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david talbott - one story, many myths

[Editor's note: Below are the first few sections of what is a rather large article. The complete Thunderblog can be downloaded as a 22 page 700 KB pdf by clicking here.]

Our Moon - Window to the Space Age
by David Talbott

December 15, 2008
Researchers exploring "the electric universe" say that a comet with its sharply sculpted surface may have much to tell us about the history of our solar system. Are comet displays due to electrical discharge as they move through the electric field of the Sun? If so, they may provide the best example of what happened to planets in the past.

Electrical theorists contend that planets have not always moved on their present, predictable orbits. Our planetary system evolved through unstable phases in the past, they say, when certain planets behaved more like comets than the quiet bodies we observe today. Moving within a sea of charged particles, planets and moons experienced intense electrical activity, as cosmic "thunderbolts" raked across their surfaces, excavating material up to miles deep, redistributing sediment and rubble in layers across continental-scale distances.
Plasma discharge simulation
Artistic simulation of a large-scale plasma discharge cutting out a crater on the lunar surface.
Credit: Wallace Thornhill.
But how can one assess the electrical hypothesis millions of years after the claimed events? An assessment is possible because most of the rocky bodies in the solar system have surfaces unaffected by atmospheric or fluid erosion. If electric discharge carved the surfaces of planets and moons, massive scars should still be visible today. In fact, some electrical theorists suggest that catastrophic electrical scarring did not cease until just a few thousand years ago.

Assessing this new vantage point requires a suspension of prior theory - at least long enough to apply logical tests and fresh critical thinking.

Unsolved Lunar Mysteries

We can make many suggestions about the moon, but we have rather greater difficulty in proving that what we say is more than just possibilities. - Harold Urey, The Nature of the Lunar Surface.
High definition image of the Moon from KAGUYA (SELENE)
High definition image acquired by lunar explorer "KAGUYA" (SELENE), which was injected into a lunar orbit at an altitude of about 100 km on October 18, 2007.
At the beginning of the space age our Moon helped to clarify scientistsí expectations as to what they would find on other rocky bodies in the solar system. For several decades astronomers debated whether lunar craters were caused by bombardment from space or by volcanism. These seemed the only alternatives, to conventional astronomers on the one hand, and conventional geologists on the other. The issue was decided in favor of the impact hypothesis shortly after the beginning of the space age, when astronauts walked on the moon and Apollo mission close-up images of craters excluded the volcanic interpretation. Far too often the required volcanic vents and lava flows were missing.

For planetary science this was a turning point. Within a few years the vision of scarring by impact had set the direction of space programs, and billions of dollars were spent in the confidence that astronomers were asking the right questions. The general rule became: where there is a crater, an impact occurred in the past. Within discrete regions, planetary scientists believed they could count craters to determine the age of the surface.

By the time our space probes reached Venus and Mars, and eventually returned closeup images of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, prior theories had frozen into a consensus. And even when our probes later rendezvoused with asteroids and comets - exceedingly unlikely attractors for meteoric bombardment - many astronomers came to see these heavily cratered surfaces as a record of impact.

Once the impact theory took hold, planetary scientists sought to replicate experimentally the unique patterns of cratering on the moon and elsewhere in the solar system. Occasionally, news releases touted the "successes" of such experiments. But where unique cratering patterns demanded experimental confirmation, the experiments failed. The explosive effects of a high velocity impact will not produce the shallow, steep walled, flat-floored look of numerous craters on the Moon, for example. Not even an atomic bomb can melt enough material to create a flat-floored depression.
Lunar crater Archimedes
The lunar crater Archimedes is a large lunar impact crater on the eastern edges of the Mare Imbrium. The crater reveals an exceptionally flat floor and a complex terracing of walls, a common pattern in cratering by electric discharge. Credit: Damian Peach 2006.
The consistent circularity of craters, the lack of collateral damage where one crater overlaps with another, enigmatic terracing of crater walls, chains of smaller craters along the rims, and innumerable concentrations of crater chains across the lunar surface, all posed questions yet to be resolved.
Lunar South polar area
This high resolution KAGUYA image of the lunar south pole emphasizes more than one challenge for the impact explanation of crater formation. The challenge comes from the large flat-floored crater toward the center of the picture, the terracing of the crater behind it, and the repeated placement of adjoining or overlapping craters with no collateral damage by the one to the other.
Even before scientific opinion had converged on the impact theory, a much different possibility was being explored by the amateur astronomer Brian J. Ford. He suggested in the British journal Spaceflight that most of the craters on the moon were carved by cosmic electrical discharge. (Spaceflight 7, January, 1965). In Ford's experiments, he used a spark-machining apparatus to reproduce in miniature some of the most puzzling lunar features, including craters with central peaks, small craters preferentially perched on the high rims of larger craters, and craters strung out in long chains. He also observed that the ratio of large to small craters on the Moon matched the ratio seen in electrical arcing. Unfortunately, the scientific mainstream took no notice, and no mainstream researcher or institution followed up on Ford's investigation.

On the eve of the first Moon landing on July 21, 1969, the New York Times invited the controversial theorist Immanuel Velikovsky to anticipate what might be found. A colleague of Albert Einstein, Velikovsky was the author of the best selling book on planetary catastrophe, Worlds in Collision, published in 1950. Responding to the invitation, he suggested that rayed craters on the Moon were the result of electric arcs-- cosmic thunderbolts between planets in near collision. Since terrestrial lightning can magnetize surrounding rock, Velikovsky predicted that lunar rocks would be found to contain remanent magnetism. Astronomers saw no reason to consider such possibilities, and they were caught by surprise when lunar rocks returned by Apollo missions did indeed reveal remanent magnetism.

Hannes Alfvén

Throughout the twentieth century, astronomers showed only a limited appreciation of plasma science, and most ignored the role of electric currents in space plasma, a subject largely unfamiliar to them. Their elegant theories rested on the assumption that gravity alone is the ruling force in the heavens. Electricity does not "make things happen" in space.
Hannes Alfvén
Hannes Alfvén, the father of modern plasma science, receiving his Nobel Prize from the King of Sweden in 1970.
Through systematic observation and experiment, Hannes Alfvén, the father of modern plasma science, came to a contrary viewpoint. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in 1970, he warned astronomers that the study of plasma behavior requires attention to experimental plasma dynamics. Sadly, he observed, the plasma universe became “the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory. Many of them still believe in formulae which we know from laboratory experiments to be wrong.” Alfvén warned astronomers against ignoring the role of electric currents in space because, under certain conditions, the gravity of a star or galaxy would give way to something else - the electric force, which is inherently many billions of times more powerful than gravity.

According to Alfvén, all stars have electrical circuitry. Equatorial "current sheets" encircle stars, and the movements of charged particles aligned to magnetic fields form polar current streams. The local circuits of the Sun are part of the larger circuitry of the Milky Way, in a web of connectivity he said. In the end, Alfvén concluded that gravitational systems in space are the "ashes" of electrical systems. Most formative events begin electrically.

Gravity-defying behavior of stars and galaxies may, in fact, provide essential clues to the early history of our own cosmic neighborhood, the solar system. Irregular movements of planets and intense electrical events in the past can no longer be excluded. And most importantly, events we observe on planets today cannot serve as a reliable guide to events in the past.

... Further Chapters:

Craters on the Moon
The Crater Aristarchus
The Mystery of Lunar Rilles
Hadley Rille
Crater Chains
Download the entire Thunderblog in pdf format. (700 KB)

[Erratum Dec 19, 2008: On page 12 of the pdf (available on site as from Dec 15) the second image on the page was not an image of Aristarchus, as it should have been. This has now been corrected and the pdf updated accordingly. The text following the image was altered slightly to reflect this change. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.]
[Editor's Note: This Thunderblog is a copy of an article published by the Japanese magazine Kaze No Tabibito and is the first in a series of articles comissioned by that publication in a scholarly exploration of the Electric Universe.]
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David Talbott is the founder of the Thunderbolts Project, a Comparative Mythologist and Executive Editor of the Thunderblogs.

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