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No. 71: Sep-Oct 1990

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ASTRONOMERS COPE WITH BOTH CHAOS AND TOO MUCH ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE

The solar system. The recent advent and fast rise in popularity of chaos theory is destroying some favorite, long-sworn-to notions of astronomers. One in particular is solar-system stability. Could any of the planets pop out of their orbits and embark upon wild and unpredictable trajectories? "We can't rule it out," stated J. Wisdom, an MIT planetary scientist. (Freedman, David H.; "Gravity's Revenge," Discover, 11:54, May 1990.)

Comment. Well, OK, there is a tiny theoretical chance that such an event might occur in the future, but it certainly never happened in the past. To admit such a possibility would open that Pandora's Box of vigorously suppressed catastrophic scenarios.

Reference. More information on solarsystem instability may be found in ABB1 in the catalog: The Sun and Solar System Debris. Ordering details here.

The universe as-a-whole. The disovery of the Great Wall of galaxies (SF#67) and the regular clumping of galactic matter (SF#69) has greatly surprised astronomers, who have been emphasizing how uniformly distributed galactic matter should -- according to theory, at least. Now, D.C. Koo, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, says, "The regularity is just mind-boggling." M. Davis, an astrophysicist at Berkeley, admits that if the distribution of galaxies is truly so regular, "...it is safe to say we understand less than zero about the early universe." (Wilford, John Noble; "Unexpected Order in Universe Confuses Scientists," Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 28, 1990. Cr. E.D. Fegert.)

From Science Frontiers #71, SEP-OCT 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss