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 in Sequim, Washington after a brief battle with cancer.
While in High School, Van Flandern helped create the Cleveland Moonwatchers organization to track satellites that gained national attention during the Sputnik launch of 1957. He was still engaged in this activity when he helped found a Moonwatchers team at Xavier University. According to the Smithsonian's Astrophysical Observatory the team, under Van Flandern's direction, broke a tracking record in 1961. This early interest in Lunar Occultations paved the way for important work later in life.
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.
He became an expert on refining the lunar orbit from timings of lunar occultations, then the best observations for that purpose. He encouraged observations by providing observers with predictions of occultations for their locations. He designed a cable system connecting all observers timing a grazing occultation, to record their observations at a central station. After a 1964 success, four amateur astronomical societies built similar cable systems.
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. Years later, with new data available, Van Flandern himself admitted his findings were not significant, and the conclusions were contradicted by more accurate findings based on radio measurements with the Viking landers.
Following the first reports by David Dunham in 1978 of occultation observations suggesting satellites for some asteroids, Van Flandern and others began to report similar observations. Such occultation observations are not regarded as conclusive, and in fact detailed observations made by the Hubble Space telescope of some of the objects predicted to have satellites based on occultation observations made by Dunham and Van Flandern have failed to reveal any satellites. This confirms that the occultation method was not reliable. Nevertheless, the prevailing view at the time was that such satellites probably do exist, and the first solid evidence of them came in 1993 with the imaging from the Galileo spacecraft.
Van Flandern and Henry Fliegel developed an algorithm to calculate a Julian date from a Gregorian date that would fit on a single IBM card.[clarification needed] They published this in a paper in 1968. This was used in countless business applications worldwide.
With Kenneth Pulkkinen, he published "Low precision formulae for planetary positions", in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement in 1979. The paper set a record for the number of reprints requested from that journal.
Non-mainstream science and beliefs 
Personal philosophy 
Van Flandern described in his book how he noted a regular practice of not re-examining the fundamental assumptions underlying a theory once it gained "accepted" status, almost no matter how incompatible some new observation or experiment might be. 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. As a result of this questioning process, I was startled to realize how much of my "knowledge" was indeed questionable.
In later years, Van Flandern advocated inquiry into astronomy theories which he felt were consistent with the principles of science but were not otherwise supported because they conflicted both with observations and verified theories. He espoused 10 principles for assessing ideas and dubbed theories in compliance as "Deep Reality Physics."
- Physicists and mathematicians have fundamentally different approaches to describing reality. The essential difference is that physicists adhere to certain logical principles, any violation of which would amount to a miracle; whereas the equations of mathematics generally are oblivious to physical constraints. This leads to drastically different views of what is, and what is not, possible for cosmology and the reality we live in. Physics that adheres to these logical principles is known as "deep reality physics".
At this time he also expressed his views of the future of science to Science Digest magazine:
- As science progresses we will eventually unravel the mystery of our origins, and the solution will come sooner if our minds are prepared to accept the truth when it is found, however fantastic it may be. If we are guided by our reason and our scientific method, if we let the Universe describe its wonder to us, rather than telling it how it ought to be, then we will soon come to the answers we seek, perhaps even within our own lifetimes.
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.
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. He 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".
Van Flandern authored a book, Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated, in which he rejected and offered replacements for the fundamental theories of modern physics (especially special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics), and challenged prevailing notions regarding dark matter, the big bang, and solar system formation, and advocated the theory that the asteroid belt consists of the remains of an exploded planet. He issued newsletters, papers, and maintained a website devoted to his ideas, which have not found acceptance within the mainstream scientific community.
Van Flandern published the Meta Research Bulletin which reported the newest discoveries and how they presented difficulties to accepted astronomical theories, such as the Big Bang and planetary formation. The Bulletin claimed mainstream scientists preferred making ad hoc corrections to the theories rather than acknowledge fundamental difficulties that might jeopardize their funding.
Awards and honors 
In 2009, asteroid 52266 was named in honor of Van Flandern because he:
- predicted and comprehensively analyzed lunar occultations at the U.S. Naval Observatory in the 1970s. In 1979 he published pioneering papers on the dynamics of binary minor planets. He helped improve GPS accuracies and established Meta Research to support alternative cosmological ideas.
See also 
- "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
- 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).
- See, for example, the Wikipedia article on 532 Herculina, the first asteroid predicted to have satellites based on occultation observations, now known to not have any satellites.
- See also the Wikipedia article on Minor-planet moons for this history of asteriod satellites.
- Fliegel, H. F. and Van Flandern, T. C. (1968). "A Machine Algorithm for Processing Calendar Dates". Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 11: 657.
- 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), p.xvii
- Physics has its Principles
- Science Digest April 1982
- 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.
- "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.
- Tom Van Flandern. Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated. North Atlantic Books (Berkeley, CA 1993 and 1999). ISBN 978-1-55643-268-2.
- "Award winners". Gravity Research Foundation.
- Tom Van Flandern (1974). "A Determination of the Rate of Change of G".
- "Citation for 52266". Minor Planet Circulars (65123).
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Official website
- American Astronomical Society obituary
- Meta Research, Inc., GuideStar
- Onpedia article on Van Flandern
- 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