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Credit: NASA
NASA scientists produced this illustration of the “solar nebula”, called
upon to  resolve mysteries posed by the dust from Comet Wild 2.


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.

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 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 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. 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
page called Thunderblog. Timely presentations of fact and opinion, with emphasis on
new discoveries and the explanatory power of the Electric Universe."

new: online video page

The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe available now!


Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

More info

Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

More info


In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

More info

David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Michael Armstrong
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Dwardu Cardona, Ev Cochrane,
C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

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