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Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
June 28, 2000

Venus Again

Too Hot for Conventional Thinking

See earlier postings on why I think there's good reason to suppose Venus is a young planet.

Mike Miller sent me the following comment on a mail he received from from Zbigniew Jaworowski, a professor at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, Poland, who has served on the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. (Jaworowski has a good article on today's exaggerated fears concerning this subject, "Radiation Risk and Ethics," in the September 1999 issue of Physics Today.)

Mike also maintains a site of interesting science at http://www.quackgrass.com/roots/qrn.html.

Venus emits forty times more energy than it gets from the Sun. THAT hurls an observational fox into the planetological henhouse!

One of the shocks scientists received when space vehicles went out to the planets was Venus' high surface temperature--hot enough to melt lead. Until then, Venus' extreme cloudiness was thought to indicate the kind of steamy, swampy planet portrayed in 1950s science fiction, lots of liquid water. Wrong-o! And not just a little bit wrong: wrong by a country mile!

Planetologists cobbled together an ad hoc explanation for Venus' extreme temperature in terms of a "runaway greenhouse effect." According to this notion, the CO2 in Venus' atmosphere just kept on trapping more and more solar radiation until its temperature reached the current astounding level.

The notion of a runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is beloved by advocates of catastrophic global warming on Earth, but it never did make a lick of sense. The greenhouse effect can only help to retain solar heat that makes it into an atmosphere in the first place, and not much heat makes it into Venus' atmosphere; Venus' cloud tops are highly reflective. Technically, Venus has a high albedo. That high albedo is what makes Venus so bright in our skies; almost all the solar energy that hits Venus bounces right off into space where we can see it.

Now the notion of a runaway greenhouse effect on Venus is dead, dead, dead. The hotter a thing, the faster it radiates heat. Venus is hot enough to radiate heat 40 times faster than it gets it from the Sun. There is no way Venus could get that hot by absorbing sun beams! Period!

The observation leaves open two general possibilities. First, Venus may have an (unknown) internal heat source that is keeping its temperature far above the level that sunlight could push it to. Second, Venus may be in process of cooling down from some fairly recent (unknown) convulsion that heated it up to today's extreme temperature. Each possibility is as shocking as the other!

We needn't look to distant galaxies for scientific surprises. Our own backyard, the Solar system, has some dandies!

[Original, enclosed by Mike, from Jaworowski]

Dear Colleagues,

I traced the paper from which I got the information on Venus emitting forty times more energy than its get from the Sun. This is a paper by prof. Gunnar Heinsohn, Bremen University, Germany, a politologist. His source of information was probably a New York Times/Science Times issue to which I do not have access. Below is an excerpt from Heinsohn 1997 paper: "Anfang und Ende des Klimawahns", published by MZSG Management Zentrum St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Best regards,
Zbigniew Jaworowski

Venus has a smooth surface: only about 900 impact craters, when Mercury, Mars and Moon have myriad of them. This suggest that the surface of Venus has about ten times shorter age than the surface of these other bodies. The younger surface of Venus could be an effect of a giant impact, the energy of which boiled the planet (Gerald Schaber et al., US Geological Survey Flagstaff AZ).

Venus irradiates forty times more energy than it receives from the Sun, as is indicated by the data from Magellan Sonde between 1990 and 1994 (Broad, W.J. 1996, "Venus's remade face offers hints of cataclysm: Earth's twin planet, with its surface radically remade by inner heat, is no twin after all" in New York Times/Science Times, 16 July, 1996).

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