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Planetary Eruptions

Eruptions can come in two types: literal and figurative. Some planetary bodies are literally erupting. Others are causing figurative eruptions in theories. Here are some recent news stories about planets, moons, comets and other objects circling our sun and other stars. There hasn’t been much news from Mercury or Venus this month, so we’ll start on the home planet and work outward.

OOLs for Evolution

Soviet communists may or may not have needed Rules for Revolution, but Darwinists, without doubt, need OOLs for Evolution: i.e., origin-of-life scenarios. Obviously, Darwinian evolution won’t get past square one without a self-replicating system complex enough to call “life” in place. Whether or not a given evolutionist is a Marxist materialist or a theistic Darwinist, OOL is a key link in the naturalistic dream of an unbroken chain of natural causes from big bang to man. It’s proving a tough link to find.

Wrong Again: Planetologists Embarrassed

In most careers, being wrong too often is grounds for dismissal. False prophets in ancient kingdoms were stoned or shamed out of town. Only in science, it seems, can experts consistently get it wrong, and not only keep their jobs, but be highly esteemed as experts. Among the guiltiest of the lot are planetary scientists, whose predictions have been consistently wrong for almost every planetary body studied since the dawn of the space age. Their orbital mechanics is solid; they do get their spacecraft to arrive at the right place at the right time with uncanny accuracy. But what the missions reveal is often completely different from what scientists had told the public they expected to find. This has been true of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, comets, asteroids, and most of the moons of the solar system, where hasty revisions have had to be made after spacecraft data falsified the predictions. Here are some recent examples of “theory fail” in planetary science.

Mars as Anomalous Runt

The Mars rover Spirit is now dead in its tracks, but the planet under it continues to rumble, in theoretical overhauls and anomalies. Mars has been much on the mind of news reporters this week after a new paper speculated that the red planet grew up fast and then stopped as a runt.

Earth Still Privileged Planet

Astronomers have found over a thousand extrasolar planets now. How does our solar system compare? Thanks to the Kepler spacecraft, we now have a catalog of 1,235 alien planet candidates after just four months of operation. Of the 408 that have been found in multiple-planet systems, 170 of these containing two to six planets have been pictured in a “Kepler Orrery” posted by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The press release says, “most of those look very different than our solar system”.

Eye on Io

Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io continues to erupt, its heat flowing into science journals.  Planetary scientists are mapping its surface and devising new ideas about what drives its activity.     A paper in Icarus presented a new global geologic map of Io’s surface.1  The most common feature is plains (65.8%), followed by lava flow fields […]

Science Out of Touch

When science became a profession instead of an avocation, there were some unintended consequences.  Scientists began to lose touch with the public.  When a scientist goes to work doing science for a living, he or she sometimes takes public support for granted, thinking the work is justified for its own sake.  Recent articles, however, warn […]

Saturn’s Titan Is Changing

The giant smog-shrouded moon of Saturn, Titan, is changing – both in situ and in the minds of planetary scientists.  Several news stories show not only dynamic processes in play, but revolutions in what scientists think about the moon and its history.  Readers will need to determine which ideas are solidly based on observational evidence. […]

SETI in Reverse

The SETI Institute has had to close down its search with the Allen Telescope Array (08/12/2010) due to lack of funds.  But while incoming messages might be missed, outgoing messages are still en route.  The Voyager record is approaching interstellar space.     PhysOrg, Live Science and the BBC News all told about the budget […]

Upsets in Space

Three different astronomy teams have announced findings that upset long-held beliefs.  What does this portend about the confidence we can have in other theories? Galaxy growth: direct challenge:  “Galaxies are thought to develop by the gravitational attraction between and merger of smaller ‘sub-galaxies’, a process that standard cosmological ideas suggest should be ongoing,” announced the […]

More Youth on Titan

Hopes that Saturn’s giant moon Titan might have volcanoes just dropped.  A new paper in Icarus1 concludes Titan gets its geology from the outside, not the inside.  If confirmed, it implies all the surface features were created by wind, impacts and weather – not by active geology.  The hopeful cryovolcano announced last year (Sotra Facula, […]

Poison Comets Brought Life to Earth

You don’t drink formaldehyde; you stick dead things in it.  Why on earth would some evolutionists claim that “Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life?”  That’s exactly a headline on Science Daily and PhysOrg, with Live Science chiming in that the poisonous chemical has been “linked” to the origin of life […]

Assuming Reality: Can Crater Dating Be Tested?

Two astronomers in Paris have come up with a new crater chronology for the moon and offered it as a way to date other objects in the inner solar system.  Their paper in Icarus,1 however, assumes so many unobservable things, the reader may wonder if it talks about the true history of the moon or […]

Imagining Worlds: Is It Science?

An entry on Space.com is almost pure speculation with no observation.  Does it belong on a science news site?     Reporter Clara Moskowitz gave Viorel Badescu [Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania] free rein to imagine life on free-floating planets (FFPs) – bodies wandering free in space after being abandoned, like wayward children, from their […]

It’s Raining Methane on Titan’s Dunes

Imagine a world where it rains liquid natural gas.  That world is Titan, the Mercury-sized moon of Saturn.  In Science this week,1 Cassini scientists reported large equatorial clouds over Titan’s vast dune fields, and a darkening of the surface after an apparent cloudburst.  Since only hydrocarbons can be liquid at the temperatures there, and methane […]
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