THE CASE OF THE MISSING WATER ON MARS
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
"I think I found a connection between the missing water on Mars and the expansion of the universe."
"No kidding?" I replied absent mindedly. My partner was always coming up with wacky ideas.
"You're not interested?"
We were having lunch in a restaurant in Pasadena. "What was that? The missing water on Mars is connected to the expansion of the universe. That seems like quite a stretch." If that was a pun it wasn't intended.
"I know. But as soon as I found out about that stuff on Mars a lot of stuff became clear."
"You know. The canyons, the mountains, the water. That stuff."
One time he 'discovered the origin of the universe.'
"What if," he asked back then, "when astronomers observe black holes they are witnessing the creation of matter and not the obliteration?"
"Huh," I replied. We had three mutual interests: astronomy, bridge and the stock market. We met at astronomy seminars, became partners at bridge and got rich in the stock market. But that didn't make him any less wacky.
"How else," he continued, "can you explain the radial arms in galaxies?"
"What about the Big Bang Theory?"
"That was nonsense from the beginning. I call mine the Multiple Creation Theory. They will find a black hole at the center of every galaxy. Some inactive. They will find first generation stars on the edge of galaxies to be billions of years older that first generation near the center. That will be the proof. Also, colliding galaxies are a myth and can never happen. What they see are two competing black holes in close proximity."
See how wacky he is? So I asked him the killer question. "If black holes create everything, where do black holes and all that matter come from?"
He has this laugh. He calls it uninhibited. Some call it insane. Anyway, that's what he does now, comes out with that wacky laugh. Then he says, "What do I look like? A scientist? I just say what's happening. Let them explain. They always do. That's their job."
So that was his creation theory. And now he has an expansion theory. We were between sessions of a regional tournament. We'd won the morning session with more that seventy per cent and had two hours to kill before the evening session. He may have been wacky, but wacky people are seldom boring. So I said, "Tell about Mars and the universe."
"I have to start with earth. The best evidence is here. You ever study a global map of earth? I mean really study one?"
"Those maps on a big ball? I've looked at them. I've never really studied one."
"I studied them a bit. Not a lifetime but a bit I thought it was obvious that many of the continents were at one time connected. It was like a jigsaw puzzle for the mentally challenged. The fit was obvious.
"There was no challenge there so I went on to other things. Later I read about the tectonics plate theories and how they theorized that there was a super continent on one side of the earth and that there was a split and a continental shift and the tectonic plates and blah, blah, blah.
"You have to understand the scientific community to understand why no one stood up to that silliness. Scientists run in packs most similar to the wild dogs of Africa. When they endorse a theory, they have a vested interest in that theory and anyone who tries to denigrate it is considered a threat to their food source and is ferociously attacked. The pack is very democratic in the sense that the majority rules, but minorities are killed off if possible or otherwise disposed of."
"You digress," I told him. He was totally undisciplined. He once came up with a plan to damn narrow inlets to tidal basins. The electricity generated would far exceed thousands of wind generators, he claimed, and be much cheaper and just as polution free. Luckily, he was stopped by environmentalists who saw that sea creatures would be denied passage through the inlets. "Get back on track," I told him. "Remember Mars and water?"
"I'm getting there. I had no confidence in the lopsided, wobbling earth theory, with all the land mass over on one side. So if you discard that silliness, what are you left with?"
"I don't know." He was just the same at bridge, but there he acknowledged his wackiness. He'd say to me, "You remain disciplined. Let me be the wild one. If you do that, we'll kill 'em." And that's what happened. We were in a national tournament once where the same hands were played across the country. In one hand I opened with two hearts which meant I had a weak hand but might be able to take a few heart tricks. The next guy doubles which meant he had a strong hand and support for the other suits. My wacky partner thinks for maybe two seconds before he jumps to seven clubs. Of course he gets doubled, this time for penalties. We go down three, not vulnerable. They miss a grand slam, vulnerable. We lose five hundred points which is one of the best scores in the country. With the other cards, even the bad players scored a game in spades with overtricks which is around seven hundred points. I truly felt sorry for our opponents because they had one of the worst scores in the country. But what can you do when some nut goes to seven on his first bid?
"What are you left with?" I asked, returning to his subject.
"When was the earth formed? Seven billion years ago?"
"More or less in that area some say. Some say maybe half that."
"Close enough. Lord knows this isn't an exact science. When the earth first formed it was half the diameter as now, not because a lot more matter came but because it was more dense. Picture a rubber ball compressed to half its normal diameter."
"Okay. But are you saying the earth was compressed? What could cause that?"
"At first I thought it was the multiple hits from space. You know, the continuous bang, bang, bang on the surface pushing everything inward. But then came The Case Of The Missing Water On Mars." The caps are mine of course, but that's what he made it sound like.
"From when it was first formed, the earth has been expanding an average of one or two millimeters a year in diameter. That doesn't sound like much but one millimeter for seven billion years is over four thousand miles."
He looked at me expecting a comment but I just stared at my jello with the fruit inside.
"After a billion years or so the earth's crust started to harden. Up until then it was pretty much in a molten state enveloped in gas. After all, it had been created from an exploding star."
I found a candied cherry in my jello so it was okay to chew. I never knew if you were supposed to chew jello.
"The crust that formed had pretty much the same area as all the continents today, but covered all the surface of the earth. Water was still in the gaseous state. What are oceans today didn't exist."
I went on chewing my jello even when there wasn't fruit in it. How could anyone know there wasn't any fruit in my mouth?
"Until the crust formed the pressure from the inside made no difference. The crust began to resist the pressure. Suddenly... well not suddenly, but over gillions of years..."
"What's a gillion?"
"Just seeing if you're listening. Over lots of years..."
"A gillion means lots?"
"Yes. Over lots of years the pressure from inside would find weak spots in the crust. Mountains were pushed out. In its molten state the earth was relatively featureless. Most important, the brittle crust was split at its weakest areas. That was the beginning of the continents as we know them. The earth cooled enough that some water liquefied and filled the huge canyons left by the splits in the crust. Eventually more water liquefied while the earth was so small that it was covered almost entirely by water. That was probably when life began."
"And when was that precisely?"
"Gillions of years ago."
"But the pressure outward continued. The splits between the continents grew but the land area, being pushed out, reclaimed land from the water. To make a long story short, this evolution is still going on today. Every earthquake, every volcano, these are caused by outward pressure from inside the earth."
"One millimeter a year."
"One or two, yes."
"And you're talking diameter. So if it's two millimeter expansion, it would be only one millimeter on all surfaces."
"In a year."
"How could you prove something like that?"
"Where's the proof on the Big Bang Theory? Where's the proof of the lopsided earth? Let me ask you a question. Volcanoes spew out huge mountains and even larger islands. Shouldn't that leave a void or depression? Where's the void?"
"I've never heard of one," I had to confess. "You mean the land area of the continents are increasing even as we speak?"
"Absolutely. By one or two millimeters a year."
"Okay. What has this to do with the water on mars?"
"That was the ray of light on this whole thing. It's obvious that Mars is expanding the same as earth. How else to explain the huge canyons and the unseemly high mountains? These were caused by outward pressures from the core seeking the weakest areas in the crust. Ah! But the water. I loved the water, the missing water."
His eyes glazed over. He was somewhere else, in a different plane.
"They tried to explain it," he mumbled. "The scientists. It was in the polar caps. It was beneath the surface. What nonsense. Scientists can only work with givens. If they had any imagination thay couldn't be scientists. There's a law. There's a test on imagination. If they pass it they are forever forbidden to work in science. There are imagination police..."
I shook his shoulder to bring him back to reality.
"What?" he asked, his eyes back in focus.
"You were wandering. You had been talking about the water on mars."
"Ah," he said. "How I love that water..."
"Don't start again. Get on with it." I must admit he had won my interest. I knew he was wacky but there was a question of just how far out he was going to be I had never seen him so emotional.
"Mars can sometimes serve as a laboratory for earth. It is so much smaller that things can happen there that don't happen here, although everything else is directly parallel. Now what happened there that didn't happen here?"
"Duh. The water is gone." I can play the stooge as well as the next man.
"Not only that but I'd be willing to bet a lot of the atmonphere is gone also. There's not much evidence of that so let's stick with the missing water. And what's the main difference between the two planets that could have caused that?"
I was getting irritated. "Don't make this a test. I hate tests." Some people thought he was the dominate partner in our relationship but I held the trump card of all trump cards. I bailed us out of the stock market at the tech high and got us into CDs. Two years later I bought us ten discredited tech stocks, some for under a dollar. Seven of the ten didn't move but three went through the roof and made us both very rich. Now that's a trump card.
"No more tests," I told him.
"The answer is gravity. The situation on the two planets is roughly parallel except for the difference in gravity."
"Yeah. So?""Don't you get it? That's our lab experiment. If the only difference is gravity, then gravity is the answer. Gravity is the answer to everything. The expansion of the earth is not due to early compression and gradual decompression. It is due to the gradual reduction of gravity. The loss of water and perhaps atmosphere of Mars is due to the lessening of gravity. The water would get into a gaseous state and be pulled away by the three neighboring giants: Jupiter, earth and the sun. Poor little Mars didn't have a chance once it lost some gravity."
"Why does gravity diminish? Where does it go?"
I shouldn't have asked that question because here came that crazy laugh again. Everyone in the restaurant froze and looke our way. Talk about a mismatched pair. I worried that people might see me chewing jello. He didn't give a thought about laughing like a hyena in the middle of a restaurant. We were both retired engineers, but there wasn't much similarity there. I was civil and he was mechanical. The twain there never met.
He stopped laughing and, of course, said, "Let the scientists figure it out. Just tell them what happened and they will come up with an explanation for it." He then mimicked a once popular, now dead, Chicano comic. "Thass not my chob."
That was a good way out for a lot of things. Then I remembered something else. "Wait a minute. You said there was a connection between the missing water and the expansion of the universe. Remember?"
"Yeah," he said quietly. He looked me in the eye, which he rarely did. "What if," he waved both hands up and down as if he understood all the objections that could come and proceeded in spite of them. "What if the expansion of the earth was in proportion to the expansion of the universe?"
I must admit that what he said and the way he said it sent shivers up and down my spine. "The far galaxies are moving pretty fast," I pointed out.
"Sure, but they're pretty far away. I said in proportion. Let the scientists solve that one too. I just tell them what is."
But to accept that you had to accept everything else he had come up with. As I said before, it was a stretch.
I asked him, "Are you going to write this stuff up?"
"Of course not. Who would pay any attention to me? I'm just some wacko."
It was refreshing to know the wacko knew what he was. "But if you think you're right, why not tell the world?"
He waved a dismissive hand. "No one would print it, and if it were printed no one would read it, and if it were read, no one would believe it."
"You won't even try?"
"Listen, I get a big kick knowing something that no one else knows" He gave his crazy laugh but kept it short. "It's my one personality flaw."
Now that was funny. "But they might put your name on it. You could be like Watt and Hubble and..." I tried to think of others but couldn't offhand, "that bunch," I finished lamely.
"Don't care, Don't care. Don't care. Don't care." He was acting like a little kid.
"Would you mind if I wrote it up and sent it somewhere?"
"What? You mean like a scientific paper? No one would print that."
"Yeah. You're probably right. I'll give it some thought."
Clarification: This story is fiction. The characters are fictional. Only the theories are true and they are mine. Here's more: The "dark areas" astronomers observe in space are clouds of hydrogen. These are still born galaxies that for some reason never coagulated. There should be a "black hole" in some form in the center of these clouds.
posted by Walter Guest at 6:36 PM 0 comments