11 May 2006

The Iron Sun?

According to the esteemed scientific research group known as They Might Be Giants, "The sun is a mass of incandescant gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace, where hydrogen it turned into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees."

Or is it?

In the late 60's a chemist named Oliver Manuel began developing a theory that the sun actually has an iron core. I mention this because 1) it's interesting and 2) it led me to a wonderful article about how science works - here are a few excerpts

Manuel fits a popular stereotype, the lone dissenter promoting a new idea that flies in the face of the scientific establishment. In the real world, some of these theories eventually have been proven right but vastly more have been proven wrong. Manuel is under no illusions about the popularity of his idea. "Ninety-nine percent of the field will tell you it's junk science," he says. The evidence weighs in heavily against him. If he's right, however, we need to completely rethink how planetary systems form. Even if he's wrong, some scientists say, at least he has made people think.

Although most scientists don't believe Manuel's theory, they all acknowledge that outlandish hypotheses have been proven correct in the past. It seems especially unlikely in Manuel's case, however...

Still, some scientists see fringe theorists like Manuel as an asset, as they make people reassess long-held theories. "Manuel is a little off the wall," Lewis says. "But science is filled with people a little off the wall. Our great strength is to allow them to express their views." Manuel's views got an airing again at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC, where once again they received little notice.

Meanwhile, Manuel continues to argue his theory with an air of implacable certainty, believing that solar physics is on the verge of a revolution. He talks as though scientists need only to come to their senses and reassess the data. "I'm not trying to refute the professional careers of the scientists whose shoulders I'm standing on," Manuel says. "My work depends on their evidence. It's just a different interpretation."

I like this Manuel guy. I also like the bemused-but-tolerant-and-curious attitude that more mainstream scientists seem to have towards him. And remember "outlandish hypotheses have been proven correct in the past..."

If you want to learn more about the Iron Sun theory (and see some of the data) check out these two links:


1 comment:

Krackonis said...


Don't play around ,get the good stuff.