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Open letter to science editors


Tom Van Flandern

I'm hoping that we can add a few elements of multimedia to this presentation,
but my electronic equipment is in competition with the cameras, taping, and
the regular equipment that is in this room. Sometimes in the setup we were
winning the battle, and sometimes losing. Please bear with me if we have some
technical problems during the presentation.

Just by way of remarks on my background and how I came to be invited here, I
spent half of my career as a mainstream astronomer doing mainstream things
and publishing in the regular technical journals. Then one day I read about
the work of Canadian dynamical astronomer, Michael Ovenden on the exploded
planet hypothesis as the origin of the asteroid belt. I thought that would
be an idea that would be easy to disprove, and I thought it was worth the
effort to look into it and attempt to do so. To my surprise, though, I found
that not only was I able to show that the basis of his ideas was right, but I
discovered considerably more evidence supporting the basic hypothesis. I
found that overnight I had been converted from a mainstream astronomer to a
fringe astronomer. At first that was quite dismaying, but out there on the
fringes I met colleagues such as Arp and Hoyle and Burbige. I found I just
missed Velikovsky out there and several other people whose company I would be
honored to be in. So I decided it wasn't so bad, and, besides, I was
convinced from the unscientific reaction of my colleagues-they hadn't
criticized the results I presented at the International Astronomical Union
just on logical grounds, on scientific grounds, but their main reaction was an
emotional one. And this gave me cause to consider that I might be on to
something to have triggered such an emotional response.

It was not long, though, before I learned the stories of many colleagues in my
field and many others and discovered, to my dismay, that if one presents an
idea that is counter to the mainstream and gets the attention of the media
or others, those conditions are sufficient to cause an emotional response from
the mainstream regardless of the merit of the ideas. So I had to go back and
reevaluate that I couldn't really tell that I was on to anything just because
they came down hard on me. They come down hard on everybody. This happens to
everyone out of the mainstream.

This led me to look into how one tells if one has an idea that is unpopular,
if one is fooling oneself or if one is really on to something, and ultimately
this led me back to the scientific method. The theory of how it is that
human beings can tell if something is "scientific", (meaning if we are kidding
ourselves or if there is some objective truth to it, some demonstrable and
communicative aspects to it that should be convincing to any rational person,
) although a theory, are the best guide we have on how to accomplish that. I
satisfied myself that in the case of the exploded planet hypothesis it did
indeed pass the test that I propose there, but I learned in the process of
looking into many, many things that are in an equivalent, fringe situation
that some do and some don't pass the test. And the only guide we have to be
sure is to apply the rigorous principles of scientific method without regard
to how it does violence to one's own prejudices or beliefs, and quite a few of
mine bit the dust in the course of this.

Let me begin with a demonstration of multi-media. The purpose of showing
Jupiter is to display some preliminary pictures here related to the impact of
the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet on Jupiter this summer, which is certainly
relevant to the theme of this Symposium. Here we have Jupiter showing its Red
Spot, and its Galilean Moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, and the
comet was discovered in 1992. It's said to have broken into 21 pieces.
Actually, I don't think it broke up at all, but rather was an orbiting debris
cloud that separated on a previous close approach to Jupiter. But, this ...
I think we have one more picture in the next section. This should be a
picture of the Great Red Spot, which is probably the site of a previous, huge
impact on Jupiter. It is usually referred to as a giant hurricane, but I
doubt very much that hurricanes in that turbulent an atmosphere could last
for centuries, and is probably an indefinite feature resulting from floating
debris from a previous impact on Jupiter.

The question naturally has arisen and been much discussed, "What if this
happened on Earth?" Well, first we should note that if the Earth had been in
the position Jupiter was in, nothing would have happened of concern to us,
because the comet came by Jupiter at a distance of 50 million miles, which is
half the distance from the Earth to the Sun. And it is only because Jupiter
is such a giant gravitational sink that it sucked in the comet into a smaller
and smaller orbit that eventually collided with the planet. So in a sense
Jupiter makes a lot of its own problems. It is not as if it was just one
chance in nine that it hit Jupiter instead of Earth. The probability of an
impact of an object that large on Earth-we can divide it into two situations:
the number of long-period comets from the Oort Cloud is not well known, but
the number of asteroids in Earth-crossing orbits is about 2,000 that are a
kilometer or more in diameter. It is only once per 30 million years that any
one of those is likely to hit Earth, but there are a great many of them, and
as you go down smaller and smaller in size there are far more of them. The
thousands become hundreds of thousands, then become tens of millions and so
on. Much smaller objects, but objects big enough to produce, say, a kiloton
of energy exploding in the atmosphere, occur once a day somewhere in the
high, upper atmosphere of the Earth. Nonetheless, if we are talking about
those once per 50 million* year type events, the results are so serious that
we have to consider this extreme case in order to have an appreciation for
what comes in between with modest-sized impacts.

(Sound track from video: "The Death of the Dinosaurs): "Why did the dinosaurs
disappear? There are many theories. The most popular one says that in the
Cretaceous period a giant meteor struck the Earth."...We lost our soundtrack.
You can see the visual effects here, which are the principal thing of interest
anyway. The soundtrack is just basically saying that as the effects of the
dust rise after the explosion and cover the Earth, vegetation dies out, the
species go extinct, and it's almost impossible for the larger creatures to
survive. An apology for the technical difficulties.

Now we are back to the exploded planet hypothesis itself. The hypothesis
proposes that there was a former planet, that the asteroids that are found
between Mars and Jupiter are not the result of a planet that never formed,
but rather one that did form and exploded for some reason in the
astronomically recent past. In front of this audience I have to say that
astronomically recent means three million years ago, which the other
astronomers say is shockingly young, and this group would say, "Well, that's
too old to be of interest." My book, by the way, I should mention this,
because if anyone is interested in some of these ideas, there's quite a bit
of material in here on it: Dark Matter, Missing Planets, and New Comets.
This is one of those missing planets, and there is a chapter that is a
synthesis of all the evidence related to the exploded planet hypothesis,
including (as I keep stressing to some of my colleagues) the evidence that
does not fit the hypothesis. One should always do that and show that the
evidence that does work is qualitatively good enough to stand on its own feet
in front of criticism from one's colleagues.

The five evidence categories are comets, asteroids, meteorites, planets and
moons plus some miscelaneous evidence. I'll just mention one item out of
each category, rather than the 20 or 30 given in the book. With comets you
can trace back the orbit of new comets, ones coming straight from the Oort
Cloud, and when you do that they basically coalesce in the inner solar system
about 3.2 million years ago, which is awfully good evidence for such an
origin. From asteroids we didn't know about explosion signatures until we
started launching artificial satellites into Earth orbit, and a few of those
blew up, some accidentally, some deliberately. Astronomers realized that the
orbits of the fragments were not random, but fell into certain patterns that
were the result of their having originated in a common place in space at a
common time. And then someone noticed the asteroids also have these same
explosion signatures. Did that mean they had an explosion origin? Except
for the unpopularity of the idea in general, I think the clear answer is "yes.
" For meteorites there is direct evidence where these are basically
fragments of comets and asteroids that have been recovered on the ground and
analyzed in the laboratory. There is direct evidence of shock, blackening,
partial melting, heavy neutron bombardment and the biproducts of certain
radioactive isotopes. It is obvious they have been exposed to some very
massive explosion. For planets and moons one line of evidence I'll mention is
that there would have been a blast wave spread through the solar system from
this explosion.

What's interesting about the black material that is distributed on many solar
system bodies is that it is distributed just exactly as you would expect from
one single blast wave moving out through the solar system, whereas
astronomers usually assume that on each body there is a different story to
explain the origin of the black material. For example, to take just one case
that was mentioned earlier in last night's presentation, Saturn's outer
satellite, Iapetus. It's unusual among all the satellites in the solar
system, because it takes nearly three months to spin once on its own axis,
whereas the blast wave by the time it gets out from the asteroid belt to
Iapetus is going by in about two weeks. So it was presumably an icy
satellite, and the blast wave only gets it on one side. Well, that is the
unusual thing about Iapetus, it's coal black on one side and icy bright on
the other for reasons that astronomers are often puzzling over unless they
consider the implications of the exploded planet hypothesis. The same
pattern exists on all other solar system bodies.

Miscellaneous category-there is a lot of evidence that leads astronomers to
say there must have been a supernova near the solar system in the last few
million years. There are about ten different lines of evidence for this.
The exploded planet hypothesis is an alternative that doesn't require a
supernova so close that it would have threatened all life in the solar system
as well.

Let me turn briefly to the slides. Let's do two of the slides and then I'll
come back to this. This is an artist's concept of the explosion itself, and
the next one shows comet West. The next one shows a hypothetical collision
between two asteroids. I'll say in a moment why that's relevant to the
hypothesis. Next one shows an artist's concept of the contact double
asteroid Hector, a Trojan asteroid of Jupiter. So I don't have to keep
switching back to the slides, we'll just do the last one, which is an intro.
to the last topic: a spiral galaxy, also an artist's concept. The artist's
slides there were something I haven't got converted to computer format. The
story of the exploded planet hypothesis-I am just going to mention one aspect
of it-where there was an important development this year. It's important
when one has a hypothesis like this to make predictions with it, and, if it's
a good hypothesis, the hypothesis can be put at risk, which you are supposed
to do with your predictions, so that if the prediction is wrong, the
hypothesis is wrong and you don't come back with an explanation why the
prediction failed afterwards. Contrariwise, if the prediction is successful,
it doesn't prove the hypothesis is right, but it does say that it has at
least been useful.

In 1991, I talked to the world experts on asteroids, comets, and meteors in
Flagstaff. I presented the exploded planet evidence, and I said one of the
predictions of this is that all the asteroids are going to be debris clouds,
and when the spacecraft visit the asteroids, they will find satellites. The
chairman of the session from JPL was incredulous at this. As the chairman,
he was on the floor, and he bet me at the discussion period after my talk.
He said, "Tom, I'm going to issue you a challenge. Before the whole
astronomical community I'm going to bet you a case of wine that the Galileo
spacecraft will find no satellites of asteroids." And I said, "Well, Don, I
accept in principle, but I'm a teetotaler." And Don said, "Well, make it a
case of orange juice."

The first approach to an asteroid was Gaspra a couple of years ago. The
antenna on the spacecraft had malfunctioned, so it was unable to send all its
data to the ground. Instead, they just took slices through the picture,
little thin lines to see where the asteroid was in each picture, and then
downloaded just the asteroid to the ground to save the valuable antenna time,
because the pictures were coming in at such a slow rate, just a few bits a
second. That way there could have been satellites all around, and we never
would have known, because we did not download the surrounding space, the
empty space, the stuff they thought was nothing. In the meantime, an
asteroid Toutatis flew by the Earth and was imaged by radar. As you see from
the succession of radar images, it looks very much like a contact binary
object. Then the spacecraft flew by Ida in August, 1993, and we had the same
problem. We only got one picture in 1993. It was selected with this jail
bar method. Then the rest of the pictures were downloaded this April after
they completed the jail bar scan. Well, in the course of the jail bar scan,
something else by chance turned up. We got lucky. I heard rumors back in
March, and I called up my friend at JPL, and I said, "Don, this is Tom Van
Flandern." He started laughing, and I said, "I take it from your laughter,
that the rumors I've heard are true.?" And he said, "I was just saying to
one of the other fellows here at JPL yesterday that it looks like I'm going to
be squeezing some orange juice for Tom Van Flandern." I don't know if you
can see it, but the little, white speck off to the right of asteroid Ida, is
a satellite, 1-1/2 kilometers in diameter, and it was found orbiting the
object in the pictures that came down in March, shown at a press conference
in April announcing this. Here also is a close-up of the satellite greatly
magnified beyond what the resolution of the image will tolerate. Well, I
always remember the quote by friend John Keene, "Sacred cows make the best

Let me turn quickly to my last topic, because I don't want to run over, and I
do have another interesting video to show. That is the question of the Big
Bang itself. I will say at the end also why this ties in. We have already
heard mention of it a few times, but it is another case where my mainstream
colleagues have built mountains on a house of cards, as they say, and things
are not all in order by a long shot. In fact, it's fair to say that with the
flood of new information that has come in, all of the things that we thought
were successful predictions of the Big Bang have now fallen by the wayside,
and there's not one single one left. The most fundamental of the
predictions, the most fundamental basis behind the Big Bang theory that the
whole universe originated in an explosion about 10-15 billion years and has
been expanding ever since, is the red shift of galaxy light. When we look
out in the universe at other galaxies their light is red shifted. We wish to
know if red shift is due to expansion of the universe or whether the universe
is a non expanding entity. Five of the seven tests, I'm not going to go into
details (See the book or the Meta Research Bulletin for details.). Five of
the tests, the results are in. All five tests come out consistent with the
predictions of a non expanding universe. No ands, ifs, or buts, no
adjustable parameters, no ad hoc rationale, they come out consistent with

They've also come out consistent with an expanding universe, because that was
required by the researchers. So when the first test results came out, they
introduced a deceleration parameter to explain that the Hubble constant was
not really a constant as you got out further in the universe. And, then, the
test results were OK. The next result came in, and they introduced a
cosmological constant, an old idea of Einstein's to save the results of that
test. When the third results came in, they needed a galaxy clumping or bias
parameter to fix that up, and so on. And one of the other test results came
in and it needed a deceleration parameter too, but one that was inconsistent
with the deceleration parameter needed by the earlier test. And, finally,
they put in the ultimate fudge factor to fix up all the tests-invisible,
undetectable dark matter.

But the results from the other two test results will be in soon. There is no
set of parameters that satisfy all of the five tests where the results are
already in, and you may have also heard the newest test, which stretches
things even worse where they got new results from Hubble that show that the
universe is even younger than they thought, which causes even more problems
for the age of the largest structures, and evolution problems.

So, if not the Big Bang, then what? I proposed an answer in my book that I
think is a good cosmology. Many other astronomers have joined the game, and
there is no consensus at all for a replacement of the Big Bang, but the Meta
Model in my book has at least the virtue that it derived from first principles
and is deductive and has no ad hoc helper hypotheses. It either, falls or
stays on the basis of its predictions, and, its very simple descriptions of
reality. I think it's very successful in that regard. Others will be the
judge of that, but I just want to say what it tells us about the universe
and, then, switch to the video.

The universe in the Meta Model-and this is not an assumption that goes into it
but a deduction that comes out of it-must be infinite in all three dimensions
of space. It must be infinite in time; that is there will never come a point
when the matter, the substance of the universe, goes out of existence, and,
symmetrically, there is never a point when it suddenly appeared in existence.
It's also infinite in a fifth dimension. This is what sets it apart from
most other cosmologies: it is infinite in scale, the large and the small. So
every atomic nucleus is a universe of ever-smaller stuff including living
beings. Perhaps right now in an atom on this podium there is a group of
people who are listening to a lecture similar to this one about the nature of
the universe. Similarly, on the large scale we are just part of an atom in a
tremendous structure of planets and other entities on an incredibly large
scale, infinitely far up and down. To give you an idea of scale I wanted to
show you the first short video, "Powers of Ten." This is a rather famous


For Velikovskians I would conclude with the note that it's important to be
sure of your own work, and use the methods of scientific method to make sure
that you're not just fooling yourself. And, then, for every one of us there
is a personal decision to be made whether we're looking for recognition or
vindication on the one hand or looking for the truth unconditionally on the
other. This will definitely lead to decisions to be made in how to proceed,
and what to do when one of those tests of a hypothesis, does not come out as
we hope. In the words of Nietzsche, "At times one remains faithful to a
cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid." Don't do as
the mainstream scientists do, do it right. Thank you.

(Question and answer period follows

Quetioner 1: (Question not asked at microphone)

Van Flandern: The exploded planet hypothesis predicts that in the course of
the planet exploding it'll break up into many fragments, each of which will
have a gravitational sphere of influence that will expand as it moves away
from the planet and reach a limit that is ultimately set by the Sun. It traps
all the debris near it that's inside its gravitational sphere of influence.
It traps it permanently. So this predicts that every asteroid is actually
going to be a debris cloud. And likewise for comets. In the mainstream
theory, two-body capture is not permitted under the laws of gravitation and
even with collisions there are a variety of reasons why you can't get
satellites. It's basically the same reason why you can't send something into
orbit around the Earth from an impulse at the ground. If you do, it will be
in an orbit that intersects the ground. You have to have two impulses: one
to get it up to altitude and one to give it angular momentum. So a collision
has the same problem. All the fragments will either escape or come back and
hit the original site. You can't get things into permanent orbit, and even
if you did, tidal forces would bring them down. So the mainstream is quite
sure there cannot be stable asteroid satellites, except maybe one in a
million by freak chance, whereas the exploded planet hypothesis is quite sure
that most asteroids will have them. The second asteroid they went to,
arguably even the first , turned up at least one satellite.

Quetioner 2: Didn't Fred Hoyle in the '50s have a similar theory? I believe
he called it stable universe or something like that, but it was quite the
opposite to the Big Bang theory.

Van Flandern: Steady State.

Quetioner 2: Steady State!

Van Flandern: That is right. Well, there are many people who get credit for
the Steady State Model, but Hoyle is one of the originators. And, in a
manner of speaking, he's also the originator of the Big Bang, because he
suggested the name. He suggested it as a term of derision, but it caught on,
to his frustration. Yes, Hoyle has been a Big Bang opponent longer than
probably anyone still alive. He is currently predicting, according to a
quote in Physics Today, that the Big Bang will be overthrown within three
years. A bit optimistic, I think, but he really thinks that the evidence is
that good, that quickly, we're going to see the revolution that Kuhn speaks
of within three years.

Quetioner 2: ... but the concept of scale was not really that clear. Would
you compare it to holographic imagery, where a large image is really almost a
mirror of the extremely infinitesimal tiny in the holographic array, in your
concept of scale?

Van Flandern: I can say a few more words about it. The question involved the
concept of scale in the Meta Model. When you are deriving a cosmology from
first principles the key is always in what you assume, and it took me 20
years to get rid of all the assumptions that I was making, because at least
one of them was always wrong. Finally, I got back to basically starting with
nothing and introducing one property of substance in an empty universe,
deriving its properties, and so on. Gradually a concept that resembles time
and space began to come out; finally, a concept resembling mass. The first
thing that one encounters thereafter is Xeno's paradoxes. Well, how can
things move if you always go half the distance, and you always have halfway to
go. It takes an infinite number of half the distance steps, and you can
never get there. There is a similar paradox for matter or scale, which is
how can anything ever touch anything if everything is composed of infinitely
smaller stuff. So my fingers are composed of molecules and mostly empty
space, but the molecules are composed of atoms and mostly empty space. When
the atoms touch their nuclei are composed of subatomic particles and mostly
empty space. What ultimately touches if things are infinitely composed?
Conversely, if they are not, you get in all kinds of paradoxes. When you
reason in this way, there seems to be only one way out of that. There was
another article just recently that seemed to come to the same conclusion
that's described in the book of how how you explain Xeno's paradoxes for all
purposes, not just in this cosmology. The one-to-one correspondence shows
that there can be a finite limiteven for an invinite series. Imagine a comet
coming into the solar system and zipping around the sun. It reverses it's
course of direction. The closer it gets to the sun, the more nearly it comes
back on the same line it came in, and then in the limit it acts just as if
it collided, even though it didn't actually. So if there is an infinite range
of particles all the way down and all the way up, then the forces we see
operating at our scale are not special. The four forces of nature that
everybody is trying to unify are simply the forces appropriate to this scale,
but there would be other forces on smaller scales and other forces on larger
scales-all part of an infinite range of forces. We are just trying to unify
the four that we happen to be able to see, a little bit above our size and a
little bit below. There are several more things to be said, but that is a
lengthy question you opened up, and if you're interested in more elaboration
we can talk about it later.

Quetioner3: ...how the abandoning of the velocity reading of red shift does
harm to the Big Bang. Wouldn't this be equally deadly to the Steady State
theory? That's also involved in an expanding universe.

Van Flandern: The question is the effect of abandoning the velocity
interpretation of red shift. If that harms the Big Bang, as it does,
wouldn't it also the Steady State? Yes. The original Steady State, also had
an expanding universe. In the '20's and '30's astronomers could not figure
out any other interpretation than the velocity one that made any sense. But
Hoyle, Arp, and several others have come back with more modern versions of
the Steady State theory, some of which are in non expanding universes.
They're slowly starting to come around to preferring the non-expanding
universe over the expanding one.

Quetioner 4 : Recent news releases have been mentioning that there is a
growing feeling that Shoemaker-Levy is composed of asteroids. The first part
of my question is are you sympathetic to that reading, rather than the dirty
snowball or mudball composition idea?

Van Flandern: OK, the first part of the question is, is Shoemaker-Levy 9 an
asteroid or a comet? This is an issue being debated in the journals right
now. In the exploded planet hypothesis there is no difference. Asteroids
and comets are the same thing, except that comets were thrown out to a greater
distance, so by being away from the Sun for the few million years they
preserved their volatiles, their dust and gas, whereas asteroids have long
since had the dust and gas blown away by solar radiation pressure, because
they're so close to the Sun for millions of years. Other than that there is
no difference. They're both debris clouds, and so when this asteroid/comet
approached Jupiter with all its orbiting debris fragments, some of them almost
as big as the main nucleus, when it approached Jupiter its sphere of
influence shrank down smaller than the size of the orbits of the debris
fragments, so all escaped and trailed out behind or ahead of the main
nucleus. That's inevitable. That's why you see these breakups all over the
solar system whenever some body's sphere of influence shrinks, and why you
see so many double and multiple craters in the solar system, because they are
all really debris clouds.

Quetioner 5: I would like to clarify that. Are you saying that the dust
clouds that we saw were not obscuring a solid nucleus?

Van Flandern: No, there is a solid nucleus there.

Quetioner 5: That's what I'm asking. That solid nucleus would then be
somewhat akin to an asteroid, would it not? ... understands to be an
asteroid in the sense that they could detect the magnesium radicals and OH or
hydroxyl radicals which led them to believe since there was no indication of
water, that there is a possibility or probability that they are solid. The
nuclei are solid. I'm wondering whether you would countenance that

Van Flandern: Yes, definitely solid.

Quetioner 5: That was the first part of my question, now assuming that the
nuclei are solid and that there is debris and dust surrounding the nuclei,
your interpretation then is that they got there through the original process
of explosion. Is that correct?

Van Flandern: Yes.

Quetioner 5: ... they're not essentially shedding.

Van Flandern: Right, 3.2 million years ago the debris cloud was created in
the explosion, and its been gravitationally bound to that nucleus ever since
until it got so close to Jupiter that many of the orbiting fragments
escaped. Also a lot of dust and gas that you see is the result of escape of
material that was stably bound in that system rather than something that came
off the nucleus in some sputtering process.

Quetioner 5: So how do you differentiate between a Shoemaker-Levy and a
typical comet which appears to be shedding material all the time?

Van Flandern: I think there is no distinction, but that's another long story,
and again I have whole chapter on comets and their comparison with asteroids
in the book. We should discuss that, I think, ... later.

Quetioner 6: (Question not asked at microphone)

Van Flandern: Yes, I alluded to that briefly when I showed the picture of the
Great Red Spot. It's traditionally believed to be a hurricane-like storm,
sort of permanent storm in the atmosphere of Jupiter, but the convective
velocity of the wind, the turbulent velocity is on the order of a hundred
kilometers per second. It is very difficult to imagine a stable storm
lasting centuries. I proposed that it is natural that there would be impacts
of large objects into Jupiter's atmosphere. It's happening all the time.
Shoemaker-Levy 9 is an example. Suppose in the past some very large objects,
say Earth-sized, say maybe the core of the exploded planet, whatever,
impacted on Jupiter. I develop the consequences in the book, but it's going
to be different than what you might intuitively expect, because with an
object the size of the Earth entering an atmosphere, even at terrific speed,
going into Jupiter's atmosphere, it takes a long time, in the order of a
couple of minutes, for the shock wave to pass from one side of an Earth sized
body to the other. So you can't get an explosion, which we think of as an
instantaneous thing. Instead you're going to get this thing melting and
fracturing and flattening out as it burrows into the atmosphere, for an
object of this Earth-size. The end state is it would reach a configuration
where it would wind up floating in the atmosphere. It would reach a density
where it is in equilibrium.

Quetioner 6: (Question not asked at microphone)

Van Flandern: No, it would be very flattened out.

Quetioner 7: ... What was the mechanism for the explosion of the planet that
exploded. What is your hypothesis on what caused it?

Van Flandern: The mechanism for the explosion? Back in the '50's, when the
200-year-old exploded planet hypothesis was last in vogue, people were
working on that, and Ramsey came up with a number of ways in which
terrestrial-sized planets could either implode or explode with changes of
state of certain elements in the core of terrestrial-sized planets. Changes
of state means like water turning to ice. There are certain pressure and
temperature conditions where you can have a change of state that results in
spontaneous explosion or implosion. However, Ovenden showed that the parent
of the asteroid belt was apparently a giant-sized planet. He estimates 90
Earth masses or Saturn sized. Nobody has done research on objects in that
medium-sized mass range. People have done lots of papers on explosions of
nova or dwarf stars, but nobody has done explosions of planets, because
nobody thought there was an example of that. So the trick now is to convince
astronomers that the evidence is good enough that research in that area ought
to commence. We know things about Jupiter, for example, that it's emitting
twice as much heat into space as it takes in from the Sun. There is
something going on in the core that we don't understand, and I have some
speculation as I mentioned in the book about what that something could be.
But really the answer is-we don't know.

Quetioner 8: My question essentially is this: if we find over the period of
another few hundred years, they'll be all gone, that no new comets are being
captured by the outer planets or Jupiter, that the comets which are presently
in the solar system tend to be only thrown out or dissipated; what happens to
the thesis? That is, if the comets begin to disappear, and we don't keep in
some way replenishing them, because we have so many inside the solar system,
what happens to the thesis?

Van Flandern: The thesis being the exploding planet hypothesis?

Quetioner 8: The thesis being that these comets were created a long time ago.
Therefore, we should still be over a long period of time capturing enough of
them, circulating them into the center of the solar system. If instead, in a
few hundred years we have fewer comets, no new ones coming in, what do we do

Van Flandern: I should answer in two parts, the mainstream view and the
exploded planet hypothesis view of that. It is believed by mainstream
astronomers that there is this thing called the Oort Cloud, an incredible
concept, but it's what comes out of examining the orbits of comets. It's
because about half of all the new comets we discover turn out to be new to
the planetary region as well, because we can measure their orbits, and we can
trace them back before they reach, say, the orbit of Pluto. We see that when
we trace them back before their encounter with the planets, they're coming
from this incredible distance of about a thousand times Pluto's distance, a
fifth the distance to the nearest star, but from all different directions in
the sky. Half the comets we discover are in this condition. They are coming
from this huge distance. So there must be some reservoir out there, the
reasoning goes. Never mind that the volume of space at that distance is so
large. This is an actual fact-that you could pack all of the stars in all
the galaxies in the visible universe inside it without touching.
Nonetheless, that's what the theory says must be there based on the orbits.
In the exploding planet theory, since comets we are discovering now have been
on their way to the planetary region for millions of years. It's not very
likely that the supply is going to cut off in the next hundred years, because
all these that we found in the last century have been on their way for
millions of years. There surely must be more on their way that are going to
be coming in the next few centuries. In the exploding planet hypothesis this
isn't a Steady State condition. We're seeing, now, comets that have orbits
of 3.2 million years coming in for the first time. A million years ago they
were coming in with periods of 2.2 million years, and a million years from now
the periods will be 4.2 million. We're seeing the rain back from the
explosion, from all directions. So it is quite a difference in

Quetioner 8: We don't capture any stars and bring them into the inner solar
system. That's my point.

Van Flandern: Well, Jupiter does that.

Quetioner 8: Yes, so if we don't find one within the next few hundred years
that is captured and brought into the center of the solar system toward
Jupiter, what happens then? What we have then is a theory without a measure,
what I would use as scientific example that supports it. That's my question.

Van Flandern: I'm not sure I have the essence of it, but I think given the
time constraints here that we should take it up in the discussion period.

Quetioner 9: Has the mechanism for exploding the planet been examined as
possibly nuclear fission within the liquid core of the planet where actinide
could accumulate and become critical?

Van Flandern: There are a couple of papers and literature that discuss the
fission idea. There are some pros and cons to it. Most evidence we have is
from physical examination of meteorites, and we know for example that the R-X
nuclear process was active in whatever it was, and there are some very
interesting short-lived, medium, and long-lived radio isotopes that are found
in meteorites. The bottom line seems to be that it's probably not simple
nuclear fission. The story is more complex than that, but there is a lot more
to that story too. So with the shortage of time why don't we also discuss
that later.

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