Tom Van Flandern
|Thomas C Van Flandern|
June 26, 1940|
|Died||January 29, 2009
|Fields||Astronomy and pseudo-science|
|Institutions||U.S. Naval Observatory, Meta Research|
|Alma mater||Yale University, Xavier University|
Thomas C Van Flandern (June 26, 1940 – January 9, 2009) was an American astronomer and author specializing in celestial mechanics. Van Flandern had a career as a professional scientist, but was noted as an outspoken proponent of non-mainstream views related to astronomy, physics, and extra-terrestrial life. He also published the non-mainstream Meta Research Bulletin. He died of colon cancer in Seattle, Washington.
While in High School, Van Flandern helped start the Cleveland branch of Operation Moonwatch, an amateur science program initiated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to track satellites. He also helped found a Moonwatchers team at Xavier University, and this team broke a tracking record in 1961.
Van Flandern graduated from Xavier University cum laude with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1962 and was awarded a teaching fellowship at Georgetown University. He attended Yale University on a scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO), joining USNO in 1963. In 1969 he received a PhD in Astronomy from Yale, with a dissertation on lunar occultations.
Van Flandern worked at the USNO until 1983, first becoming Chief of the Research Branch and later becoming Chief of the Celestial Mechanics Branch of the Nautical Almanac Office. His espousal of highly non-mainstream beliefs, particularly the exploded planet hypothesis, eventually led to his separation from the USNO. He later said, "This forced me to the "fringes", areas of astronomy not accepted as credible by experts of the field".
Following his separation from the USNO, Van Flandern started a business organizing eclipse viewing expeditions, and promoting his non-mainstream views in a newsletter and web site. Shortly after his passing in 2009, Van Flandern's friend and associate David Dunham proposed that asteroid 52266 be named in his honor.
Mainstream scientific work
During the mid-1970s, Van Flandern believed that lunar observations gave evidence of variation in Newton's gravitational constant (G), consistent with a speculative idea that had been put forward by Paul Dirac. In 1974, his essay "A Determination of the Rate of Change of G" was awarded second place by the Gravity Research Foundation. However, in later years, with new data available, Van Flandern himself admitted his findings were flawed, and the conclusions were contradicted by more accurate findings based on radio measurements with the Viking landers.
Following claims by David Dunham in 1978 to have detected satellites for some asteroids (notably 532 Herculina) by examining the light patterns during stellar occultations, Van Flandern and others began to report similar observations. However, the reported findings were subsequently called into question by high resolution imaging from the Hubble telescope, which failed to detect satellites for the specific asteroids examined by Dunham and Van Flandern.
Van Flandern and Henry Fliegel developed a compact algorithm to calculate a Julian date from a Gregorian date. They described this in a letter to the editor of a computing magazine in 1968. This was available for use in business applications.
With Kenneth Pulkkinen, he published "Low precision formulae for planetary positions", in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement in 1979. According to Van Flandern's obituary, the paper set a record for the number of reprints requested from that journal.
Non-mainstream science and beliefs
Van Flandern described in his book how he had become increasingly dis-satisfied with the mainstream view of science by the early 1980s. He wrote
- Events in my life caused me to start questioning my goals and the correctness of everything I had learned. In matters of religion, medicine, biology, physics, and other fields, I came to discover that reality differed seriously from what I had been taught.
In his book, and also in his newsletter and web site, Van Flandern alleged that experimental evidence is incompatible with mainstream scientific theories, but that mainstream scientists refuse to acknowledge this to avoid jeopardizing their funding. He espoused a set of principles for assessing ideas, and dubbed theories that he deemed compliant with these principles as "Deep Reality Physics." He claimed that mainstream scientific theories, especially the prevailing theories regarding the big bang, solar system formation, relativity, and electrodynamics, are incompatible with his principles, and advocated his own replacement theories. Notably, he contended that some features on the surface of Mars were created artificially, likely by an extra-terrestial civilization that had fled its original home planet which, Van Flandern believed, had been a moon of an exploded planet where the asteroid belt is now located. His views have not found acceptance within the mainstream scientific community.
In 1976, while Van Flandern was employed by the USNO, he had began to promote the belief (first suggested by Olbers in the 1800s) that major planets sometimes explode. In his book Van Flandern described the negative reception of his ideas about exploding planets among mainstream scientists. Van Flandern also speculated that the origin of the human species may well have been on the planet Mars, which he believed was once a moon of a now-exploded "Planet V".
Le Sage's theory of gravitation and the speed of gravity
Van Flandern supported Le Sage's discredited theory of gravitation, according to which gravity is the result of a flux of invisible "ultra-mundane corpuscles" impinging on all objects from all directions at superluminal speeds. He gave public lectures in which he claimed that these particles could be used as a limitless source of free energy, and to provide superluminal propulsion for spacecraft. He also speculated that the ultra-mundane flux caused the explosion of a major planet once located between Mars and Jupiter.
In 1998 Van Flandern wrote a paper asserting that astronomical observations imply that gravity propagates at least twenty billion times faster than light. These claims were dismissed by mainstream physicists.
Face on Mars
Van Flandern was a prominent advocate of the belief that certain geological features seen on Mars, especially the "face at Cydonia", are not of natural origin, but were produced by intelligent extra-terrestrial life, probably the inhabitants of a major planet once located where the asteroid belt presently exists, and which Van Flandern believed had exploded 3.2 million years ago. The claimed artificiality of the "face" was also the topic of a chapter of his 1993 book. He also gave lectures on the subject, and at the conclusion of the lectures he described his overall conception:
- "We've shown conclusively that at least some of the artifacts on the surface of Mars were artificially produced, and the evidence indicates they were produced approximately 3.2 million years ago, which is when Planet V exploded. Mars was a moon of Planet V, and we speculate that the Builders created the artificial structures as theme parks and advertisements to catch the attention of space tourists from Planet V (much as we may do on our own Moon some day, when lunar tourism becomes prevalent), or perhaps they are museums of some kind. Remember that the Face at Cydonia was located on the original equator of Mars. The Builder's civilization ended 3.2 million years ago. The evidence suggests that the explosion was anticipated, so the Builders may have departed their world, and it produced a massive flood, because Planet V was a water world. It is a coincidence that the face on Mars is hominid, like ours, and the earliest fossil record on Earth of hominids is the "Lucy" fossil from 3.2 million years ago. There have been some claims of earlier hominid fossils, but Lucy is the earliest that is definite. So I leave you with the thought that there may be a grain of truth in The War of the Worlds, with the twist that WE are the Martians.
When it was first imaged, and into the 21st century, the "Face" is near universally accepted to be an optical illusion, an example of pareidolia, and theories that it was an artificial artifact were considered to be pseudo-science. After analysis of the higher resolution Mars Global Surveyor data NASA stated that "a detailed analysis of multiple images of this feature reveals a natural looking Martian hill whose illusory face-like appearance depends on the viewing angle and angle of illumination".
Rejection of Big Bang Cosmology
Van Flandern was a vocal opponent of the Big Bang model in cosmology, and espoused instead a Steady-State cosmology. He compiled a list of what he regarded as problems for the Big Bang model. It began as a list of "Top 10" problems, then expanded to the "Top 30", and ultimately by 2008 had reached the "Top 60". In 2008 he was an organizer of a conference of individuals who oppose the Big Bang cosmological models. According to the report of one conference participant:
- Most who attended were taking time off from their jobs or were self-employed. Only about eight were officially representing their own universities—myself included. Many others had been invited but were afraid to attend, afraid of being labelled by association with this group... Van Flandern was very dogmatic about not being dogmatic. He was convinced of his own belief in a static infinite eternal flat universe. He was quite forceful in putting his view, excluding all others.
However, the consensus of the scientific community is that "The Big Bang is a well-tested scientific theory which is widely accepted within the scientific community because it is the most accurate and comprehensive explanation for the full range of phenomena astronomers observe. Since its conception, abundant evidence has arisen to further validate the model."
- "Obituary". Sequim Gazette. January 21, 2009.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer October 8, 1957 "Moonwatch Team Here Gets Set" page 5
- The Pharos-Tribune and Logansport Press August 9, 1959 "Still Keeping Watch" Logansport, IN page 19
- Xavier University News November 5, 1960 Mike Rogers "Satellite Spies Situate Tracking Station on Logan" page 1
- Kingsport News May 17, 1961 "Reports Activity" page 10
- The Anderson Herald May 17, 1961 "Cincy Moonwatchers Report on Satellites" page 2
- Xavier University News May 4, 1962 "Tom Van Flandern Given Fellowship" page 9
- David Dunham (KinetX, Inc.), Victor Slabinski (U.S. Naval Observatory) (2011). "BAAS Obituary".
- T. S. Baskett (1963). "U.S. Naval Observatory Report". Astronomical Journal 68 (9): 672, 674. Bibcode:1963AJ.....68..649M. doi:10.1086/109195.
- Gart Westerhout, Charles K. Roberts (1984). "U.S. Naval Observatory Report". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 17: 457. Bibcode:1985BAAS...17..457.
- ""Meta" Researcher Champions New Funding Sources for Independent Science". APS News 5 (4). April 1996.
- USNO Staff Directory for Nautical Almanac Office, December 1976
- Colin Keay (September 1993). "Another Revolution in Physics. Maybe?". Australian & New Zealand Physicist 30 (9): 230.
- van Flandern, T. C. (1979). "Gravitation and the expansion of the Earth". Nature 278 (5707): 821. Bibcode:1979Natur.278..821V. doi:10.1038/278821a0.
- USNO Staff Directory for Nautical Almanac Office, November 1977
- Gonzo Science, Jim Richardson, Alan Richardson, p. 62, 2004.
- "Citation for 52266". Minor Planet Circulars (65123).
- "Award winners". Gravity Research Foundation.
- Tom Van Flandern (1974). "A Determination of the Rate of Change of G".
- Clifford Will (1993). Was Einstein Right?: putting general relativity to the test (2 ed.). Basic Books. p. 175-. ISBN 0-465-09086-9.
- Dark Matter, Missing Planets, New Comets, Van Flandern 1993.
- Satellite of Minor Planet 532 Herculina Discovered During Occultation. David W. Dunham, The Minor Planet Bulletin, Volume 6, p.13–14 (December 1978)
- Van Flandern, T. C., Tedesco, E. F. & Binzel, R. P. in Asteroids (ed. Gehrels, T.) 443–465 (Univ. Ariz. Press, Tucson, 1979).
- Storrs, Alex Weiss; Zellner; Burleson; Sichitiu; Wells; Kowal; Tholen (1999). "Imaging observations of asteroids with Hubble Space Telescope". Icarus 137 (2): 260–268. Bibcode:1999Icar..137..260S. doi:10.1006/icar.1999.6047.
- Fliegel, Henry; Thomas C. Van Flanderen (October 1968). "Letters to the editor: a machine algorithm for processing calendar dates". ACM. p. 657. doi:10.1145/364096.364097. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
- Van Flandern, T. C. and Pulkkinen, K. F. (1979). "Low-Precision Formulae for Planetary Positions". Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 41 (3): 391–411.
- "Dark Matter, Missing Planets, New Comets", Van Flandern (1993)
- See the Wikipedia article on Phaeton (hypothetical planet).
-  According to Van Flandern's article on the Exploded Planet Hypothesis "The third planetary explosion mechanism relies on one other hypothesis not yet widely accepted, but holds out the potential for an indefinitely large reservoir of energy for exploding even massive planets and stars. If gravitational fields are continually regenerated, as in LeSage particle models of gravity [xvi], then all masses are continually absorbing energy from this universal flux."
- Jeffery D. Kooistra (July–August 1999). "Conference on Future Energy". Infinite Energy Magazine (26). An editor gave a summary of Van Flandern's talk at the Infinite Energy conference and wrote "Van Flandern gave a talk entitled 'On a Complete Theory of Gravity and Free Energy'. For the free energy enthusiast, the implications of gravity being particulate and perhaps blockable are obvious. Block or deflect the c-gravitons raining down from the sky and up you go into space. Turn off the blocking shield and recover the energy you've gained, for free, as you fall back to Earth."
- "Dr. Thomas Van Flandern – MUFON-LA (1 of 1)". youtube.
- Van Flandern, T (1998). "The speed of gravity ? What the experiments say". Physics Letters A 250 (1–3): 1. Bibcode:1998PhLA..250....1V. doi:10.1016/S0375-9601(98)00650-1.
- Marsh, Gerald E; Nissim-Sabat, Charles (1999). "Comment on "The speed of gravity"". Physics Letters A 262 (2–3): 257. Bibcode:1999PhLA..262..257M. doi:10.1016/S0375-9601(99)00675-1.
- Carlip, S (2000). "Aberration and the Speed of Gravity". Phys. Lett. A 267 (2–3): 81–87. arXiv:gr-qc/9909087. Bibcode:2000PhLA..267...81C. doi:10.1016/S0375-9601(00)00101-8.
- "Proof that the Cydonia Face on Mars is Artificial". Metaresearch.org.
- Tom Van Flandern (1993). Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated. chapter 24. New Evidence for Artificiality at Cydonia on Mars: North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-55643-268-2.
- "Mysterious Mars". youtube.
- Britt, R.R. (March 18, 2004). "Scientist attacks alien claims on Mars". CNN. Retrieved October 12, 2007.
- "Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List". Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
- "The Face on Mars, Viking Project". NASA website. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
- The Top 30 Problems With the Big Bang, Van Flandern's web article explaining his objections to big bang cosmology.
- Crisis in cosmology continues with conference of big-bang dissidents, John Hartnett
- Big Bang Wikipedia article on the Big Bang theory.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Official website
- American Astronomical Society obituary
- Meta Research, Inc., GuideStar
- Google Scholar on Tom Van Flandern
- Cincinnati.com article on Project Moonwatch historical marker
- Sequim Gazette article on Van Flandern
- Xavier University article on Project Moonwatch historical marker
- The Ohio Historical Society article on Cincinnati Astronomical Society and Project Moonwatch
- Xavier University article about Project Moonwatch team members
- Niels Bohr Library & Archives oral history transcript of Van Flandern and Slabinski