July 17, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Lunar Mysteries Plague Materialist Theories 50 Years After Apollo

Apollo was supposed to decide between 3 competing theories for the moon’s origin. Conclusion: all 3 were wrong.

The last Apollo mission left scientists with many questions. Artwork by Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut.

In the 1960s, there were three competing theories for how the moon formed: (1) it spun off the Earth (fission theory), (2) it formed at the same time as Earth (co-formation theory), or (3) it was captured by the Earth (capture theory). Now, most planetary scientists reject all three theories in favor of the Giant Impact theory. Sometime in unseen history, they allege, a Mars-sized body impacted the Earth and spun off material that formed the moon. This theory became popular around 2000, decades after Apollo, although some simulations suggested it around 1980. In some versions, the impactor brought water to the Earth, creating our oceans.

It may be the most popular idea, but the Giant Impact theory is not without huge problems of its own. For one, an impactor would have to be just the right size, and would have to approach the Earth at a finely-tuned speed, angle and position in order to work. Otherwise, it would either speed by the Earth, merge with it, or obliterate it. Computer models can be intelligently designed to achieve the desired result, but how realistic are they? That’s only one of many mysteries for those wishing to limit their explanatory toolkit to the Stuff Happens Law (i.e., chance). Even so, they will admit that we were awfully lucky to have a moon, because without it, we would not be here.

Lucky Break?

Other than Pluto (which is lifeless), no other planet in our solar system has a moon as relatively large as ours. Because of its size and distance from Earth, our moon gives us at least three outstanding benefits. It stabilizes our axis of rotation, giving us reliable seasons so that solar heat is distributed efficiently around the globe in a predictable way. It is the main contributor to ocean tides that cleanse our coastlines and create oceanic currents used by marine life and by sailors. It also creates ideal conditions for solar eclipses—unique phenomena among all the bodies in the solar system—which are not only awesome to behold but also provide unique opportunities for scientific discovery (see The Privileged Planet book and film; the documentary can be watched on YouTube).

Many see these benefits as indicators of intelligent design and foresight. Secular scientists, preferring to remain materialists, just say we are lucky. But accounting for the moon by sheer dumb luck doesn’t help science. It actually creates more problems that remain baffling 50 years after Apollo was supposed to solve them.

Earth Has WAY More Gold Than the Moon and Here’s Why (Space.com). There are two problems emerging from low lunar quantities of gold and other siderophile (iron-loving) elements: (a) The debris from the Giant Impact should have spread these elements to both the Earth and Moon equally, and (b) The Earth’s abundances should have sunk into the core, but are largely at the surface. How do secularists explain these facts? The article invokes several theory-rescue devices to get around the problems. For one, they allege that these elements arrived later by asteroids. Then why didn’t the moon get them, too? For the next rescue device, they allege that the Earth, with its higher gravity, was better at holding onto its siderophiles than the moon was.

“This has been a major problem in terms of how we understand the moon’s accretion history,” Qing-zhu Yin, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis, said in a statement.

See also the press release from UC Davis that includes Qing-zhu Yin’s boast,

Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon. Artwork by Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut. Used by permission.

Reconstructing the late-accretion history of the Moon (Nature). Here’s the paper for the above article. Calling on Lady Luck, it models “random impactors” coming in to bring Earth’s gold special delivery after the moon had formed. They first state the problems facing theorists:

The importance of highly siderophile elements (HSEs; namely, gold, iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium and ruthenium) in tracking the late accretion stages of planetary formation has long been recognized. However, the precise nature of the Moon’s accretional history remains enigmatic. There is a substantial mismatch in the HSE budgets of the Earth and the Moon, with the Earth seeming to have accreted disproportionally more HSEs than the Moon. Several scenarios have been proposed to explain this conundrum, including the delivery of HSEs to the Earth by a few big impactors, the accretion of pebble-sized objects on dynamically cold orbits that enhanced the Earth’s gravitational focusing factor, and the ‘sawtooth’ impact model, with its much reduced impact flux before about 4.10 billion years ago. However, most of these models assume a high impactor-retention ratio (the fraction of impactor mass retained on the target) for the Moon.

And thus they go, weaving new scenarios they hope will work. They tweak their models by adjusting the size of the impactors, their arrival times and other knobs, then run a “Monte Carlo simulation” (more Lady Luck) that tapers off to get the results they want. “The combination of a low impactor-retention ratio and a late retention of HSEs in the lunar mantle provides a realistic explanation for the apparent deficit of the Moon’s late-accreted mass relative to that of the Earth,” they boast. The boasting will probably last until the next critic comes along. Qing-zhu Yin actually admits this: ““The beauty of this work is such that all of these things are now coming together nicely. We may have solved this problem, at least until someone find [sic] new discrepancies!” Yin said in a press release from UC Davis.

Note: no actual observations were conducted outside the computer. They use various forms of the word assume (assuming, assumption) 33 times, usually in the form, “we assume.”

Tomorrow, we will look at more “lunar tunes” coming from the Stuff Happens crowd.



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