Mar 23, 2006
Stardust Shatters Comet Theory (3)
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.
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
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
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
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 for comets.
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
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
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.
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 as fact.
Please visit our new "Thunderblog" page
Through the initiative of managing
editor Dave Smith, we’ve begun the launch of a new
presentations of fact and opinion, with emphasis on
and the explanatory power of the Electric Universe."
new: online video page
The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe