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No. 139: Jan-Feb 2002

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Unstable Earth?

We all know that the earth's spin axis precesses, giving us the 26,000-year precession of the equinoxes. There is also that Chandler wobble of 14 month's length. These phenomena are accepted by science. Australian geologist, P.M. James terms them "politically correct" to separate them from motions of the earthas-a-whole that are not digestible by most scientists. James, an obvious iconoclast, is just the right person to suggest that in historical times the earth has not been as rotationally stable as is generally assumed in scientific circles.

James asserts that records of ancient total solar eclipses imply large departures from stability. He mentions five such maverick eclipses.

05-05-585 BCAthensHerodotus
08-05-431 BCAthensThucydides
11-11-129 BCHellespont---
04-15-136 BCBabylon---
03-20-71 ADChaeroniaPlutarch

The dates of these five eclipses are not at issue; back-calculations confirm them. However, these eclipses should not have been observable where reported. For example, the path-of-totality for the 136-BC eclipse should have been 4000 kilometers west of Babylon!

Today's astronomers have no choice but to discard these data as erroneous. Yet, it is hard to be wrong about where one observes a total solar eclipse, and here we have five errors in location. Furthermore, mixed in with the old eclipse records are well-behaved ones in 763 BC, 240 BC, and 195 BC; all seen where our back-calculations say they were visible.

James wonders if the earth may have wobbled chaotically in the past. Such motion could account for the many flood myths and allusions to high sea levels. (James, Peter M. ; "Political Correctness in Science," New Concepts in Global Tectonics, no. 19, June 2001.)

From Science Frontiers #139, Jan-Feb 2002. 2001 William R. Corliss

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