The Missing Zinc: Moon Rocks Still Tell Tales
Apollo ended 40 years ago, Neil Armstrong is dead; but lunar geologists are still using the moon rocks they brought home to construct a story of the moon’s “evolution”.
Hit and Run
Science news outlets went “luney” (luna=moon) this week with stories of a new impact hypothesis. If you thought the impact hypothesis was old news, it’s back. Wasn’t it solved years ago with the proposal that a Mars-sized object (it even had a name: “Theia”) hit the Earth to form the Moon? Well, yes and no. In August, PhysOrg revisited the “Lunar Paradox”—
Over the past decades scientists have simulated this process and reproduced many of the properties of the Earth-Moon system; however, these simulations have also given rise to a problem known as the Lunar Paradox: the Moon appears to be made up of material that would not be expected if the current collision theory is correct….
If current theories are to be believed, analyses of the various simulations of the Earth-Theia collision predict that the Moon is mostly made up of material from Theia. However, studying materials from both Earth and the Moon, shows remarkable similarities. In fact, elements found on the Moon show identical isotopic properties to those found on Earth.
That’s too improbable–for an interloper to be that similar. What to do? Idea: envision a faster “hit-and-run” collision that lets Theia’s matter escape, but lets the debris reassemble into the Earth and Moon. Problem solved? Not yet; the author of a paper in Icarus hopes that additional computer simulations “ may finally lead to the long-searched solution of the lunar paradox,” i.e., one that can be “believed”.
Tough Nuts to Crack
Maybe beefing up the simulations with better supercomputers will help. PhysOrg promised on September 17 that “Improved simulation methods help scientists bolster theories of Moon’s formation.” This article began with the sad story of the collapse of all three leading moon-formation scenarios after Apollo brought home the “ground truth”. The giant impact hypothesis saved the day, supposedly. “But this hypothesis also involves discrepancies that still have not been possible to fully resolve to date.” I.e.,
There are lots of tough nuts to crack in the models on the formation of the Moon, for example the fact that the rocks from the surface of the Earth and the Moon have the same isotopic composition. The Moon has a significantly lower density, and the total angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system is high compared to other planets.
Reading the Rocks
Understandably, then, evolutionary geologists were giddy to have something new to talk about this week. Geologists use moon rocks as tea leaves, looking beyond the ingredients to visions of colliding worlds. Zinc is the latest element they use as a divination tool. Science Daily said,
The researchers discovered that the volatile element zinc, which they call “a powerful tracer of the volatile histories of planets,” is severely depleted on the moon, along with most other similar elements. This led them to conclude that a “planetary-scale” evaporation event occurred in the moon’s history, rather than regional evaporation events on smaller scales.
Geochemist James Day of Scripps believes that a huge impact was required to deplete all that zinc on the moon. “You require some kind of wholesale melting event of the moon to provide the heat necessary to evaporate the zinc” and all the other volatiles. The vision became golden as he pondered the missing zinc:
According to Day, a gigantic planetary collision resulting in global transformations might be responsible for eradicating such elements. Day recently led a study in the journal Nature Geoscience that showed how such a collision might have brought precious metals such as gold and platinum to Earth, likely just after the solar system formed.
In accordance with Murphy’s Second Corollary (“Every solution brings new problems”), Day’s vision leaves unexplained why the earth still retained its zinc. That will take further research (keep that NASA funding flowing). Day also wants to divine where earth’s water came from — another long-sought scenario.
Proof or Goof?
PhysOrg had the audacity to claim, in its headline, that the “New study proves Moon was created in massive planetary collision.” As if blushing, the subtitle added, “It’s a big claim, but Washington University in St. Louis planetary scientist Frédéric Moynier says his group has discovered evidence that the Moon was born in a flaming blaze of glory when a body the size of Mars collided with the early Earth.” If a scientist thinks so, that’s proof, right?
Science Daily gave this story two separate articles, one from a a UC San Diego press release honoring home boy James Day, another from a University of Washington at St. Louis press release honoring home boy Frédéric Moynier (complete with smiling portrait and caption that Moynier is a “very special student,” more special than all the students who are special, each one). UW is beaming with pride he made Nature with his psychic vision. “The evidence might not seem all that impressive to a nonscientist,” the press release warned. Scientific shamans have special powers to see flaming blazes of glory in the crystals that might escape the senses of outsiders using only their eyes.
Space.com, and Live Science, naturally, joined the chorus in unison, since their writers and editors are all part of the same disciple group. “Proof of Moon’s Birth in Giant Impact Found in Zinc: Study.” This article, though, added a comment from a scientist outside the study: Denton Ebel of the American Museum of Natural History:
Ebel noted that the isotope study confirms a prediction of the impact theory of the moon’s formation. There are still a lot of questions, though. For example, the moon’s composition is broadly similar to the Earth’s mantle – as the impact theory predicts. But the Earth’s mantle is depleted in potassium, and the moon’s should look the same. It doesn’t.
Update: No sooner had this entry been posted when news media pumped out new, improved models with faster spin and video clips. The impactor was spinning rapidly, New Scientist said, it’s headline alleging that this “settles mystery of moon’s make-up.” Space.com stated, more modestly, “Huge moon-forming collision theory gets new spin.” Nature News claims, “Moon-forming impact theory rescued” by doctoring not only the spin, but the size of the impactor. Murphy’s Second Corollary interfered once again, though: New Scientist noted that the two new models “the very young Earth spinning much faster than was thought possible – resulting in a day lasting just 2.5 hours.” That’s 4 times faster than Jupiter. This also raises a new puzzle of why the Earth spins so slowly now. The modelers were ready: “a known but often-overlooked gravitational interaction between the Moon and the Sun could have drained the spin of a rapidly rotating Earth.” Nature News referred to other models that deliver a moon without as much spin, ending that this is a ” very lively and evolving area” of research. Maybe the modelers feel like they’re playing billiards, because the final sentence was, “The game goes on.”
Robin Canup, the gal who saved Saturn’s rings two years ago by inventing an unseen big moon that slowly wandered in too close and became one with the gas giant (10/7/2010), got a few more minutes of fame in the press with her alternate model. “New Model Reconciles the Moon’s Earth-Like Composition With the Giant Impact Theory of Formation,” Science Daily and PhysOrg both announced, implying the impact theory might have died a natural death without her heroic efforts.
The Science of Lunacy
No worries, though, as long as NASA-funded scientists are working the problem. Diana Lutz, the UW press release author, realized the importance of the moon for stabilizing Earth’s axis:
Without the stabilizing influence of the moon, the Earth would probably be a very different sort of place. Planetary scientists think the Earth would spin more rapidly, days would be shorter, weather more violent, and climate more chaotic and extreme. In fact, it might have been such a harsh world, that it would have been unfit for the evolution of our favorite species: us.
Leave it to evolutionists to save the Earth-Moon system for our evolutionary debut.
Anyone offended at our suggestion that the science news outlets went “luney” with their moon manufacturing models should look at Nature‘s perspective on them (18 Oct), titled, “Galvanized lunacy.” Presumably, like iron, the galvanized form is stronger than regular lunacy. Tim Elliott wrote, “This flurry of recent developments emphasizes a waxing interest in our ever-puzzling satellite.”
It’s not science to be busy. Alchemists were very busy. It’s not science to make models on computers. Economists do that, but still can’t tell us what is going to happen tomorrow. It’s not science to receive government funding. Acorn got that.
It’s only science to the degree a theory gets the world right. The formation of the moon cannot be done with science, because no matter how good the model or “scenario,” no scientist was there to observe it. Eyewitness testimony in such cases is far superior. Science can only guess, and guesses are dependent on assumptions. If the assumptions are wrong, the conclusions can only be correct by accident (the broken clock, right twice a day). Should they hunt for the missing zinc? Maybe it’s missing because it was never there. How would they know?
These “scientists” are all too happy to spend your taxpayer money telling stories that have not gotten the world right for 40 years now. How much more time do they get? Is this perpetual job security? Why not put the money on something that can really help civilization, like finding cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease? The soothsayers can always get a real job, or if their work is so important, find private funding.
The major discoveries in astronomy in the first half of the 20th century, you recall, were funded by Andrew Carnegie, one of those greedy capitalists who supposedly don’t pay their fair share in taxes. The Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations—not the government—donated millions of dollars to public projects including the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories, where Hubble discovered external galaxies and the expanding universe. The Carnegie Institution continues to support science with the remnants of wealth Carnegie earned and gave back. Today’s scientists go apoplectic whenever there is a hint of decrease in government entitlements for their work. Who just launched a balloon and a state-of-the-art space capsule, with command and control center, allowing Felix Baumgartner to break records for highest and fastest free-fall? Red Bull, an energy drink manufacturer! Meanwhile the government is broke to the tune of $16 trillion in debt.
If indeed the moon was designed for life (and the scientists admit the necessity of our moon), then evolutionary scientists are guaranteed to get the world wrong, no matter how close their simulations come to their mythical vision. The long path of lunar formation theories littered with discarded models should be a lesson: it’s one thing to examine a moon rock for what it contains now, but a completely different thing to play shaman and look beyond the rock into a vision of an unobservable history. Shame on ’em.