you study this stuff there is no shortage of competing theories...
Do you, Allynh, have a believable theory that appeals to you about how these giant animals lived and trotted around, and breathed through their giant necks, and how giant 9 meter wingspan birdie things took to the air.. whatever composition and density it might have been?
You're kidding, right?

It has become clear that you have never read this thread, yet you insist on posting here displaying your utter lack of understanding of the discussions we have had. You have also demonstrated a clear lack of basic science or engineering. Frankly, I find your posts incomprehensible. No matter how I try to read them they simply do not make any sense. Spin all of the plates you want, create all of the incoherent word salad posts, but reality rules.

This is like playing whack-o-mole. Enough. No more. You're not worth my time.

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:24 pm

"The density of the air at the surface of Venus is 67 kg/m3, which is 6.5% that of liquid water on Earth. The pressure found on Venus's surface is high enough that the carbon dioxide is technically no longer a gas, but a supercritical fluid. This supercritical carbon dioxide forms a kind of sea that covers the entire surface of Venus. This sea of supercritical carbon dioxide transfers heat very efficiently, buffering the temperature changes between night and day..."

For an atmosphere to have a density of ten times that, at 670 kg/m3 the atmosphere would have to be ten times more massive.... that's ***one order of magnitude greater than the Venus example above... not 'orders' of magnitude higher...

My intuition tells me Allynh doesn't believe such a dense atmosphere could have existed,
(I too find it too hard to believe that such a huge difference could have existed in atmospheric pressure...)
indeed that's exactly what that guy Esker said:

Esker:"It may be difficult for some people to imagine how the Earth could have had such a dense atmosphere. But nevertheless, the wonders of our reality often exceed the limitations of many people’s imagination."

If you read Esker's dinosaur giantism proposal carefully, he is using a 'scaling factor' approach, which he says clearly is just a tool to try to estimate what conditions might have been different in the age of the giant dinosaurs and pterosaurs... he uses the difference in length of the modern giraffe's neck, and the allosaur's neck, and multiplies the value of the modern atmospheric density to come up with a value for atmospheric density to provide a nearly floating dinosaur.

To put the theory into very very simple terms, our body is made of meat. (A missionary once was told, if God didn't want us to eat people, why did He make them out of meat?)

Meat has a density approximately the density of water, which is roughly a ton per cubic meter.
Mammals immersed in water are close to equilibrium, ie they float.
The immense pressure on an immersed mammal of the pressure of the water is counteracted by a force of buoyancy, which acts against water's pressure, so the apparent weight of an object in water is less than in air... the principle of buoyancy kicks in, where the volume of our dinosaur and density of it's body is directly proportional to to the flotation value...

The dinosaur volume, and the density of dinosaur meat and bones, and atmospheric pressure are factors in the apparent weight of the dinosaur and hence viability...

However hard to prove the possible reasons for each individual change in hypothetical past physical changed conditions, it's useful to look at some numbers:
Changes that would make the dinosaur float completely in the atmosphere would be to have the atmosphere as dense as water, ie one ton per cubic meter
Esker's hypothetical 2/3 of water atmospheric density would have the dinosaur only 1/3 of its weight... why does it have to be so floaty, why not a lesser degree of buoyancy help from a denser atmosphere?

The same reasoning could be modified to allow the dinosaur to be just 10 to 20 percent lighter, if we have an atmospheric density similar to or double that of Venus. Since the volume of the atmosphere and the composition can theoretically change with time, this is a reasonable beginning point to speculate on possible causes for giantism in the past....

The atmosphere of Venus is nearly 100 times as dense as Earths, which is so different to Mars, which is so different to Jupiter... the atmospheric pressure of Venus being *two orders of magnitude greater than earth's...

Scientists speculate that it wasn't always so, for various reasons they guess it may have had water, hydrogen etc.. but this was 'lost to space'... slow and steady or catastrophy?

Has Earth's atmosphere always been the same? Apparently not.
Scientist speculate that Earth's atmosphere was once ***more dense than Venus...

Of course these just speculations, but they're quite mainstream:

"...[in] Earth’s history, the composition of the atmosphere has changed from a hazy, unfamiliar mix to today’s mostly blue skies. As the atmosphere developed, life began and evolved. The evolution of living things changed the atmosphere, and those changes in turn altered life. As far as we know, the relationship is unique to our planet."

"To deduce what the atmosphere [of the earth] has been like for billions of years, paleontologists, geologists, and paleoclimatologists study rocks, ancient soils, and fossils. With every new find, they improve and refine their understanding of ancient atmospheres."

'improve and refine' = change hypotheses... :-)

In the past, Earth's atmosphere:"...It included hydrogen sulfide, methane, and ***ten to 200 times as much carbon dioxide as today’s atmosphere. "
mmm there's that 'multiple orders of magnitude' thing again... :-)

"...the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere reached ***one percent of today’s level, which is 21 percent."
mmm another couple of 'orders of magnitude' ...

".... the sun was only about 70 percent as bright as it is today. Earth should have frozen over, but it didn’t. Why not? Because greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly methane and carbon dioxide, trapped enough of the sun’s heat to keep temperatures above freezing."

More changes in atmospheric composition are speculated, scientists (who really be called natural philosophers) have generally a presumption of slow and steady gradual changes...

But then some scientists have tried to reconcile the lack of satisfactory evidence for slow and steady change, with the more likely catastrophic sudden changes that have left evidence in the forms of impact events, tsunamis, extreme volcanism, flooding, mass extinctions, huge beds of coal, limestone sediments etc...

"....Gould—...—uses a variety of strategies from literature, political science, and personal anecdotes to substantiate the general pattern of punctuated equilibrium in the context of natural science (long periods of stasis interrupted by rapid, catastrophic change)..."

Animals adapted to changed conditions, presumably also humans did so too....
"...the oxygen in the atmosphere reached about one-fifth of today’s level (21 percent). The oxygen boom favored the evolution of lifeforms that could use oxygen to create energy. For other organisms, oxygen was poisonous..."

The only thing that's permanent is change....

"...The atmospheric content of oxygen also reached their highest levels in geological history during the period, 35% compared with 21% today, allowing terrestrial invertebrates to evolve to great size. [???]
A major marine and terrestrial extinction event occurred in the middle of the period...."

A catastrophic event?

The composition of the atmosphere changes, then becomes denser, the earth has a shorter day... quicker rotation... associated with some catastrophic changes...

"The thicker atmosphere and stronger coriolis effect due to Earth's faster rotation (a day lasted for 22.4 hours in early Carboniferous) created significantly stronger winds than today."

"The cooling and drying of the climate led to the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse (CRC) during the late Carboniferous. Tropical rainforests fragmented and then were eventually devastated...."

Huge beds of carbon-based lifeforms get laid down:

"Carboniferous rocks in Europe and eastern North America largely consist of a repeated sequence of limestone, sandstone, shale and coal beds."

Could the atmosphere have been modified or partially ripped off by cosmic encounters or blown away in a similar way as the atmosphere of Mars?

"A mysterious, catastrophic event tore away the atmosphere of Mars, according to the first detailed analysis of the make-up of the air on the Red Planet." ... rover-mars

So how can we be sure that the volume and composition and pressure of the atmosphere hasn't changed ****also during these prehistoric times, we have seen above, changes in Sun's luminance, length of the day, composition of the atmosphere, density of the atmosphere, extinction events, smashed-up plant life forming coal beds, and limestone rocks with billions of sea shells and other forms of catastrophic carbon sequestration....

Since we know these giants animals lived, and walked and breathed, in conditions different to today's conditions, why not look at these models with an open mind?
Why not discuss theories of changes in the gravitational constant, changed atmospheric pressure, catastrophic changes like impact events, orbital changes, as well as the uniformitarian assumptions of most mainstream theories.... somewhere amongst these possibilities could be the most reasonable solution....

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:36 pm

Among these theories, the notion of a change in the gravitational constant with time, a simple idea, leads to many observed physical things, like earth expansion, explosive vulcanism, expansion cracks in the earth's crust, orbital changes, etc

One simple thing, the gravitional 'constant' decaying with time, the gravitational attraction of each molecule for the next was stronger in the past when the molten earth formed its crust under a pressure that was higher than today.. over time the decay in gravity leads to cracks in the crust, upwelling magma fills the gaps, cools, and you have a slightly bigger earth. Earthquakes are the result of the geometry of the earth's sphere adjusting to this intermittent process... the continental 'movements' are explained as the expansion cracks shift the continents apart...

This hypothesis was put forward by P.A.M.Dirac, and the book I read was written by Pascual Jordan.

Neither of these men could be considered nutters, or crank cases, or fringe dwellers, or pseudo-scientists, as many comfortable, secure, mainstream quantum high-priests describe anyone with alternate views or theories...

In fact Dirac and Jordan are in the very elite of modern science, among the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, they knew each other, talked, discussed, argued:

Most people genuinely interested in real pure science will already know Dirac and Jordan, but for those who don't:

"In the three-year period from January 1925 to January 1928:
1. Wolfgang Pauli proposed the exclusion principle, providing a theoretical basis for the Periodic Table.
2. Werner Heisenberg, with Max Born and ***Pascual Jordan, discovered matrix mechanics, the first version of quantum mechanics. The historical goal of understanding electron motion within atoms was abandoned in favor of a systematic method for organizing observable spectral lines.
3. Erwin Schrodinger invented wave mechanics, a second form of quantum mechanics in which the state of a system is described by a wave function, the solution to Schrodinger’s equation. Matrix mechanics and wave mechanics, apparently incompatible, were shown to be equivalent.
4. Electrons were shown to obey a new type of statistical law, Fermi-***Dirac statistics. It was recognized that all particles obey either Fermi-Dirac statistics or Bose-Einstein statistics, and that the two classes have fundamentally different properties.
5. Heisenberg enunciated the Uncertainty Principle.
6. ***Paul A.M. Dirac developed a relativistic wave equation for the electron that explained electron spin and predicted anti-matter.
7. ***Dirac laid the foundations of quantum field theory by providing a quantum description of the electromagnetic field.
8. Bohr announced the complementary principle, a philosophical principle that helped to resolve apparent paradoxes of quantum theory, particularly the wave-particle duality."

This book below, was where I was introduced to the concept of 'Expanding Earth':

International Series of Monographs in Natural Philosophy, Volume 37: The Expanding Earth: Some Consequences of Dirac’s Gravitation Hypothesis focuses on the applications of Dirac’s gravitation hypothesis.

The book first discusses objections to Dirac’s hypothesis and expansion cracks, including geological chronology, astrophysical objections, rift valleys, rills of the moon, deep-sea trenches, and oceanic rifts. The text then looks at the origin of the oceans, as well as growth and shrink of continents, expansion and formation of oceans, growth of land areas, and paleomagnetism.

The manuscript examines the physics of the earth-moon system. Topics include rheology and seismic exploration of the earth's interior; quantitative data about the earth's expansion; and Dirac’s hypothesis and the many-body problem. The book also offers information on volcanoes, lunar craters, folded mountains, and ice ages. Topics include Binge’s explanation of volcanism, folded mountains, and submarine tablemounts and currents.

The Expanding Earth: Some Consequences of Dirac's Gravitation Hypothesis Paperback – January 1, 1971
by ***Pascual Jordan (Author) ... 1483123456

Page 2:"This book will be confined to the question of whether is is possible to find empirical arguments for or against Dirac's proposal...."

Page 17: (Jordan in answer to a criticism of Dirac's hypothesis):
"This critique of Dirac's hypothesis lacks rigour because it takes the cosmic spatial mean value of x (in the case of the Friedmann timescale), instead of the value of x significant in determining the luminosity L (namely the value of x at the centre of the Sun)."

"That this is a really fundamental mistake follows, even without setting out the field equations in detail, from the following argument. It is a fundamental law of physics that there is no action without a corresponding reaction. This indicates an inconsistency in Newtonian mechanics, before it was modified in the Einsteinian sense, in that the space-time continuum has a dominant influence on the motion of masses, while these masses do not exert any corresponding reaction on the continuum."

"In a physically credible theory, therefore, we cannot imagine such a strong influence of x on L as shown by equation (7), without there being some corresponding influence of L on x. In fact, the theory would require that in the vicinity of strongly luminous stars there is a local decrease of x due to the influence of the radiation..."

"The results of palaeontological investigations definitely do not contradict ter Haar's supposition that during the Palaeozoic (up to its end?) there was a closed cloud cover in the atmosphere of the Earth, in conjunction with a solar constant considerably larger than that of the present. The enormous cloud masses...."

An interesting comment, BTW: :-)
Page 109: "... the much-discussed theory that the Moon was captured by the Earth should then be settled. The laws of mechanics permit of only two possibilities for such a capture process. The first is that there must have been a close encounter between ***three heavenly bodies. This would have enabled two of the bodies to remain as close companions, while the third took up the remaining energy and angular momentum."

In fairness to Pascual Jordan, he only suggests further investigation of the possible environmental conditions that may have led to the development of giant insects...

Page 94: "If then, there was some circumstance favouring the development of giant insects, could it perhaps have been due to a combination of a stronger gravitational field at the Earth's surface and a higher atmospheric density - factors that might favour the flight of heavier insects?..."

When respected scientists like Dirac and Jordan with world-wide reputations are willing to put forward ideas about how things might have been on earth during the time of the allosaurs and pterosaurs, and ideas like the possible causes of an expansion of the earth, we should give their ideas serious consideration, in my view...

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:29 pm

Looking back into the past and trying to imagine how animals could survive under drastically increased atmospheric pressure...

Today it has been found that some animals, mammals like seals and whales have adapted to survive in much higher pressures than normal... even to 299 bar!
That's 299 times more than earth's atmospheric pressure, and 3 times more dense than the atmosphere on Venus, they dive down to 2992 meters:

"To stop using so much oxygen, diving mammals can stop their breathing and shunt blood flow from their extremities to the brain, heart, and muscles. They also shut down digestion, kidney and liver function."

"Finally, they lower their heart rate. Most mammals can do this when they dive, even humans. But in marine mammals the slowdown can be extreme. Scientists have measured the heart rate of diving Weddell seals at a mere four beats per minute."

"Then in 2013, Berenbrink made a startling discovery about diving animals' muscles. Like all mammals, their muscles contain a protein called myoglobin that stores oxygen and gives meat its red colour. Myoglobin is ten times more concentrated in the muscles of diving animals than it is in human muscles. It is so concentrated in whales that their flesh appears almost black."

"...Berenbrink found that the myoglobin of diving animals is positively charged. Since like charges repel each other, the positively-charged myoglobin molecules don't stick together. This means that huge amounts of myoglobin can be packed in, supplying plenty of oxygen..."

So do we really know enough to positively rule out that the giant animals could not have developed in a denser atmosphere, under increased, not decreased gravity, and were buoyed up by a thick dense atmosphere under greater pressure than exists today and simple adapted to live, move and breathe in this environment?

Today, whales, seals diving to depths where the pressure is nearly 300 times our normal atmospheric pressure at sea level, show that living under extreme pressures is theoretically possible for relatively giant creatures like sauropods and pterosaurs given that could have simply been adapted differently to suit these conditions. ... xplanation

When it comes to numerical estimates, mainstream scientists speculate, estimate, and are not ashamed to revise their figures when necessary to fit different theories:

Indeed Dreadnoughtus was first estimated to be about 65 tons, then scientists didn't like that figure, so changed the 'scaling' factor by revising the hypothetic bone and muscle density.. a bit of selective adaptation in the modern world... and so re-estimated this creature down as low as 'only' 30 tons...

"Using this scaling equation, they concluded that the Dreadnoughtus type specimen weighed about 59.3 tonnes (58.4 long tons; 65.4 short tons). By comparison, this would mean D. schrani weighed more than eight and a half times as much as a male African elephant and even exceeded the Boeing 737-900 airliner by several tons. This very large mass estimate was quickly criticized, though unofficially, by some other sauropod researchers."

"Matt Wedel used volumetric models that yielded a much ***lower estimate between 35–40 tonnes (34–39 long tons; 39–44 short tons), or even as low as approximately 30 tonnes (30 long tons; 33 short tons), based on a 20% shorter torso.

A formal re-evaluation of the animal's weight was published in June 2015. In it, a research team led by Karl T. Bates compared the simple scaling equation results with results found using a volume-based digital model with various amounts of soft tissue and "empty space" for the respiratory system."

"They found that any model using the scale-based weight estimate would have meant the animal had an impossible amount of bulk (fat, skin, muscle, etc.) layered onto its skeleton. They compared their D. schrani volumetric model to those of other sauropods with more complete skeletons and better understood mass estimates to conclude that the D. schrani type specimen must have weighed in the range of 22.1–38.2 tonnes (21.8–37.6 long tons; 24.4–42.1 short tons).

Not everyone agreed with the selective adaption :-)

"Lacovara disputes the methods used by Bates et al., arguing that the new study treats Dreadnoughtus as an exception to well-established mass estimate methods proven on living animals, and that the limb bones would be unnecessarily large if the new mass estimates were correct."

No-one knows much about the respiratory system:

"To calculate the animal’s mass, Lacovara and his colleagues used a well known scaling equation based mostly on the circumference of the dinosaur’s limb bones. The outcomes made Dreadnoughtus the most important dinosaur with probably the most full skeleton on report, the researchers stated."

"Yet one thing appeared off, the researchers on the brand new study stated. Two different sauropods (herbivorous, long-necked, four-legged dinosaurs) had comparable skeletal proportions to these of Dreadnoughtus, however their calculated [weight must?] have been much less — simply 55,000 to 77,000 lbs. (25,000 to 35,000 kg), the researchers on the brand new study stated."

"So, they used a 3D skeletal modeling technique to get a greater concept of Dreadnoughtus‘ mass. The method makes use of a mathematical mannequin to reconstruct the quantity of the dinosaur’s pores and skin, muscle mass, fats and different tissues across the bones, they stated."

"The reconstructed measurements are based mostly on knowledge from [modern animals in existing atmospheric environment] dwelling animals, They explored a range of body sizes to foretell how heavy Dreadnoughtus may [have?] been, which is how they reached their 30- to 40-ton estimate."

“No one knows whether dinosaur bodies were particularly fat, particularly skinny or somewhere in between,” he stated. “Also, ***very little is definitively known about the respiratory system of sauropods. Therefore, ***no one knows how much volume should be subtracted for the lungs [and] any system of air sacs.” ... tudy-says/

For contrast, the weight of a Blue Whale is 140 tons :-) and can dive to 2 km deep to a pressure of 200 atmospheres...

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note for the dirac doubters :-)

Unread post by moonkoon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:07 am

It might be somewhat counter intuitive, but Jordan's suggestion of a denser atmosphere (based on Dirac's decreasing gravitational constant idea) deserves serious consideration, for as sketch1946 has pointed out, Dirac knows his onions :-).

A denser atmosphere would need a much smaller proportion of oxygen than the present atmosphere's 20% (200,000 ppm), otherwise oxidation would get very difficult for life to deal with. Compare this with the much denser abode of the finny fish, which gets by with about 10 ppm. Carbon dioxide would also need to be adjusted downward somewhat I suspect.
The 'filler' would have to be relatively inert, e.g. nitrogen or perhaps argon (about 2% of our current atmosphere).

Another alternative is an actual watery world which is so often depicted in the myths. Much of the fossil record is fairly obviously water world stuff.

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:25 am

Hi moonkoon,
Thanks, it's nice to get a supportive answer
moonkoon wrote:Dirac knows his onions
... and so does Jordan :-)

until I bought Jordan's book, maybe sometime around 1975, I had never heard of Pascual Jordan, I was looking for a book written by Dirac explaining Einstein's General Relativity, the book shop ordered Jordan's book by mistake... I found it very interesting because it is such a simple idea with two very top-of-the-shelf scientists behind it, over the years I've only found one other person who could 'get it'...
and he was another artist like me, not a scientist...

It's just that it puts a very sound physical basis behind 'plate tectonics', no mysterious forces...

I made a model with a spherical rubber balloon, coated with petroleum jelly, and then covered that with a 'crust' of gouache paint, which dries brittle...

when I blew into the balloon to simulate the expansion of the magma inside the crust, ie releasing the pressure of the magma that had been 'pressurised' by the previously stronger gravity, I got all the predicted effects, 'drifting' continents, mountain folding, but most notably, earthquakes!

The tension between the vaseline/petroleum jelly layer and brittle dried crust would 'let go' every now and then, with a sudden jerk... the 'continental crust' sliding a bit relative to the underlying layer...

I guess I could have done a more realistic model and filled the balloon with something like Araldite, a treacle like wood glue, and tried to simulate volcanoes, by inflating with a air compressor, then pricking the balloon to let the wood glue swell up into the pin hole, the glue would then dry in the air just like volcanic magma which sometimes oozes out, and sometimes with the aid of steam does a Mt St Helens, with more pressure you might even get a Mount Toba volcanic eruption... :-)

I've seen a few theories that recognise that the earth's undercrust magma is under pressure, but there are some fairly difficult problems with the cause of the expansion... matter being created ex nihilo, hollow earths, and others, I like Dirac/Jordan so far.. it's clean and simple, and explains a lot of other hard to explain things, like the plate tectonics subduction mechanisms, and lack of enough trenches, and the flotation issues with slabs that float, and then they don't :-)

ie the plates/slabs 'crash' into an isostatic wall, turn and do a right turn, and sink, while simultaneously lifting up the Himalayas for example, they float, and then the flotation stops by magic, and without even a whimper the plates take a dive... no sediments, they all go down too... continents in the meantime drift, reconnect, break apart, slide.. all with dubious mechanisms, slab pull, slab push, convection cells etc...

Declining gravity is more believable in my view.. the definition of the 'constants' of physics has been challenged by many top level scientists, the problems recently that led to the redefinition of the constants makes it almost impossible to verify this intermittent expansion of the earth, only measurable after a random earthquake or rift movement.... not a steady process, but a constant set of random adjustments in the overall geometry of the earth, with tidal forces constantly triggering a new earthquake, fault stress adjustment, etc..

I just watched a video by Pierre-Marie Robitaille showing how Plank's constant is not good maths, and is invalid, in the same way there was the debate between von Neumann and Dirac about using maths in a simplified non-rigorous way.. so for a century we have had a set of 'consensus' scientists leading us all into a 'black hole' using 'dark energy'... mmm :-)

I even checked out the problems with sychronising satellite timing and measuring, there are assumptions and averaging everywhere... it seems as if the people who make each new set of measurements make the assumption that these are more accurate data... I wonder how long it will take before it becomes obvious that Dirac was right after all :-)

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by allynh » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:41 pm

Now we're talking Turkey. HA!

The Secret of the Dinosaur Death Pose
Experiments with dead chickens add a twist to a Mesozoic mystery.
arc 2.jpg
Spinophorosaurus in the classic dinosaur death pose. Credit: Remes et al. 2009

Dinosaurs have lived on Earth for over 235 million years. That means they’ve also been dying for just as long. And when they die – whether we’re talking about a Parasaurolophus or a hummingbird – dinosaurs often take up a classic death pose. The head is thrown back over the body, sometimes almost touching the spine, and dinosaurs with long tails often have those balancing appendages curled upwards in an arc.

Paleontologists have been debating the cause of the dinosaur death pose for over a century now. There are two schools of thought on the subject. Some researchers have proposed that the contortion – technically called the opisthotonic posture – is caused at the time of death by poisoning, lack of oxygen to the brain, or similar circumstances that cause neck and tail to spasm into weird angles. Other paleontologists have suggested that the pose happens after death, with immersion in water or decay tensing muscles and ligaments that pull the head back and the tail up. It could be a perimortem or postmortem pose.

Both groups may be right. There seems to be a variety of ways for dinosaur skeletons to creak into the strangely-beautiful positions many of them are found in. But relatively little has been done to understand why dinosaurs and some of their prehistoric relatives, like pterosaurs, were even capable of such a pose. That’s what led biologists Anthony Russell and A.D. Bentley to X-ray a set of ten thawed, plucked chickens.

Chickens, like all birds, are dinosaurs, and they have the advantage of being readily available at the supermarket. So after thawing out their frozen birds, Russell and Bentley placed the birds in different opisthotonic positions starting at rest and moving the neck back until it mimicked what’s seen in fossil dinosaurs like the Struthiomimus on display at the American Museum of Natural History. They also checked to see if the birds’ heads could be flexed forward, beneath the body, and the researchers used the X-rays from both sets of trials to see how neck vertebrae angles changed with each position.
Chickens in varying degrees of opisthotonic posture. Credit: Russell and Bentley 2015
It actually didn’t take all that much for the birds to get to the dinosaur death pose. The posture, Russell and Bentley write, “can, in chickens at least, be facilitated simply through the limpness associated with death combined with the imposition of a relatively modest displacing force.” Getting the neck to arc downwards was something different altogether. The chickens’ necks locked when they were angled down and required significant force to keep them that way. The natural thing for a dinosaur neck to do is to arc backwards.

The greatest changes happened in the middle of the neck. While the base and the very front of the chicken necks didn’t move much, Russell and Bentley found that two neck joints in the middle changed their orientations significantly and contributed the most to the pose. The flexibility of the skull helped, too. The spot where skull meets the neck stayed flexible in every position, and this undoubtedly helped some dinosaur skeletons achieve the posture where snout touches hip. This might also explain why many fossil dinosaur skeletons are found decapitated. Perhaps the anatomy that gives the skull a wide range of motion also allows it to easily be lost as soft tissues decay, letting heads roll as the rest of the skeleton is pulled towards becoming an osteological circle.

So while there’s probably an array of immediate causes for the dinosaur death pose, the ability for the saurians to take up the posture at all is because of flexible necks that can more easily be retracted back than pressed downwards. That’s the past of least resistance, literally, at or after the time of death, and why today’s dead chickens and emus look like they’re doing impressions of their fossilized predecessors.


Russell, A., Bently, A. 2015. Opisthotonic head displacement in the domestic chicken and its bearing on the ‘dead bird’ posture of non-avialan dinosaurs. Journal of Zoology. doi: 10.1111/jzo.12287

[This post was originally published at National Geographic.]

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by sketch1946 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:19 pm

Hi Allynh,
Haha, talking Turkey..... here's an image of a Turkish recurve bow...
when the string tension is let off, it arches like the dinosaur neck....
Turkish composite recurve bow with dinosaur.jpg
allynh wrote:dinosaurs often take up a classic death pose. The head is thrown back over the body, sometimes almost touching the spine, and dinosaurs with long tails often have those balancing appendages curled upwards in an arc.
Thinking about dinosaur necks...

Apparently dinosaurs had a strong tendon to support their necks,
could this tendon contract at the time of death... presumably they've
been rapidly covered with tsunami mud?

"Neck Design. Sauropods have extremely long necks, as much as half their length. These 35-foot necks did not have more vertebrae than other dinosaurs (typically 12; for comparison, your neck has nine), but each was elongated to three times the length of a back vertebra."

"While some sauropods may have fed on treetops, many ate low vegetation, and it is not clear why they had such long necks."

"How did the neck muscles support this 35-ton weight?"

"They didn't. Front and back legs act like the towers of a suspension bridge. A groove runs along the top of the backbone, holding a ***massive tendon that runs like a cable between tail and neck. The cable allows the weight of the long neck to be supported by a counterbalancing tail---you get the same effect if you hold your arms outstretched from your sides, a rope passing tautly from one wrist to the other over your shoulders---your arm muscles don't have to work to keep your arms up, because their weight is going down your shoulders to your legs." ... ement.html

Could this 'massive tendon' be under tension while living, then contract at death?
while the bow is straightened by the string, in the dinosaur, gravity is causing the head end of the neck and the end of the tail to be pulled downward, and the 'massive' tendon' is under tension preventing those ends from curving downwards.. so when the animal is no longer subject to gravity the 'massive tendon' pulls the neck into a curve?

This guy says the very long sauropod necks while living were less flexible than all the paintings and drawings suggest....
Prof Stevens says sauropod vertebrae form a very straight line.jpg
Prof Stevens says sauropod vertebrae form a very straight line.jpg (4.76 KiB) Viewed 8390 times

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by allynh » Wed Mar 08, 2017 4:54 pm

I love my disaster films. HA!


Let's hope it's as good as it looks.

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Re: Are the planets growing?

Unread post by allynh » Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:29 pm

How much of this was Glacial Dams and flooding, and how much was Electric Discharge Machining. Combine that with the next article of finding large amounts of platinum and I suspect EDM. HA!

Formed by Megafloods, This Place Fooled Scientists for Decades ... scablands/
March 9, 2017
Picture of Streamlined Poulse Hills near Morango
Remnant of a lost landscape, this island of ancient soil—crowned by a crop of wheat—survived the ice-age floods that sculpted the region known today as the Channeled Scablands.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic
By Glenn Hodges

Photographs by Michael Melford

In the middle of eastern Washington, in a desert that gets less than eight inches of rain a year, stands what was once the largest waterfall in the world. It is three miles wide and 400 feet high—ten times the size of Niagara Falls—with plunge pools at its base suggesting the erosive power of an immense flow of water. Today there is not so much as a trickle running over the cataract’s lip. It is completely dry.

Dry Falls is not the only curiosity in what geologists call the Columbia Plateau. Spread over 16,000 square miles are hundreds of other dry waterfalls, canyons without rivers that might have carved them (called “coulees”), mounds of gravel as tall as skyscrapers, deep holes in the bedrock that would swallow entire city blocks, and countless oddly placed boulders. All across southeast Washington, fertile rolling hills border eroded tracts of volcanic basalt, as if Kansas farmland and Utah canyon land had been chopped up and sewed together into a topographic Frankenstein.

The first farmers in the region named the rocky parts “scablands” and dismissed them as useless as they planted their wheat on the silt-rich hills. But geologists were not so dismissive; to them, the scablands were an enigma. What could have caused this landscape? It was a question hotly debated for several decades, and the answer was as surprising and dramatic as Dry Falls itself.

Picture of Basalt columns

Tall as a five-story building, this wall of volcanic basalt in Drumheller Channels took shape 10 million years ago as lava cooled, shrank, and cracked vertically. Massive floods later ripped away sections, creating this pillared landmark.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

For that matter, so was the source of that answer: a high school science teacher named Harley Bretz. In 1909, the Seattle teacher visited the University of Washington to see the U.S. Geological Survey’s new topographic map of the Quincy Basin, a large area on the west side of the Columbia Plateau. He was 27, with no formal training in geology, but when he looked at the map, he noticed a striking feature: a huge cataract (much like Dry Falls) on the western edge of the basin, a place where water appeared to spill out of the basin and into the Columbia River, gouging a canyon several hundred feet deep. The falls would have been bigger than Niagara, but there was no apparent source of water for them—no signs whatsoever of a river leading to the cataract.

Bretz asked faculty in the department about the feature, called Potholes Coulee, but they had no answers for him. Nor could they explain many of the other unusual features of the region. That’s when, as legend has it, Bretz decided to become a geologist. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Chicago four years later, changed his professional name from Harley to “J Harlen” to sound more respectable, and in 1922 returned to eastern Washington to take a closer look at the plateau and its scablands. And after two seasons in the field, his conclusions shocked even himself: The only possible explanation for the all the region’s features was a massive flood, perhaps the largest in the Earth’s history—“a debacle which swept the Columbia Plateau,” ripping soil and rock from the landscape, carving canyons and cataracts in a matter of days. “All other hypotheses meet fatal objections,” he wrote in a 1923 paper.

Picture of the Potholes Coulee

Carved by repeated flooding, a horseshoe-shaped canyon called Potholes Coulee lies along the Columbia River. Raging water dropped 850 feet in less than three miles here, stripping away topsoil and eroding the underlying basalt.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

It was geological heresy. For almost a century, ever since Charles Lyell’s 1830 text Principles of Geology set the standards for the field, it had been assumed that geological change was gradual and uniform—always the product of, as Lyell put it, “causes now in operation.” And floods of quasi-Biblical proportions certainly did not meet that standard. It didn’t matter how meticulous Bretz’s research was, or how sound his reasoning might be; he seemed to be advocating a return to geology’s dark ages, when “scientists” used catastrophic explanations for the Earth’s features to buttress theological presumptions about the age of a Creator’s divine handiwork. It was unacceptable. How did canyons and cataracts form? By rivers, of course, over millions of years. Not gigantic floods. Period.

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So in 1927, after Bretz had published yet another paper about the “Spokane Flood” and the landscape it carved, the nation’s geological bigwigs invited him to Washington, D.C., to present his findings—and receive his beatdown. Bretz was game, and explained to the expert assemblage how a massive ice-age flood had carved three parallel tracts of flood channels south of the Cordilleran ice sheet (which covered Canada and the northern United States), pooled in a temporary lake twice the size of Rhode Island at the southern edge of the scablands, and then drained like an overflowing tub into the Columbia River Gorge. On the way, the floodwaters carved the famous Grand Coulee, a canyon up to three miles wide with walls up to a thousand feet high, cut hundreds of waterfalls, washed away entire hillsides, deposited gravel bars hundreds of feet high, carried rocks the size of cars and even small houses, and created a terrain of braided channels across eastern Washington.

Floodwaters scoured this chaotic labyrinth of channels into the bedrock of Babcock Bench, perched 600 feet above the Columbia River.

A wall of basalt at Frenchman Coulee lures rock climbers and shows the shrinkage cracks that formed in cooling lava millions of years ago.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic
Rivers and streams could not have done this, Bretz said. The landscape bears none of the marks of riverine systems, with smaller tributaries joining into larger ones, forming tree-like, branch-and-trunk patterns. Instead, you see a pattern of braided channels—the crisscrossing pattern that flowing water creates when it makes its way across fresh terrain. The difference between the channels we typically see—say, after a rainfall or on the margins of a flooding river—and the channels in the scablands is simply scale. These are just much larger, and were carved into rock instead of sand or silt.

The key to the rapid erosion, Bretz said, was the volcanic basalt that forms the bedrock of the Columbia Plateau. When basaltic lava cools into rock, it forms vertical hexagonal pillars that have weak bonds to each other. Compared to, say, granite, which erodes grain by grain, basalt can erode chunk by chunk as these pillars separate. So a massive, high-energy flood could pluck apart the bedrock so quickly that a canyon like the Grand Coulee might be formed virtually overnight.

Picture of Palouse Canyon looking North

“During the ice-age floods, this entire scene was submerged beneath hundreds of feet of water,” says geologist Bruce Bjornstad. The Palouse River, shown here, "was hijacked and forced to follow a new route to the Snake River.”

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Bretz’s research was thorough, and his map of the channeled scablands was so accurate that it’s a virtual tracing of modern-day satellite images, creating the immediate impression of channeled floodwaters. But his audience—none of whom had visited, much less studied, the scablands—was having none of it. Bretz’s hypothesis was not just “wholly inadequate,” in the words of one critic, but “preposterous” and “incompetent.” Compounding the problem of his unlikely hypothesis was the question of where all this water would have come from, and Bretz had no convincing answer.

Creating the Channeled Scablands

During the last ice age, 18,000 to 13,000 years ago, the landscape of eastern Washington was repeatedly scoured by massive floods. They carved canyons, cut waterfalls, and sculpted a terrain of braided waterways today known as the Channeled Scablands.

At its greatest extent, Glacial Lake Missoula held more water than Lakes Erie and Ontario combined.
Area affected by cataclysmic flooding

Modern rivers are shown in white.

1) The Cordilleran ice sheet repeatedly advanced to block the Clark Fork River.

2) Behind the ice dam, water from the Clark Fork gathered, forming Glacial Lake Missoula.

3) Each time the ice dam broke, a torrent of water with 10 times the combined flow of all the world's rivers barreled through the Spokane River Valley.

4) The rushing floodwaters traveled southwest across the Columbia Basin, scouring the bedrock.

5) Floodwaters converged into the Columbia River Gorge and eventually emptied into the Pacific.


For more than a decade afterward, Bretz was on the losing side of a pre-ordained conclusion, as the other geologists who began studying the area concocted one labored hypothesis after another for how the scablands’ features might have been created by gradual erosion. Then, in the early 1940s, the other shoe dropped: Joseph Pardee, a geologist for the USGS, reported that he’d discovered strong evidence of a massive flow of water in western Montana: a swath of current ripples 30 to 50 feet high—like the sand ripples that might form in river or tidal water, but made of gravel and orders of magnitude larger. Their source? A giant ice-age lake—Glacial Lake Missoula—that formed when the Cordilleran ice sheet progressed south and blocked the Clark Fork river valley, forming a dam of ice 2,000 feet high.

Behind that dam, water from the Clark Fork gathered, forming a lake with as much water as Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined, stretching for hundreds of miles in Montana’s mountainous river valleys. Then the dam broke, and a torrent of water with ten times the combined flow of all the world’s rivers barreled into eastern Washington, reaching speeds approaching 80 miles an hour, decimating the terrain and leaving giant current ripples and gravel bars in its wake.

Rich soil called Palouse loess covers the rolling fields of eastern Washington. “This is what the topography might have looked like before the floods removed the loess,” says Bjornstad.

A farmer rakes hay into windrows near Moses Lake. The rows follow the circular pattern of pivot irrigation.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

It would take another two decades to win the establishment over, but for many geologists this was convincing evidence that Bretz’s flood was real. The impossible had happened after all.

Seeing Like a Geologist

It takes practice to see the world as a geologist does. When I got my first glimpse of the Channeled Scablands more than 20 years ago on Interstate 90 west of Spokane, I was struck by their strange beauty, by the way rolling fields of wheat could suddenly yield to a landscape of rocky buttes. I had no explanation for the terrain, and I didn’t need one—I had that primitive eye that looks at rocks and just sees rocks. But when I returned to the scablands with Bretz’s story in mind, suddenly I was in an entirely different world.

Picture of Palouse Falls State Park

Plummeting nearly 200 feet, Palouse Falls is a trickle compared to the megafloods that carved this canyon and shaped the surrounding landscape of eastern Washington State.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Standing in the middle of a broad swath of scablands extending from horizon to horizon, my mind’s eye could clearly see the floodwaters blasting through, like a raging inland sea, ripping up everything not strong enough to stay moored. Driving through what’s known as the Ephrata Fan, a broad open area where floodwaters left the confines of the Grand Coulee and spread out and slowed as they neared what would become Ancient (and very temporary) Lake Lewis, I easily understood why the landscape was riddled with boulders: As the water lost speed, it began dropping all the rocks it was carrying. And when I stood on the lip of the dry falls of Potholes Coulee, looking at this immense canyon with farmland on three sides and a precipitous drop on the other, I felt what Bretz was thinking when he looked at that map a century ago: If a river didn’t carve this, what did?

With the flood story in mind, it all seems so obvious—so obvious, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to see the terrain and not see the floodwaters that shaped it. Why, then, were the experts in Bretz’s day so blind to what now seems like a self-evident geological record? I posed that question to Vic Baker, a geologist with the University of Arizona who became the pre-eminent scablands expert in Bretz’s wake, when we met to tour several of the region’s features. “It’s the mistake people have made most in the history of science,” he said. “They forgot that nature has the answers, not us.”

“Bretz was making arguments, and no one was going into the field to see anything,” Baker said. “They were just countering his arguments with theory.” And because scientists are first and foremost human beings, they’re loathe to change their theories or their minds because of mere data.

Picture of Monster Rock at Ephrata fan

The basalt and granite boulders now littering the Ephrata Fan were carried there by torrents of water that gushed out of a canyon called the Grand Coulee. The largest piece of rock is more than 25 feet tall.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Baker told me a story as we looked out at Palouse Falls, another dramatic cataract at the head of a massive canyon, with a stream running through it that seems comically out of scale, like a toddler wearing a grown man’s boots. Sometime in the late 1950s or early ’60s, a geologist named Aaron Waters brought one of Bretz’s most vocal critics—James Gilluly, the one who’d called his ideas “preposterous” and “incompetent”—to the scablands for a first-hand look. As they took in the sight of the falls and the canyon, Gilluly was dumbfounded by their scale. “Gilluly was just quiet the whole time,” Baker said, “and as they were leaving, he broke out into this immense laugh and said, ‘How could anybody be so wrong?’” After resisting Bretz’s theory for decades, simply seeing the landscape with his own eyes had changed his mind.

Of course, for some of Bretz’s most stubborn critics, even eyewitness experience wasn’t enough. Bretz’s arch-adversary, Richard Foster Flint, a Yale geologist who remained a premier authority in the field until the 1970s, spent years studying the scablands and resisted Bretz’s theory until he was virtually the only one left who did. He finally acknowledged the scablands flooding (grudgingly, with a single sentence in a textbook in 1971), but as philosopher Thomas Kuhn observed, new scientific truths often win the day not so much because opponents change their minds, but because they die off. By the time the Geological Society of America finally recognized Bretz’s work with the Penrose Medal, the field’s highest honor, it was 1979 and Bretz was 96 years old. He joked to his son, “All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over.”

It is tempting to see this story as a simple morality tale, with “good guy” geologists lining up against “bad guy” geologists in a battle between open-minded inquiry and closed-minded dogmatism. But that might just compound the error, because it neglects the fact that scientists almost always favor their own theories over others’, and rarely are those theories completely right. Enter Richard Waitt, a geologist with the USGS. In 1977 Waitt was exploring the Walla Walla valley in southern Washington when he noticed that one of the 40 sediment layers from the temporary flood lake contained ash from an eruption of Mt. St. Helens. It had been assumed that all those layers had been laid by one flood event—but if only one of them had the volcanic ash, it meant that each of those layers must have represented a separate flood.

“I knew right away that there couldn’t have been just one flood,” Waitt said. But when he published his findings in 1980, arguing that there had been at least 40 ice-age floods in the scablands, he faced such stiff resistance that he felt like Bretz himself. “Baker and his students were totally against it for years,” he said. And the irony for Waitt is that the lines seemed to be drawn just as they had been during the initial controversy. The authorities in the field were invested in a particular theory, and contrary evidence was dismissed without an adequate hearing.

Picture of Basalt columns in Drumhellers

A tower of basalt stands as a testament to the forces of nature that created the Scablands. “The region is unique: let the observer take wings of the morning to the uttermost parts of the earth: he will nowhere find its likeness,” wrote J Harlen Bretz, the geologist who first described the flooding that sculpted this terrain.

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

It turns out that Waitt was right. In fact, subsequent research indicates that 80 or more floods ravaged the scablands near the end of the last ice age. Repeatedly over a two- to three-thousand-year span ending roughly 13,000 years ago, the Cordilleran ice sheet advanced to block the Clark Fork river, a new iteration of Glacial Lake Missoula formed, and then the ice dam broke, each time unleashing such a torrent of water that if it were to happen today, most of Portland’s skyline would be submerged by the floodwaters. What’s more, something similar might have happened during previous ice ages—meaning that perhaps the most dramatic features of the scablands, like Grand Coulee and Dry Falls, didn’t form in the blink of a geological eye after all, but were shaped by catastrophic erosion over an extended period of time. Which would make both Bretz and his early critics right—Bretz about the flooding, and his critics in their skeptical assessment of his timetable.

This wouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to Bretz. By the early 1950s he’d noticed that some scabland features appeared to be more weathered than others, and in his last paper on the subject, in 1969, he argued that there had been at least seven scabland floods. But by then the controversy that had defined his professional life had already come and gone. When I asked Waitt about the irony of Bretz’s story, he said, “I think if Bretz could have made the argument in the 1920s for several floods, it would have muted the opposition a great deal.”

Perhaps it’s just as well that he didn’t. That sort of neat resolution might obscure what’s arguably the most important lesson of the scablands’ story—the caution that “nature has the answers, not us.” Just when we think we’ve got nature figured out, we find that among her many powers is the power to confound us, again and again and again.

Glenn Hodges writes about the mysteries of the universe at his blog.
Photographer Michael Melford says his mission is to share the wonders of the natural world with others.


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