August 15, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Planets Defy Bottom-Up Assembly

As much as they want to imagine planets forming from dust, secular astronomers run into insurmountable difficulties.

Look at what’s implied in this headline by Rohini Giles on The Conversation: “‘Teenage’ Jupiter may hold the secret of how planets form.” What’s implied? Planet formation is a secret. It is not understood. Here we are, 219 years since Laplace proposed his famous nebular hypothesis, and astronomers still do not understand how planets are constructed from their assumed building blocks, gas and dust. The problem was exacerbated when astronomers were able to detect the first exoplanets (planets around other stars). Giles begins,

In the past 20 years, thousands of planets have been discovered orbiting other stars. Far from resembling families of planets like Earth and its companions, most of these discoveries have made our solar system look like the odd one out.

But now astronomers have announced a new exoplanet that looks surprisingly familiar. The exoplanet, 51 Eridani b, looks a lot like Jupiter – or at least the way we think Jupiter looked when it was much younger. Studying this juvenile version of our familiar neighbour will help us to unlock Jupiter’s past and find out more about the circumstances of its birth.

The rule here proves the exception, the rule being the exceptionalism of Earth. Exoplanetary systems don’t fit the predictions astronomers made when they only had a sample size of one. Giles’ hope that this particular exoplanet will reveal the secret of how planets form rests on tenuous theory:

We know that planets are formed in the circular cloud of dust and gas that surrounds a newborn star, but the precise way in which this happens isn’t well understood. There are two main theories for the formation of gas giant planets: core-accretion, where material gradually clumps together into bigger and bigger pieces, and disc-instability, where there is rapid fragmentation into planet-size chunks as the circular cloud cools.

Astronomers have been debating those two models for years, but still don’t have an answer. Disk instability theory arose largely because of desperation with the problems from core-accretion theory. It was criticized as heretical at the time, but its main proponent, Alan Boss, couldn’t think of an alternative. Giles’ optimism that 51 Eridani b will solve the debate seems premature at best.

Real accretion theory is messy. That is evident from a new paper on Icarus that tries to model it on a computer. Part of the difficulty is the N-body problem—trying to monitor the interactions of many moving parts in software, each with moving gravitational wells. Another problem is dealing with the fact that particles tend to collide and fragment, not stick together. “The present code includes an option of hit-and-run bouncing but not fragmentation, which remains for future work,” they say. But that can make all the difference. If fragmentation prevails, no planets will result.

Consequently, adding more ingredients is not an answer. That’s why a press release from the Royal Astronomical Society is misleading when it says, “Bricks to build an Earth found in every planetary system.” You can’t assemble bricks without mortar. You can put all the building blocks you want around other stars, but it does not follow that they will self-organize into planets when the overwhelming tendency is fragmentation, not accretion.

Computer models can also be misleading. Models, being simplifications of reality, can omit key ingredients or processes. Science Daily reported on work at the University of Chicago that tries to mimic the “early-stage planetary formation process.” The astronomers know that “Single head-on collisions typically do not dissipate enough energy to lead to sticking.” To encourage sticking (accretion), they modeled charged particles, and succeeded in getting granules of an unstated size (presumably very small). They’re omitting the obvious problem that until a granule grows up to the size of a kilometer or more in diameter, it lacks the gravitation to grow further. And since repulsion is just as likely as attraction, the more a granule grows, the more its “building blocks” will be likely to repel each other and prevent further accretion.

More wishful thinking is apparent to the skeptical reader of another hopeful Science Daily piece, “Millimeter-sized stones formed our planet.” The idea here is that the small meteoritic pebbles known as chondrules “are believed to be the original building blocks of the solar system”—believed, that is, by materialists who invent these models. Whether “belief” itself is material is an interesting question. To make asteroids and planets form from chondrules, the team has to cheat by slowing them down in dust clouds as they migrate inward. This trick requires them to believe the planets formed and cleared out the dust before everything got swept into the sun in a “rapid process”.

Astrobiologists, intuitively, are intrigued by water. Their hydrobioscopy habit leads them to think “life!” whenever water is inferred to exist on a planet or moon, even if the water is miles deep under the crust. Science Magazine sprang a leak in that pond with a new constraint on habitability, reported by the Royal Astronomical Society. In “Why water worlds won’t host life,” Nola Taylor Redd explains that more is not better: “Water covering the surface interacts with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in ways that can turn chilly planets frigid and make warm ones even hotter.” Watch hopes evaporate:

Although the results are based on calculations of Earth-sized worlds surrounding sunlike stars, the researchers say the process would be similar for larger worlds and stars. They also say that a similar cycle would take place with other greenhouse gases, such as methane. With such a narrow range for habitability, ocean planets may not make as much of a splash as we thought when it comes to welcoming life.

This effectively narrows the habitable zone. “Earth-sized water worlds are habitable only in a very limited range of temperatures—from about 0°C to 127°C,” according to the calculations. Add another constraint to the habitable zone.

Secular planetary scientists deny Earth exceptionalism, and Darwinians deny human exceptionalism. It’s not surprising that many of them are political liberals who deny American exceptionalism. We should retort by saying that their opinions are not exceptional, either.

Evolutionists are enamored with that phrase “building blocks.” Particles were the building blocks of stars, stars the building blocks of galaxies, dust the building blocks of planets, and chemicals the building blocks of life. Where is the builder? How do they know their building blocks are not debris of collisions? This is an example of the power of suggestion in the words used.



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