Martin Harwit's book review

Dewey B. Larson
755 N.E. Royal Court
Portland, Oregon 97232

March 21, 1986

Dear Jan:

Your assumption that I might be interested in Martin Harwit’s book review is indeed correct. Harwit is one of the clearest thinkers in the astronomical profession today, and he is worth cultivating whenever an opportunity arises. The book review provides such an opportunity. It creates an excuse for getting in touch with him at this time, and I have what I believe is a means of attracting his attention. What I propose is to remind him of some correspondence that I had with him 25 years ago. Copies of these letters are enclosed.

I could write to him myself, but I think that a letter coming from someone else would be more effective, as it would indicate that I am no longer standing alone, as I was when we had our previous interchange. Furthermore, Harwit is more likely to explain whatever objections he may have to my conclusions, if he is dealing with someone other than myself, and this increases the chances of opening up a dialog. I suggest, therefore, that this would be a good project for you, if and when you have the time and the inclination.

My idea as to the way to approach the matter would be to mention having seen the book review, and then to say that you are the editor of the quarterly journal of the ISUS, and ex official historian, in which capacity you have had access to my files (this is not stretching things too much). You can then say that you have noted our 1961 correspondence, copies of which you are enclosing as a reminder.

With this opening, you can then say something to the effect that he will no doubt be interested to know that all of the remarkable increase in observational knowledge in astronomy during the intervening quarter of a century has taken place along the lines defined by the theory that I published in 1959, and that the position of that theory is therefore a great deal stronger than it was when it previously came to his attention. Some of the new discoveries, such as the existence of galactic explosions and the general nature of the products thereof, were specifically predicted in my 1959 publication, copy of which was supplied to him at the time, In many other cases, all of the information necessary to account for the new discovery had already been derived from theory, had been published, and was immediately available to explain the discovery when it was made. In all of the cases that have thus far been examined in the light of the new theory, including many of the minor details as well as the major items, the new observational information fits into my theoretical system easily and naturally, without the need for any supplementary assumptions.

After some such comments on the general situation, it would be appropriate to point out that the case in favor of the two conclusions from my theory that were discussed in our 1961 correspondence—the capture of globular clusters by the galaxies and the existence of an outward movement of the natural reference system—has been strengthened significantly by developments in the intervening 25 years. It is now generally agreed that the giant galaxies in the centers of clusters of galaxies are “cannibalizing” their neighbors, as required by my theory. Obviously, the capture of globular clusters by galaxies is exactly the same kind of a process. The galactic cannibalism therefore gives strong support to my finding that the globular clusters are the original products of condensation from diffuse matter, and are thus the raw material for galaxy formation. The continuing inability to discover a plausible mechanism whereby stars can be formed within the galaxies, noted by Harwit in the book review, is likewise evidence of the validity of my finding, expressed in The Universe of Motion in these words:

No known force other than gravitation is capable of condensing diffuse matter into a star, and gravitation can accomplish this result only on a wholesale scale, under conditions in which an immense number of stars are formed jointly from a gas and dust medium of vast proportions.

The new support for the theoretical outward movement of the natural reference system relative to the conventional system of reference comes from the current recognition that the recession of the distant galaxies is not analogous to the dispersal of debris from an explosion, as postulated in the original version of the Big Bang, but is something on the order of an expansion. According to the present view, it is an expansion, but an analysis of the evidence from observation shows that this is not true. Here you could use the argument that I outlined in my letter of Feb. 23.

There is always a question as to how much to say in a letter of this kind. It should not be too long, but, on the other hand, one should say enough to get his points across. In this case, I believe it would be well to try to minimize the direct conflict. You could say something to the effect that in spite of explicit statements to the contrary, most astronomers that have encountered the theory are apparently under the impression that I am reasoning from the same observational data on which they are basing their conclusions, and challenging their reasoning. The truth is that the data from observation do not enter into my development at all. I use them only for the purpose of verifying my findings. My conclusions are derived entirely from the basic physical principles that I deduced from my study of fundamental processes. As I say in my publications, this gives the astronomers an opportunity to view their subject matter from a new direction. Such a new view inevitably throws new light on some astronomical phenomena, a source of information that can be very helpful to the astronomers regardless of their attitude towards my development as a whole.

As an example, I deduce from the postulates of my theory that, under sufficient pressure, a gas condenses into a different state of matter, in the same way in which a vapor condenses into a liquid. It follows that the stars that are in gravitational equilibrium (the main sequence stars) are in the condensed gas state. Astronomical calculations are currently being made on the basis of the premise that the stars are gaseous. But once attention is called to the issue, it is evident that the sun, the star that we know best, is not a “ball of gas,” since it has a surface. As Harwit himself says (in Astrophysical Concepts), “the boundary between star and surrounding empty space is relatively sharp.” This is incompatible with the properties of a gas. A gas sphere does not have a surface. Like all of my other findings, this conclusion as to the physical state of the matter in the main sequence stars is derived entirely from the physical principles that I have established. But when we examine the astronomical evidence, we find that it agrees with this conclusion, and disagrees with the prevailing astronomical opinion.

Currently accepted astronomical theories obviously need to be reexamined in the light of this finding. For instance, the “collapse” to which the stars are supposed to be subject, because of the drop in temperature, when their fuel supply is exhausted, is ruled out when it is realized that the linear coefficient of thermal expansion of a condensed gas, under stellar pressures, cannot be greater than about 10-7. In fact, the whole theory of stellar interiors clearly needs an overhauling.

Finally, I suggest that you offer Harwit a copy of The Universe of Motion with the compliments of the ISUS (NPP will supply it), and enclose the offer of Gravitation and the Galaxies with your letter. A copy is enclosed.

If this idea does not appeal to you, just regard what I have said, and the enclosures in this letter, as some information for your files. Or, if you want to write something entirely different, please feel free to do so.

In reply to your question as to the radio flux units, J. S. Hey defines the flux unit as 10-26 watts per square meter per hertz. I think that this is the unit that they now call the Jansky (Jy), but I do not have any readily available reference that is up-to-date enough to check this.

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