At the conclusion of last night's Coast-to-Coast AM news segment, featuring "science adviser" Richard Hoagland, George Noory said "Richard C. Hoagland predicted this 30 years ago ... and he was right."
He was referring to this announcement
about Europa, the icy-smooth moon of Jupiter. Earlier, on Faceboodle, Hoagland himself had said the same:
I will be on "Coast" tonight ... discussing NASA's latest announcement re "the apparent existence of LAKES, just under the surface ice of Europa, Jupiter's second major moon" -- and how this new data could impact the search for life in the much larger, still unconfirmed, "global oceans of Europa."
Thirty-two years ago, I scientifically predicted the existence of such a "global ocean" under the ice fields of Europa, and examined the possibilities for advanced biology.
This is far from being the first time Hoagland has boasted that he predicted, in a long, long article in Star and Sky
Magazine in January 1980, not only the sub-surface oceans but also the possibility that they might harbor alien life-forms. He's mentioned it countless times on C2C and written about it
on his amazingly retro web site.
So what's the truth? The truth is that George Noory was dead wrong. Hoagland did not predict what was announced yesterday in Nature
online by Britney Schmidt, Wes Patterson, Don Blankenship, and Paul Schenk. Hoagland himself, in his FB post, managed not to be exactly wrong by means of very careful choice of language, but he was certainly, and intentionally, misleading.
Oceans and lakes
In fact, Schmidt et al
's new model is not about the oceans Hoagland described in 1980. Technically, he was correct in writing that the ocean is "still unconfirmed," although it would be hard to find a planetary astronomer to dissent from this widely-accepted idea. The recent controversy has been over the thickness of the surface ice on Europa. A kilometer or so, or 30 km?1
The answer matters a lot for exobiology, because under the thick-ice model it's hard to see how nutrients and energy could circulate. The new idea posits thick ice, but lakes inside the ice crust.
And it's in those lakes, not the main ocean below, that the scientists now suggest life is a possibility.
Image Credit: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel FX/University of Texas at Austin
So Hoagland was adrift in writing about the search for life in the oceans.
What did he actually write back in 1980? Well, this, for example:
Primeval Jupiter, with a magnetic field significantly weaker than at present ... would have interacted with Europa in a manner highly reminiscent of the present Io situation: an intense several-million-ampere current, under high voltage, set up between both Europan poles and the conductive Jovian "photosphere" below. The result staggers the imagination.
Beyond heating the atmosphere above the poles this massive current would have led inexorably to a set of side effects unparalleled on Earth -- like brilliant night and day aurorae constantly aflame across the polar skies, potential discharge processes between the upper atmosphere and the surface of Europa, massive "superbolts" of lightning, even in clear air. And one more thing: An inescapable set of organic synthesis reactions between the major and minor constituents within this atmosphere!2
The million-amp current is a fiction. It doesn't exist, and it doesn't need to exist for biogenesis to have credibility. Sufficient energy to keep the ocean liquid is provided by tidal heating.
Hoagland recognized that fact when it came to the heart of the matter—his actual prediction of the global ocean and the possible life it might contain:
There, in the tidal calculations, was the provocative potential that beneath a thin, outer shell of ice, the bulk of Europa's planetary ocean was still ocean. It may not have frozen solid as Jupiter grew dim. The ever-present tidal forces from that immense planetary object, even at the distance of Europa, are capable of adding energy to the massive, frozen crust -- energy which, disspiated in the crust, maintain the bulk of that satellite-wide sea as liquid water!
If true, the continued existence of the solar system's deepest planetary ocean ... presents us with a staggering set of possibilities, including the independent evolution beyond those pre-organic chemicals and acids into the object of our centuries-long quest: the solar system's second world with life.3
Fine. Yes, he predicted it. What he didn't do, and still doesn't, and did not do last night on the radio, is to credit the numerous planetary scientists who had predicted it well before
January 1980. The literature on Europa includes a paper by John S. Lewis from 19714
making the same suggestion, and one by Cassen, Peale and Reynolds actually entitled "Is There Liquid Water on Europa?" from September 19795
. Hoagland's critics have pointed to the latter paper, which used closely similar language to the Star and Sky
article, as a highly likely direct source. Hoagland acknowledged Cassen, Peale and Reynolds in his piece but made it seem as though only he, Richard C. Hoagland, had had the insight to interpret their work as meaning probable oceans and possible biology. That was not true.
As we know, Richard Hoagland, not actually being the scientist he claims to be, very seldom answers his critics. He prefers to ignore them and hope his know-it-all manner will get him by. Specifically on the question of precedence on Europa's ocean, the critics have included Gary Posner
and Ralph Greenberg
, and Hoagland has made an exception, answering that he never claimed to have been the first
to make the prediction. Another critic, Phil Plait, has investigated that proposition
and found it to be false.
In light of Hoagland's recent prevarications about Deepwater Horizon, Phobos, Vesta, Elenin, and YU55 (see numerous postings on this blog passim
) nobody could honestly be surprised that this is another case of Hoagland preening in utter disregard for the truth.
Last night (17th November) Hoagland removed all doubt that he is still making false claims, posting in Facelandia:
[M]y late friend, Arthur C. Clark, graciously acknowledged in "2010" that the initial idea for "life in Europa's oceans"--
Came from ME. :)
Arthur C. Clarke (note correct spelling) was mistaken, as Ralph Greenberg noted ten years ago:
June 19th and 20th, 1979, the conference "Life in the Universe"
took place at NASA's Ames Research Center. Benton Clark gave a
lecture [titled] Sulfur: Fountainhead of Life in the Universe...
Clark then explained how sulfur could
play the role of oxygen, and that deep-sea volcanic emissions could
potentially provide all the necessary ingredients for a self-sustained
ecosystem. In the final part of his lecture, Clark
raised the possibility that life might exist in undersurface
oceans on the icy satellites in our
Solar System, including
Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in particular.
There's more at the Greenberg and Plait links above.
1.Billings, Sandra E.; and Kattenhorn,
Simon A. (2005). "The great thickness debate: Ice shell thickness models
for Europa and comparisons with estimates based on flexure at ridges". Icarus 177 (2): 397–412. Bibcode 2005Icar..177..397B. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2005.03.013
2. Star and Sky
Magazine, January 1980, p.23
3. Star and Sky
Magazine, January 1980, p.28
4. "Satellites of the Outer Planets: Their Physical and Chemical Nature." Icarus, vol.15
5. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 6
, September 1979