Opportunity Favors the Heretic

“.. modern science seems to have exploded into a multitude of highly specialised areas and distinct disciplines that may at times be interconnected, but that by and large ignore one another. There appears to be an overwhelming trend toward a proliferation of distinct and autonomous “subdivisions”. Researchers in different fields often experience great difficulties understanding each other.”
- Etienne Klein & Marc Lachièze-Rey, THE QUEST FOR UNITY – The Adventure of Physics

The Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, is about to begin its voyage of discovery on the surface of Mars. It is an opportunity for heretics to test their expectations in light of the new information pouring in from Mars. Otherwise, interpretations of new discoveries will be fashioned to fit stories created long ago and uncritically disseminated among separate disciplines. For example, astronomers tell geologists that the planets were formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Geologists tell astronomers that craters were formed primarily by impacts of comets, asteroids and meteors. Astronomers tell geologists that there is an invisible reservoir of objects that caused the impacts. Physicists tell geologists that the process of radioactive decay can be trusted as a reliable clock to date rocks. The geologists assure the particle physicists that nothing could have happened in the past to upset these radioactive clocks. Physicists tell astronomers that most of the stable elements which make up the planets and stars were formed primordially in a series of supernova events.

These are all simply stories. Countless facts don’t fit the stories but they are not allowed to spoil the telling. Astronomers have not been able to show theoretically or empirically that the elements came from supernovas or that the planets came from a collapsing nebula. Pointing to evidence of ‘accretion disks’ around some stars simply begs the question. We know from observation that stars can expel matter (which defies gravitational theory). The disks are therefore more likely to be ‘expulsion disks.’ Similarly, geologists have never witnessed a crater formed by cosmic impact. Their attempts to replicate the features of planetary craters by high-velocity impacts or explosions have failed – but the story remains. Products of short-lived radioactive isotopes found in some meteorites contradict the 4.5 billion year story. The elements that would have formed primordially in supernovas don’t match the elements found on solar system bodies. Supernovas are rare events that disperse matter.

The resulting rickety edifice of fact and fiction is sold under the name of planetary science. Like the game in which a story is made up by adding disconnected sentences together, it does not make much sense and no one can predict where it is leading. In this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ environment each new discovery must be a surprise. Then the story is simply amended, not rewritten. It clearly demonstrates the dysfunctional nature of over-specialized science.

The only recourse in this situation is to return to the empirical approach to science – that is, to work from the observable present back through time as far as reliable information can be extracted and to undertake laboratory experiments to test ideas. Do not assume old gravito-mechanical theories are relevant in a plasma universe. Accept that theorists do not understand gravity, or electrical effects in plasma. Unfortunately, to take this approach in the age of the theoretician and computer modeller is to brand oneself a heretic.

From Astrobiology Magazine come the following report excerpts:

Depth to Bedrock, Zero
by Astrobiology Magazine staffwriter

The first impression of the Opportunity landing site in color is the light, exposed area about ten meters from the rover’s location inside a crater. The region has by now accumulated a plethora of adjectives and names: bizarre, alien, hummocky, layered, crater-rim, outcrop, stratigraphic slice, tabular, segmented, slabby.

But what has scientists most intrigued is that the slabs are bedrock. Bedrock is the solid, intact part of the planet’s crust. ..To find bedrock is to know geologically that the history of this location is free from rock and boulder transport, mainly by wind, water, lava and impact debris. Whatever happened on Mars over billions of years, that hummocky slab bears its records.

Martian rocky landscape from Opportunity

Outcrop about 10 meters from the rover's landing spot. The vertical slices of segmented bedrock may offer geologists a layered record of past Martian epochs. Credit:NASA/JPL


The assumptions in the assured statements above are manifold. All we have is a terrestrial theory of how planetary crusts are formed that glosses over many questions and anomalies. Sediments accumulated by the action of wind and water are supposed to account for a great deal of the stratification seen on Earth. Patches visible in the layers of the Martian rocks appear to contain pebbles and other small stones. So scientists argue by analogy that the Martian layers could have formed in water. Drifting volcanic ash or wind-borne sediments also could have built up the thin layers. However, the great depths of layered material (up to 9 km in Valles Marineris) found on Mars, a desert planet with little atmosphere, must call into question conventional ideas about the origin of sedimentary material and its metamorphism into layered rock. The Moon and some asteroids, where wind and water never existed, also show evidence of layering. Back on Earth, many mineral deposits defy orthodox explanations.

It is bold speculation that “..the history of this location is free from rock and boulder transport, mainly by wind, water, lava and impact debris.” and that “whatever happened on Mars over billions of years, that hummocky slab bears its records.” We live in the space age now. We must look beyond a terrestrial model for the formation of planetary surfaces, including the surface of our own planet, Earth.

The Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, landed in a 20 meter wide crater in Planum Meridiani. The surrounding region has some of the most spectacular etched surfaces seen on Mars. Just east of Terra Meridiani is a 470-km diameter circular depression known as Schiaparelli Basin. In June 2003 Mars Global Surveyor imaged a small crater in that Basin that exhibits most of the strange Martian features that challenge geologists when using terrestrial analogies. If we can explain those features simply and coherently it should help us to understand the exposed bedrock that Opportunity is about to investigate.

Schiaparelli crater

Official caption: Schiaparelli sedimentary rocks. Some of the most important high resolution imaging results of the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) experiment center on discoveries about the presence and nature of the sedimentary rock record on Mars. This old meteor impact crater in northwestern Schiaparelli Basin exhibits a spectacular view of layered, sedimentary rock. The 2.3 kilometer (1.4 miles) wide crater may have once been completely filled with sediment; the material was later eroded to its present form. Dozens of layers of similar thickness and physical properties are now expressed in a wedding cake-like stack in the middle of the crater. Sunlight illuminating the scene from the left shows that the circle, or mesa top, at the middle of the crater stands higher than the other stair-stepped layers. The uniform physical properties and bedding of these layers might indicate that they were originally deposited in a lake (it is possible that the crater was at the bottom of a much larger lake, filling Schiaparelli Basin); alternatively, the layers were deposited by settling out of the atmosphere in a dry environment. This picture was acquired on June 3, 2003, and is located near 0.9°S, 346.2°W. NASA/JPL

Sorry, the explanation above just doesn’t hold water. It is a series of ad hoc mechanisms linked together with ‘may’ and ‘might.’ To begin, it is baldly stated that the feature is an ‘old meteor impact crater.’ That is an opinion, not a fact. The floor of an impact crater is supposed to be formed of shattered rock. This crater floor is layered rock. So the crater ‘may have once been completely filled with sediment’ – or else the assumption is mistaken. Regular, episodic sedimentation is called upon to produce such even layering. Some method of cementation is also required to form each distinct layer. Whatever happened had to have repeated more than 20 times with precision to give such a regular appearance. Finally, ‘the material was ..eroded to its present form.’ We should like to know how that miracle was performed. Neither wind nor water moving across the landscape could produce the circular symmetry seen here. And it does not attempt to explain the strange landscape surrounding the crater.

There is a better explanation. In an electric universe, surfaces and atmospheres of rocky planets are exchanged in the process of their electrical ‘birth’ from a gas giant planet and in subsequent electrical interactions with other moons and planets in the process of achieving a stable orbit. Both Jupiter and Saturn have moons that would be classified as planets if they orbited the Sun. Saturn’s moon, Titan, has an atmosphere heavier than Earth’s. Later this year, when the Cassini spacecraft and Huygens probe arrive to observe it first-hand, Titan may have much to teach us about a planet that didn’t manage to leave home.

The birth of planets by expulsion, followed by accretion of the ‘afterbirth,’ leaves significant scars and layering on their surfaces, as does establishing a stable planetary orbit. Orbital dynamics tells us that two planets, which began in close association, will come together again at regular intervals. This would make the process of electrical deposition and erosion between the planets episodic and regular for a short time (geologically speaking). The result is a global ‘onion skin’ build up of crustal materials together with various erratic mineral deposits. Superimposed are the effects of electrical erosion that occurs only upon the closest approaches between two planets (the same electrical forces that caused the initial expulsion preclude impacts). Electrical erosion tends to be concentrated hemispherically because of the short duration of closest approach. It also leaves the most dramatic scars. They take characteristic forms of circular craters (universally mistaken for impact craters), raised blisters (often mistaken for volcanoes), sinuous channels (usually mistaken for water or lava erosion channels), and etched or ‘fretted terrain’ (no conventional explanation).

The crater above can be explained simply by using the electric universe model. The layering predated the crater. The crater is electrical, not impact. The so-called erosion was an integral part of the formation of the crater, caused by rotating Birkeland filaments. Birkeland filaments twist in pairs to form a rope-like Birkeland current. It is the form in which electrical energy is transported across the cosmos. The current density is highest in the Birkeland filaments themselves so the erosion rate falls off toward their center of rotation – the center of the crater. The result, in the sedimentary layers, is a neatly terraced central peak, the untouched remains of previously existing sedimentary layers.

A note in passing: the small circular craters on the eastern lip of the large crater illustrate a recurring pattern in electrical cratering. Lightning is attracted to high points so subsequent discharges will tend to form craters centered on the rim of an existing crater. It is a pattern that is inexplicable by impacts. Also, in the upper right side of the image are some typical electrically etched, or “fretted” depressions with the circular ‘cookie cutter’ effect in the walls produced by cathode arcs. It is a pattern that the Galileo orbiter saw being formed on Jupiter’s electrically active moon, Io.

But that is not all that we can glean from this remarkable image. There is a procession of linear ridges running approximately north-south. They are given a feathered appearance by myriad short orthogonal ridges. The electrical explanation is simple. All of the ridges are soil metamorphosed and hardened by lightning coursing just below the surface. On Earth they would be classed as fulgurites. The north-south ridges show the direction of the global electric field that gave rise to the lightning. The stubby orthogonal ridges are the result of the corona discharges feeding the main lightning channels. The entire area then seems to have been electrostatically “cleaned” or etched free of loose soil, exposing the ridges of metamorphosed rock. Since the electric field was predominantly horizontal, the pattern shows the usual disregard for topography. The pattern can be traced down into the crater, up across the central peak and out the other side.

Returning to the Mars Rover, Opportunity, we can see that it is sitting in a small electrically etched crater and the exposed ‘bedrock’ will be layered and show signs of modification by an electric arc. The vertical faces of some of the exposed rocks look as if they were cut. The kinds of things to watch for are pitting, surface glassification or a burnt appearance, damage caused by the explosive release of trapped gases, shock metamorphism, and isotopic and elemental anomalies. A few of these characteristics can also be produced by an impact explosion. However, these rocks are layered, not shattered. One thing to look for, if shocked crystals are found and their orientation determined, is the direction from which the blast originated. Electrical cratering has a blast center that moves below ground and around the crater’s center. An impact has a stationary blast center above ground that coincides with the crater’s center. An example on Earth of shocked minerals oriented to a subterranean moving blast center can be found in the giant Vredefort Dome structure in South Africa.

The report continues:

The rover will look at the fine soil nearby, in hopes of finding out why this particular region is rare on Mars in being rich with iron-oxides. The surface soil’s top layer is grey, much more grey than anything seen on Mars before. On the surface, Meridiani is the darkest color yet visited. But this dark layer gave way when the airbags were retracted revealing a deep maroon layer underneath. Steve Squyres [principal investigator for rover science] described the competing theories as either “we have soil with two distinct components of coarse, grey grains on top of fine red soil–or we have aggregates that are grey but when squished, the red comes out.”

Since orbital images of the landing area shows three distinct color gradations, a first guess is that once outside this crater, the view will suddenly change to what is expected to be lighter colored soil. The brightest areas seen orbitally are the crater rims, followed by the flat plains, then the darkest interior to the craters, where Opportunity now is snapping charcoal-grey scenery. Since the horizon’s range is mainly restricted to 10 meters for now, once outside this crater the startling picture of a dark grey Mars will likely change yet again.

Hematite distribution in Sinus Meridiani

Hematite distribution in Sinus Meridiani, where Opportunity is located.


Comment: Researchers think the hematite could have formed on Mars by thermal oxidation of iron-rich volcanic eruptive products during eruption or it could have formed by chemical precipitation when iron-rich water circulated through the pre-existing layers of volcanic ash. No volcano has been identified as a possible source and the pattern does not look like wind-blown fallout. And why is hematite concentrated in this one small region on Mars?

The Nobel nominee, the late Prof. Louis Kervran, had heretical views on the low-energy transmutation of common elements to form anomalous mineral deposits. He wrote:

“There is no need to look for iron’s origin in the centre of our planet; it is a “surface formation” at the level of the earth’s crust. There is no connection between the core and the mineral strata; but all the classical theories speak of “concentration,” of water-borne materials, of hydrothermal eruptions and of deposits. Even if all of this is accepted, these theories presuppose the existence of iron accumulated in certain locations. Therefore the iron existed but where did it come from?”

Without necessarily subscribing to Kervran’s ideas about the origin of the earthly iron deposits, powerful electric discharges through other common elements, like carbon and oxygen, can form iron deposits. “On the surface, and often at a certain depth, superficial alterations have transformed the carbonate into a pure hematite, a formation difficult to explain since a mere ordinary and superficial alteration should give limonite [hydrated iron oxides] and not hematite,” says F. Blondel. [Chronique des Mines Coloniales, Sept. 1955.] He goes on to say, “The hematite production on the surface is not well-clarified.”

I suggest that water played no part in the Martian hematite deposition. The splash of iron oxides on this part of Mars is best explained as a recent exogenous deposit. It is recent in the sense that the deposit seems to have buried the fields of boulders strewn across the planet by the earlier electrical event that scoured Valles Marineris. The outlines of the distribution pattern shown above conform to that of other electrically etched surfaces, notably the ‘calderas’ on Io. The pattern need not be related to topography as we should expect if a lake were involved.

The dark grey surface inside the small crater is probably an electrically modified version of the deep maroon soil underneath, itself a fine-grained hematite deposit. The most likely modification would be physical, in some form of melting and glassification of the hematite. That effect was seen by Apollo astronauts in the soil and centers of small craters on the Moon. Next would be a heat induced chemical change, possibly to metallic iron. It is also possible for surface ion implantation to occur, with hydrogen being the most likely atomic addition. Or it may show evidence of nuclear transmutations – after the manner of Kervran. The combination of possibilities allowed in the electrical scenario is so diverse that it is difficult to predict precisely what will be found. However, it is probable that the surface has undergone a change from the soil beneath requiring a source of energy not to be found today on Mars.

On descent, a crater was imaged near Opportunity’s landing site. It shows clearly the dark crater floor and lighter surrounding surface. Squyres said the science team “looks to ‘head for the big one’ – a 150 meter wide crater, probably 10-15 meters deep at least and about half-a-mile away. The bright rim of that crater may well be another remnant of bedrock or something different altogether.”

Descent image of 150m crater on Mars

Descent image (DIMES) of the 150 m wide crater likely to be an important science target. Credit:NASA/JPL/EDL Team

The larger crater should show more evident signs of electrical activity than the modest crater Opportunity finds itself in. The heretics welcome Opportunity and wish it success!

“Thus the task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has thought, about that which everybody sees.”
- Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961)

Wal Thornhill

Print this page

This entry was posted in EU Views. Bookmark the permalink.