Site Index

Science, Anthropology and Archaeology
In The Urantia Book
by Ken Glasziou

Part 2
Urantia Book Statements That May Fill Missing Information Gaps

Some Particle Physics
Two different "mesotrons"
The quest for the "ultimon"
Neutrinos, Neutrons, and Neutron Stars
Neutron stars: Undetectable figments of the imagination
Addendum to "Neutrinos, Neutrons, and Neutron stars."
Continental Drift

The articles presented in this Section appear to come into one of the categories defined on p. 1110 of The Urantia Book by which the Revelators were permitted to eliminate error, restore lost knowledge, fill missing gaps or supply cosmic data to illuminate spiritual teachings.

What Makes Stars Shine? "In those suns which are encircuited in the space-energy channels, solar energy is liberated by various complex nuclear-reaction chains, the most common of which is the hydrogen-carbon-helium reaction. In this metamorphosis, carbon acts as an energy catalyst since it is in no way actually changed by this process of converting hydrogen into helium. Under certain conditions of high temperature the hydrogen penetrates the carbon nuclei. Since the carbon cannot hold more than four such protons, when this saturation state is attained, it begins to emit protons as fast as new ones arrive. In this reaction the ingoing hydrogen particles come forth as a helium atom". (464) "All of these phenomena are indicative of enormous energy expenditure, and the sources of solar energy, named in the order of their importance, are: "1. Annihilation of atoms and, eventually, of electrons...." (463)

In 1934, when the Paper providing this information about sources of solar energy was received, the detail of the conversion of hydrogen to helium, as postulated by J. Perrin in 1920, was unknown. Two main processes for this conversion are the proton-proton chain proposed by H.A. Bethe and C.L. Critchfield in 1938, and the carbon-nitrogen cycle proposed independently by Bethe and by von Weizsacker in 1939. Naturally, Gardner claims that Dr Sadler added the information on the carbon cycle subsequently to Bethe's publications.

The carbon-nitrogen cycle that converts hydrogen to helium with the release of energy is a catalytic reaction in which carbon enters and leaves the reaction apparently unscathed. In actuality, it is a very complex reaction in which several isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are generated before ordinary carbon is regenerated and helium emerges. The simplicity of the wording of the Urantia Paper quotation from p. 464 arouses no confidence in the postulate that the writer was familiar with Bethe's work.

The quotation from p. 463 is also mentioned by Gardner (p. 189) but in this instance it is misquoted in an attempt to ridicule the science content of the Urantia Papers. Gardner sets this in the context of being in the original text, hence (according to Gardner) could not be altered or removed. He states:

"It is now known that the sun's radiant energy is produced by a thermonuclear reaction in which hydrogen is converted into a variety of helium. No electrons or protons are destroyed by this process. When the Urantia Papers were written it was widely believed that the sun's radiant energy came from the annihilation of atoms and protons. As Sir James Jeans says in The Universe Around Us, the sun's energy ‘originates out of electrons and protons. The sun is destroying its substance in order that we may live.' This notion is the view taken by the UB. The main source of the energy, the UB asserts (on page 463) is ‘the annihilation of atoms and eventually, of protons.'" Gardner got it wrong

The actual wording in the Urantia Papers is "the annihilation of atoms and, eventually, electrons." Gardner has substituted "protons" for "electrons" apparently in conformity with his quotation from Jeans. The comment that no electrons or protons are destroyed in the process seems to be his own and is incorrect. The overall process is that four atoms of hydrogen, consisting of four protons and four electrons, become a single atom of helium having two protons, two neutrons, and two electrons. Whether the process is the proton-proton chain (thought to be dominant in stars such as our sun) or via the carbon-nitrogen cycle (dominant in larger, hotter stars), in each process two positrons (anti-electrons) are released and annihilate by interacting with two electrons. Hence the statement in the Urantia Paper that the annihilation of atoms and, eventually, of electrons is of first importance for the production of solar energy is quite correct and perhaps is also prophetic concerning the proton-proton chain for helium production proposed by Bethe and Critchfield in 1938.

Some Particle Physics

1. "The charged protons and the uncharged neutrons of the nucleus of the atom are held together by the reciprocating function of the mesotron, a particle of matter 180 times as heavy as the electron. Without this arrangement the electric charge carried by the protons would be disruptive of the atomic nucleus." 2. "As atoms are constituted, neither electric nor gravitational forces could hold the nucleus together. The integrity of the nucleus is maintained by the reciprocal cohering function of the mesotron, which is able to hold charged and uncharged particles together because of superior force-mass power and by the further function of causing protons and neutrons constantly to change places. The mesotron causes the electric charge of the nuclear particles to be incessantly tossed back and forth between protons and neutrons. At one infinitesimal part of a second a given nuclear particle is a charged proton and the next an uncharged neutron. And these alternations of energy status are so unbelievably rapid that the electric charge is deprived of all opportunity to function as a disruptive influence. Thus does the mesotron function as an ‘energy-carrier' particle which mightily contributes to the nuclear stability of the atom." (479) For me, the statements reviewed in this article, coming from a Urantia Paper said to have been written in 1934, are truly remarkable. I first read them in the early 1970's, and recognized paragraphs 1 and 2 as the basic postulates of a theory for which Japanese physicist, Hideki Yukawa, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948. From the 1950's to the 1970's, particle physics was in a state of confusion because of the multitudes of sub-atomic particles that came spewing forth from particle accelerators. As new concepts and discoveries were announced, I kept noting them in the margins of page 479, which eventually became somewhat messy and confusing. At times I felt that there was not much that was right on this page, at other times I marveled at its accuracy.

In recent years, a considerable amount of information has been forthcoming on the history of development of the present "standard model" for atomic structure. Though recognized as being incomplete, the standard model has enormously increased our understanding of the basic nature of matter. The electromagnetic force and the weak force of radioactive decay have been successfully unified to to yield the "electroweak" theory. As yet this has not been unified with the theory of the "strong" force that holds the atomic nucleus together. The force of gravity remains intractable to unification with the others.

Photon exchange in electromagnetism provides a model

In the quantum theory of electromagnetism, two charged particles interact when one emits a photon and the other absorbs it. In 1932 Yukawa had decided to attempt a similar approach to describe the nuclear force field. He wrote, " seemed likely that the nuclear force was a third fundamental force, unrelated to gravitation or electromagnetism...which could also find expression as a field...Then if one visualizes the force field as a game of ‘catch' between protons and neutrons, the crux of the problem would be to find the nature of the ‘ball' or particle." This work was first published in Japanese in 1935, but was not well known in the U.S.A.

At first, Yukawa followed the work of Heisenberg and used a field of electrons to supply the nuclear force between protons and neutrons. This led to intractable problems. In 1934 he decided "to look no longer among the known particles for the particle of the nuclear force field. He wrote: "The crucial point came one night in October. The nuclear force is effective at extremely small distances, on the order of 0.02 trillionth of a centimeter. My new insight was the realization that this distance and the mass of the new particle I was seeking are inversely related to each other." He realized he could make the range of the nuclear force correct if he allowed the ball in the game of "catch" to be heavy—approximately 200 times heavier than the electron.

For a short time, Yukawa's "ball" became known as a "mesotron" but was soon shortened to meson. The word came to apply to a range of energy-carrying particles with similarities to the photon. 3. "The presence and function of the mesotron also explains another atomic riddle. When atoms perform radioactively, they emit far more energy than would be expected. This excess of radiation is derived from the breaking up of the mesotron ‘energy carrier,' which thereby becomes a mere electron. The mesotronic disintegration is also accompanied by the emission of certain small uncharged particles." (479)

This statement extends Fermi's 1934 theory of radioactive decay of the neutron. Yukawa had considered that a "mesotron" might also act as the "ball" in the "catch" game during radioactive decay. After re-running his calculations, in 1938 he published a paper predicting the properties of such a mesotron which he now called a "weak" photon. Eventually it became known as the "W" particle.

Two different "mesotrons"

Since it is destined to give rise to a negatively charged electron, this "mesotron" of radioactive decay, as described in the Urantia Paper, is obviously differentiated from the "mesotron" that shuttles positive charge between protons and neutrons. The Paper also connects it to the production of small uncharged particles, which would receive the name "neutrinos."

Para's 1-3 come close to being the contemporary, but incredibly speculative, science of the middle to late 1930's. They describe three hypothetical particles—the pion "mesotron" (found 1947), the W particle "mesotron" (found 1983), and the small uncharged particles, "neutrinos" ( found 1956).

The para 2. comment stating, "the alternations of energy status are unbelievably rapid..." is interesting. Because of its placement in the text, it qualifies only that "mesotron" that shuttles charge between the protons and the neutrons and not the "mesotron" of radioactive decay. According to Nobel Prize winner, Steven Weinberg (1992), these alternations occur in the order of a million, million, million, millionth of a second. In contrast, the "mesotron"-mediated radioactive decay process described in para. 3 takes about a hundredth of a second. Together these three statements in the Urantia Paper indicate that the author had an extensive knowledge of theoretical nuclear physics—a rare individual indeed, and especially so prior to the race to build the atomic bomb.

An unknown component of the nuclear binding force 4."The mesotron explains certain cohesive properties of the atomic nucleus, but it does not account for the cohesion of proton to proton nor for the adhesion of neutron to neutron. The paradoxical and powerful force of atomic cohesive integrity is a form of energy as yet undiscovered on Urantia." (479)

This statement from the Urantia Paper definitely states that the "mesotron" that shuttles positive charge between protons and neutrons does not account for certain special cohesive properties of the atomic nucleus. It then tells us that there is an aspect of this force that is as yet undiscovered on Urantia.

Leon Lederman was a young research worker in 1950 who later became director of the Fermi Laboratory. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1988. In his book, The God Particle, he comments: "The hot particle of 1950 was the pion or pi meson (Yukawa's mesotron), as it is also called. The pion had been predicted in 1936 by a Japanese theoretical physicist, Hideki Yukawa. It was thought to be the key to the strong force, which in those days was the big mystery. Today we think of the strong force in terms of gluons. But back then (i.e. 1950's), pions which fly back and forth between the protons to hold them together tightly in the nucleus were the key, and we needed to make and study them."

This force, unknown in 1934, (and for that matter in 1955 when The Urantia Book was published) is now known as the color force. Writing about it in their book, The Particle Explosion, Close, Marten, and Sutton state, "Back in the 1940's and 1950's, theorists thought that pions were the transmitters of the strong force. But experiments later showed that pions and other hadrons are composite particles, built from quarks, and the theory of the strong force had to be revised completely. We now believe that it is the color within the proton and the neutron that attracts them to each other to build nuclei. This process may have similarities to the way that electrical charge within atoms manages to build up complex molecules. Just as electrons are exchanged between atoms bound within a molecule, so are quarks and anti-quarks—in clusters we call ‘pions'—exchanged between the protons and neutrons in a nucleus."

The quest for the "ultimon"

The mandate to the revelators permitted "the supplying of information which will fill in vital missing gaps in otherwise earned knowledge." (1110) Whether any physicist ever effectively utilized the information in para. 4 of page 479, we will probably never know. But there are "more things on heaven and earth"... For example, "Physics, it is hoped, will one day reach the ultimate level of nature in which everything can be described and from which the entire universe develops. This belief could be called the quest for the ultimon." (from E. David Peat, 1988, Superstrings and the Search for the Theory of Everything.) There is a curious coincidence here. The particle the Urantia Papers called a mesotron became shortened to meson. It calls the basic building block of matter an ultimaton. Will it one day be identified with the ultimon?

References. F. Close, M. Marten, & C. Sutton The Particle Explosion (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987) C. Sutton, Spaceship Neutrino (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992) L. Lederman, The God Particle (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1993) S. Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory (Pantheon Books, N.Y. 1992) H. Yukawa, Tabibito (World Scientific, Singapore, 1982), p. 190

Neutrinos, Neutrons, and Neutron Stars

"In large suns when hydrogen is exhausted and gravity contraction ensues, and such a body is not sufficiently opaque to retain the internal pressure of support for the outer gas regions, then a sudden collapse occurs. The gravity-electric changes give origin to vast quantities of tiny particles devoid of electric potential, and such particles readily escape from the solar interior thus bringing about the collapse of a gigantic sun within a few days." (464)

No tiny particles devoid of electric potential that could escape readily from the interior of a collapsing star had been shown to exist in 1934. In fact, the reality of such particles were not confirmed until 1956, one year after the publication of The Urantia Book. The existence of particles that might have such properties had been put forward as a suggestion by Wolfgang Pauli in 1932, because studies on radioactive beta decay of atoms had indicated that a neutron could decay to a proton and an electron, but measurements had shown that the combined mass energy of the electron and proton did not add up to that of the neutron. To account for the missing energy, Pauli suggested a little neutral particle was emitted, and then, on the same day, while lunching with the eminent astrophysicist Walter Baade, Pauli commented that he had done the worst thing a theoretical physicist could possibly do, he had proposed a particle that could never be discovered because it had no properties. Not long after, Enrico Fermi took up Pauli's idea and attempted to publish a paper on the subject in the prestigious science journal Nature. The editors rejected Fermi's paper on the grounds that it was too speculative. This was in 1933, the year before receipt of the relevant Urantia Paper. An interesting thing to note is the Urantia Book statement that tiny particles devoid of electric potential would be released in vast quantities during the collapse of the star. If, in 1934, an author other than a knowledgeable particle physicist was prophesying about the formation of a neutron star (a wildly speculative proposal from Zwicky and Baade in the early 1930's), then surely that author would have been thinking about the reversal of beta radioactive decay in which a proton, an electron and Pauli's little neutral particle would be squeezed together to form a neutron.

Radioactive beta decay can be written... 1. neutron ——> proton + electron + LNP where LNP stands for little neutral particle. Hence the reverse should be:

2. LNP + electron + proton——> neutron

For this to occur an electron and a proton have to be compressed to form a neutron but somehow they would have to add a little neutral particle in order to make up for the missing mass-energy. Thus, in terms of speculative scientific concepts in 1934, The Urantia Book appears to have put things back to front, it has predicted a vast release of LNP's, when the reversal of radioactive beta decay would appear to demand that LNPs should disappear.

The idea of a neutron star was considered to be highly speculative right up until 1967. Most astronomers believed that stars of average size, like our sun, up to and including stars that are very massive, finished their lives as white dwarfs. The theoretical properties of neutron stars were just too preposterous; for example, a thimbleful would weigh about 100 million tonnes. A favored alternative proposal was that large stars were presumed to blow off their surplus mass a piece at a time until they got below 1.4 solar masses (known as the Chandrasekhar limit) when they could retire as respectable white dwarfs. This process did not entail the release of vast quantities of tiny particles devoid of electric potential that accompany star collapse as described in the cited Urantia Book quotation.

Neutron stars: Undetectable figments of the imagination

Distinguished Russian astrophysicist, Igor Novikov, has written, "Apparently no searches in earnest for neutron stars or black holes were attempted by astronomers before the 1960s. It was tacitly assumed that these objects were far too eccentric and most probably were the fruits of theorists' wishful thinking. Preferably, one avoided speaking about them. Sometimes they were mentioned vaguely with a remark yes, they could be formed, but in all likelihood this had never happened. At any rate, if they existed, then they could not be detected."

Acceptance of the existence of neutron stars gained ground slowly with discoveries accompanying the development of radio and X-ray astronomy. The Crab nebula played a central role as ideas about it emerged in the decade, 1950-1960. Originally observed as an explosion in the sky by Chinese astronomers in 1054, the Crab nebula became the subject of increased interest when, in 1958, Walter Baade reported visual observations suggesting moving ripples in its nebulosity. When sensitive electronic devices replaced the photographic plate as a means of detection, the oscillation frequency of what was thought to be a white dwarf star at the center of the Crab nebula turned out to be about 30 times per second.

A rapidly rotating white dwarf star would disintegrate

For a white dwarf star with a diameter in the order of 1000 km, a rotation rate of even once per second would cause it to disintegrate due to centrifugal forces. Hence, this remarkably short pulsation period implied that the object responsible for the light variations must be very much smaller than a white dwarf, and the only possible contender for such properties appeared to be a neutron star. Final acceptance came with pictures of the center of the Crab nebula beamed back to earth by the orbiting Einstein X-ray observatory in 1967. These confirmed and amplified the evidence obtained by prior observations made with both light and radio telescopes.

The reversal of beta-decay, as depicted in equation 2 [previous page] involves a triple collision, an extremely improbable event, unless two of the components combine in a meta-stable state—a fact not likely to be obvious to a non-expert observer.

The probable evolutionary course of collapse of massive stars has only been elucidated since the advent of fast computers. Such stars begin life composed mainly of hydrogen gas that burns to form helium. The nuclear energy released in this way holds off the gravitational urge to collapse. With the hydrogen in the central core exhausted, the core begins to shrink and heat up, making the outer layers expand. With the rise in temperature in the core, helium fuses to give carbon and oxygen, while the hydrogen around the core continues to make helium. At this stage the star expands to become a red giant. After exhaustion of helium at the core, gravitational contraction again occurs and the rise in temperature permits carbon to burn to yield neon, sodium, and magnesium, after which the star begins to shrink to become a blue giant. Neon and oxygen burning follow. Finally silicon and sulfur, the products from burning of oxygen, ignite to produce iron. Iron nuclei cannot release energy on fusing together, hence with the exhaustion of its fuel source, the furnace at the center of the star goes out. Nothing can now slow the onslaught of gravitational collapse, and when the iron core reaches a critical mass of 1.4 times the mass of our sun, and the diameter of the star is about half that of the earth, the star's fate is sealed.

Within a few tenths of a second, the iron ball collapses to about 50 kilometers across and then the collapse is halted as its density approaches that of the atomic nucleus and the protons and neutrons cannot be further squeezed together. The halting of the collapse sends a tremendous shock wave back through the outer region of the core.

Tiny particles, devoid of electric potential, readily escape from the solar interior

The light we see from our sun comes only from its outer surface layer. However, the energy that fuels the sunlight (and life on earth) originates from the hot, dense thermonuclear furnace at the Sun's core. Though sunlight takes only about eight minutes to travel from the sun to earth, the energy from the sun's core that gives rise to this sunlight takes in the order of a million years to diffuse from the core to the surface. In other words, a sun (or star) is relatively "opaque" (as per The Urantia Book, p. 464) to the energy diffusing from its thermonuclear core to its surface, hence it supplies the pressure necessary to prevent gravitational collapse. But this is not true of the little neutral particles, known since the mid 1930's by the name neutrinos. These particles are so tiny and unreactive that their passage from our sun's core to its exterior takes only about 3 seconds.

It is because neutrinos can escape so readily that they have a critical role in bringing about the star's sudden death and the ensuing explosion. Neutrinos are formed in a variety of ways, many as neutrino-antineutrino pairs from highly energetic gamma rays. Others arise as the compressed protons capture an electron (or expel a positron) to become neutrons, a reaction that is accompanied by the release of a neutrino. Something in the order of 1057 electron neutrinos are released in this way. Neutral current reactions from Zo particles of the weak force also contribute electron neutrinos along with the "heavy" muon and tau neutrinos.

Escape of the tiny neutral particles enables a supernova explosion

Together, these neutrinos constitute a "vast quantity of tiny particles devoid of electric potential" that readily escape from the star's interior. Calculations indicate that they carry ninety-nine percent of the energy released in the final supernova explosion. The gigantic flash of light that accompanies the explosion accounts for only a part of the remaining one percent! Although the bulk of the neutrinos and anti-neutrinos is released during the final explosion, they are also produced at the enormous temperatures reached by the inner core during final stages of contraction.

The opportunity to confirm the release of the neutrinos postulated to accompany the spectacular death of a giant star came in 1987 when a supernova explosion, visible to the naked eye, occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud that neighbors our Milky Way galaxy. Calculations indicated that this supernova, dubbed SN1987A, should give rise to a neutrino burst at a density of 50 billion per square centimeter when it finally reached the earth, even though expanding as a spherical "surface" originating at a distance 170,000 light years away. This neutrino burst was observed in the huge neutrino detectors at Kamiokande in Japan and at Fairport, Ohio, in the USA lasting for a period of just 12 seconds, and confirming the computer simulations that indicated they should diffuse through the dense core relatively slowly. From the average energy and the number of "hits" by the neutrinos in the detectors, it was possible to estimate that the energy released by SN1987 amounted to 2-3 x 1053 ergs. This is equal to the calculated gravitational binding energy that would be released by the collapsing core of a star of about 1.5 solar masses to the diameter of a neutron star. Thus SN1987A provided a remarkable confirmation of the general picture of neutron star formation developed over the last fifty years. Importantly, it also confirmed that The Urantia Book had its facts right long before the concept of neutrino-yielding neutron stars achieved respectability.

References Hoyle, F., and J. Narlikar. The Physics Astronomy Frontier. (W.H. Freeman & Co. San Francisco, 1980.) Novikov, I. Black Holes and the Universe. (Cambridge University Press, 1990) Sutton, C. Spaceship Neutrino. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992)

Addendum to "Neutrinos, Neutrons, and Neutron stars."

"In large suns when hydrogen is exhausted and gravity contraction ensues, and such a body is not sufficiently opaque to retain the internal pressure of support for the outer gas regions, then a sudden collapse occurs. The gravity-electric changes give origin to vast quantities of tiny particles devoid of electric potential, and such particles readily escape from the solar interior thus bringing about the collapse of a gigantic sun within a few days." (p. 464) For the mid-thirties that was quite a statement. These tiny particles that we now call neutrinos were entirely speculative in the early 1930's and were required to account for the missing mass-energy of beta radioactive decay. Hypotheses on the possible origins of the Urantia Paper's statement on solar collapse

In the early 1930's, the idea that supernova explosions could occur and result in the formation of neutron stars was extensively publicized by Fritz Zwicky of the California Institute of Technology (Caltec) who worked in Professor Millikan's dept. For a period during the mid-thirties, Zwicky was also at the University of Chicago. Dr. Sadler is said to have known Millikan. So alternative possibilities for the origin of The Urantia Book quote above could be:

1. The revelators followed their mandate and used a human source of information about supernovae, possibly Zwicky.

2. Dr Sadler had learned about the tiny particles devoid of electric potential from either Zwicky, Millikan, or some other knowledgeable person and incorporated it into The Urantia Book.

3. It is information supplied to fill missing gaps in otherwise earned knowledge as permitted in the mandate. (1110)

Zwicky had the reputation of being a brilliant scientist but given to much wild speculation, some of which turned out to be correct. A paper published by Zwicky and Baade in 1934 proposed that neutron stars would be formed in stellar collapse and that 10% of the mass would be lost in the process. (Phys. Reviews. Vol. 45)

In Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Picador, London, 1994), a book that covers the work and thought of this period in detail, K.S. Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltec, writes: "In the early 1930's, Fritz Zwicky and Walter Baade joined forces to study novae, stars that suddenly flare up and shine 10,000 times more brightly than before. Baade was aware of tentative evidence that, besides ordinary novae, there existed superluminous novae. These were roughly of the same brightness but since they were thought to occur in nebulae far out beyond our Milky Way, they must signal events of extraordinary magnitude. Baade collected data on six such novae that had occurred during the current century.

"As Baade and Zwicky struggled to understand supernovae, James Chadwick, in 1932, reported the discovery of the neutron. This was just what Zwicky required to calculate that if a star could be made to implode until it reached the density of the atomic nucleus, it might transform into a gas of neutrons, reduce its radius to a shrunken core, and, in the process, lose about 10% of its mass. The energy equivalent of the mass loss would then supply the explosive force to power a supernova.

"Zwicky did not know what might initiate implosion nor how the core might behave as it imploded. Hence he could not estimate how long the process might take—is it a slow contraction or a high-speed implosion? Details of this process were not worked out until the 1960's and later.

Zwicky believed cosmic rays accounted for the mass-energy loss in supernova explosions

"At this time (1932-33), cosmic rays were receiving much attention and Zwicky, with his love of extremes, managed to convince himself that most of the cosmic rays (correctly) were coming from outside our solar system and (incorrectly) that most were from far outside our Milky Way galaxy—indeed from the most distant reaches of the universe—and he then convinced himself (roughly correctly) that the total energy carried by all of the universe's cosmic rays was about the same as the total energy released by supernovae throughout the universe. The conclusion was obvious to Zwicky. Cosmic rays must be made in supernova explosions." Baade and Zwicky's paper of 1934 asserted unequivocally the existence of supernovae as a distinct class of astronomical objects different from ordinary novae. It estimated the total energy released (10% of solar mass), and proposed that the core would consist of neutrons, a speculation that was not accepted as theoretically viable until 1939 nor verified observationally until 1967 with the discovery of pulsars—spinning, magnetized neutron stars inside the exploding gas of ancient supernovae. Information, extracted from Thorne's recent book, indicates that Zwicky knew nothing about the possible role of "little neutral particles" in the implosion of a neutron star, but rather that he attributed the entire mass-energy loss to cosmic rays. So, if not from Zwicky, what then is the human origin of The Urantia Book's statement that the neutrinos escaping from its interior bring about the collapse of the imploding star? (Current estimates attribute about 99% of the energy of a supernova explosion to being carried off by the neutrinos).

In his book, Thorne further states: "Astronomers in the 1930's responded enthusiastically to the Baade-Zwicky concept of a supernova, but treated Zwicky's neutron star and cosmic ray ideas with disdain...In fact it is clear to me from a detailed study of Zwicky's writings of the era that he did not understand the laws of physics well enough to be able to substantiate his ideas." This opinion was also held by Robert Oppenheimer who published a set of papers with collaborators Volkoff, Snyder, and Tolman, on Russian physicist Lev Landau's ideas about stellar energy originating from a neutron core at the heart of a star. Oppenheimer ignored Zwicky's speculative proposals, though he must have been familiar with them as he worked about half of each year at Caltec.

The Oppenheimer papers were mainly theoretical in nature and based upon the principles of relativistic physics. In a 1939 paper of Oppenheimer and Snyder, since they had neither the detailed knowledge nor the computational machinery to formulate a realistic model of a collapsing star, they took as their starting point a star that was precisely spherical, non-spinning, non-radiating, of uniform density and no internal pressure. Their conclusions included that, for an observer from a static external reference frame, the implosion of a massive star freezes at the critical circumference of the star (i.e. where gravity becomes so strong that not even light can escape) but, as considered from the reference frame of the star's surface, it may continue to implode (ultimately to a Schwarzschild singularity—the term "black hole" had yet to be invented).

Einstein and Eddington opposed neutron star concept

These Oppenheimer papers, which concluded that either neutron stars or black holes could be the outcome of massive star implosion, were about as far as physicists could go at that time. As a further deterrent to speculation on the fate of imploding massive stars, the most prominent physicist of the time, Albert Einstein, and the doyen of astronomers, Sir Arthur Eddington, both vigorously opposed the concepts involved in stellar collapse beyond the white dwarf stage. Thus the subject appears to have been put on hold coincident with the outbreak of war in 1939. During the 1940's, virtually all capable physicists were occupied with tasks relating to the war effort. Apparently this was not so for Russian-born astronomer-physicist, George Gamow, a professor at Leningrad who had taken up a position at George Washington University in 1934. Gamow conceived the beginning of the Hubble expanding universe as a thermonuclear fireball in which the original stuff of creation was a dense gas of protons, neutrons, electrons, and gamma radiation which transmuted by a chain of nuclear reactions into the variety of elements that make up the world of today. Referring to this work, Overbye4 writes: "In the forties, Gamow and a group of collaborators wrote a series of papers spelling out the details of thermonucleogenesis. Unfortunately their scheme didn't work. Some atomic nuclei were so unstable that they fell apart before they could fuse again into something heavier, thus breaking the element building chain. Gamow's team disbanded in the late 40's, its work ignored and disdained."

Among this work was a paper by Gamow and Schoenfeld that proposed that energy loss from aging stars would be mediated by an efflux of neutrinos. However they also noted that "the neutrinos are still considered as highly hypothetical particles becauseof the failure of all efforts to detect them. Their proposal appears to have been overlooked or ignored until the 1960's.

Conservation of energy "law" under fire

Pauli's suggestion about the necessary existence of the tiny unknown particle devoid of electric potential that we now call the neutrino was made just prior to Chadwick's discovery of the neutron in 1932. The name, neutrino, was suggested by Enrico Fermi. In beta decay, when a neutron breaks down to a proton and an electron, the loss in mass is 0.00029 on the atomic weight scale, approximately the mass of half an electron. In some decay events, the electron gets most of the missing mass-energy in the form of kinetic energy. Since the missing particle must also have kinetic energy it became clear that it must be massless or very close thereto. Many thought it must be massless like the photon and travel with the velocity of light. Although no one wanted to abandon the law of conservation of energy, there was considerable doubt about saving it by means of a particle without charge and probably without mass, a particle that could never be detected and whose sole reason for existence was merely to save a law. [Note: In 1957, the 30-year old law of conservation of parity was shown to be violated during neutrino emission in beta radioactive decay.]

As time went by, the need for the neutrino grew, not only to save the law of conservation of energy, but also conservation of momentum, angular momentum (spin), and lepton number. As knowledge of what it ought to be like grew, and as knowledge accrued from the intense efforts to produce the atom bomb, possible means of detecting this particle began to emerge. In 1953, experiments were begun by a team led by C.L. Cowan and F. Reines.1 Fission reactors were now in existence in which the breakdown of uranium yielded free neutrons that, outside of the atomic nucleus, were unstable and broke down via beta decay to yield a proton, an electron, and, if it existed, the missing particle. The fission reactor chosen at Savannah River, North Carolina was estimated to provide 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 each second. These should be antineutrinos.

Detection of the elusive neutrino

The Cowan and Reines team devised a scheme to feed the antineutrinos from the reactor into a target consisting of water. Each water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen, and the nuclei of the hydrogen atoms are protons. A scintillator substance was added to the water contained in a series of tanks surrounded by scintillation detectors. If an antineutrino was absorbed by a proton, the expectation was that a neutron and a positron (antielectron) would be formed. In such an environment the positron should collide with an electron within about a millionth of a second, and the two should annihilate with the production of two gamma ray photons shot out in exactly opposite directions. An added refinement was detection of the newly formed neutron which, in the presence of cadmium ions, would immediately be taken into the cadmium nucleus with emission of photons with combined energy of 9 Mev. Detection of this sequence of events would herald the existence of the antineutrino. In 1956 this system was detecting 70 such events per day with the fission reactor operating over and above the background noise with the reactor shut off. It now remained to prove that this particle was not its own antiparticle, as is the case with the photon. This was done by R.R. Davis in 19561, using a system designed specifically to detect expected neutrino properties, but testing for those properties with antineutrinos deriving from a fission reactor. The negative results so obtained provided evidence for there being two different particles. Confirmation of the existence of the neutrino (as distinct from the anti-neutrino) was obtained in 1965 when neutrinos from the sun were detected in huge perchloroethylene tanks placed far underground. Renewal of the search for the neutron star

The subject of the fate of imploding stars re-opened with vigor when both Robert Oppenheimer and John Wheeler, two of the really great names of physics, attended a conference in Brussels in 1958. Oppenheimer believed that his 1939 papers said all that needed to be said about such implosions. Wheeler disagreed, wanting to know what went on beyond the well-established laws of physics.

When Oppenheimer and Snyder did their work in 1939, it had been hopeless to compute the details of the implosion. In the meantime, nuclear weapons design had provided the necessary tools because, to design a bomb, nuclear reactions, pressure effects, shock waves, heat, radiation, and mass ejection had to be taken into account. Wheeler realized that his team had only to rewrite their computer programs so as to simulate implosion rather than explosion. However his hydrogen bomb team had been disbanded and it fell to Stirling Colgate at Livermore, in collaboration with Richard White and Michael May, to do these simulations. Wheeler learned of the results and was largely responsible for generating the enthusiasm to follow this line of research. The term ‘black hole' was coined by Wheeler.

The theoretical basis for supernova explosions is said to have been laid by E. M. Burbidge, G.R. Burbidge, W. A. Fowler, and Fred Hoyle in a 1957 paper2. However, even in Hoyle and Narlikar's text book, The Physics-Astronomy Frontier (1980), no consideration is given to a role for neutrinos in the explosive conduction of energy away from the core of a supernova. In their 1957 paper, Hoyle and his co-workers proposed that when the temperature of an aging massive star rises to about 7 billion degrees K, iron is rapidly converted into helium by a nuclear process that absorbs energy. In meeting the sudden demand for this energy, the core cools rapidly and shrinks catastrophically, implodes in seconds, and the outer envelope crashes into it. As the lighter elements are heated by the implosion they burn so rapidly that the envelope is blasted into space. So, two years after the first publication of The Urantia Book, the most eminent authorities in the field of star evolution make no reference to the "vast quantities of tiny particles devoid of electric potential" that the book says escape from the star interior to bring about its collapse. Instead they invoke the conversion of iron to helium, an energy consuming process now thought not to be of significance.

Following on from the forgotten Gamow and Schoenfeld paper, the next suggestion that neutrinos may have a role in supernovae came from Ph.D. student Hong-Yee Chiu, working under Philip Morrison. Chiu proposed that towards the end of the life of a massive star, the core would reach temperatures of about 3 billion degrees at which electron-positron pairs would be formed and a tiny fraction of these pairs would give rise to neutrino-antineutrino pairs. Chiu speculated that X-rays would be given off by the star for about 1000 years and that the temperature would ultimately reach about 6 billion degrees when an iron core would form at the central region of the star. The flux of neutrino-antineutrino pairs would then be sufficiently great to carry off the explosive energy of the star in a single day. The 1000-year period predicted by Chiu for X-ray emission was reduced to about one year by later workers. Chiu's proposals appear to have been first published in a Ph. D. thesis submitted at Cornell University in 1959. Scattered references to it are made by Philip Morrison3 and by Isaac Asimov1.

No neutral current, no supernova

Dennis Overbye, in his book Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos4 records that, for supernovae, almost all the energy of the inward free fall comes out in the form of neutrinos. The success of this scenario (as proposed by Chiu) depends on a feature of the weak interaction called the neutral currents. Without this, the neutrinos do not supply enough ‘oomph' and theorists had no good explanation for how stars explode. In actuality the existence of the neutral current for the weak interaction was not demonstrated until the mid 1970's.

A 1985 paper (Scientific American) by Bethe and Brown entitled "How a Supernova Explodes" shows that understanding of the important role of the neutrinos was well advanced by that time. These authors attribute this understanding to the computer simulations of W. David Arnett of the University of Chicago and Thomas Weaver and Stanford Woosley of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

In a recent report in Sky and Telescope (August, 1995) it is stated that, during the past decade, computer simulations of supernovae have bogged down at 100 to 150 km from the center and failed to explode. These models were one dimensional. With more computer power becoming available, two dimensional simulations have now been carried out and model supernova explosions produced. The one reported was for a 15 solar mass supernova that winds up as a neutron star. However the authors speculate that at least some 5 to 15 solar mass implosions might wind up as black holes. There is still a long way to go in understanding the details of stellar implosions.

Who dunit? Paring away the alternatives

Referring to our three alternatives to explain how the reference to the role of the tiny uncharged particles in supernova explosions got to be in the Urantia Papers, ostensibly in 1934, our investigation showed that Zwicky is unlikely to have been the source as he firmly believed X-rays, not neutrinos, accounted for the 10% mass loss during the death of the star. Remembering that neutron stars were not demonstrated to exist until 1967, that some of the biggest names in physics and astronomy were totally opposed to the concept of collapsing stars (Einstein, Eddington), and that, well into the 1960's, the majority of astronomers assumed that massive stars shed their bulk piecemeal prior to retiring respectably as white dwarfs, it appears that it would have been a preposterous notion to attempt to support the reality of a revelation by means of speculation about the events occurring in massive star implosion at any time prior to the 1960's. If it is assumed that, on what would have needed to be the expert advice of a knowledgeable but reckless astrophysicist, Dr Sadler wrote the page 464 material into the Urantia Papers subsequent to the concepts on neutrinos appearing in the Gamow et al. publications, then it becomes necessary to ask why was it not removed when that work lost credibility later in the 1940's?—and particularly so since, in their conclusions, Gamow and Schoenfeld drew attention to the fact that the neutrinos were still considered to be highly hypothetical particles as well as noting that "the dynamics of the collapse represents very serious mathematical difficulties." Printing Plates for The Urantia Book Documents held by the Urantia Foundation show that the contract to prepare the nickel printing plates from the manuscript of the Urantia Papers was accepted during September, 1941. The galley proofs from the plates were checked for typographical errors by members of Dr Sadler's group, known as the Forum, in 1942. The Sherman affair described in Gardner's book included an attempt by Sherman to get control of the printing plates in 1943. These plates were held in the vaults of the printers, R.R. Donnelley & Sons until the actual printing of The Urantia Book. Wartime regulations prevented an early printing of the book. Later it was delayed by the revelators.

It has already been indicated that the highly speculative 1942 paper of Gamow and Schoenfeld was unlikely to have been the source of the book's p.464 statement on star implosion. The evidence for the printing plates contract makes it even less likely.

Invoking Occam's Razor

The language, level of knowledge, and terminology of the page 464 reference, together with the references to the binding together of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus, the two types of mesotron, and the involvement of small uncharged particles in beta radioactive decay as described on page 479, is that of the early 1930's period, and not that of the 40's and 50's. It is what would be expected from authors constrained by a mandate not to reveal unearned knowledge except in special circumstances. Applying the Occam's razor principle of giving preference to the simplest explanation consistent with the facts, the most probable explanation for the aforementioned material of page 464 must be that it is original to the Urantia Papers as received in 1934, hence comes into the category nominated in the revelatory mandate as information supplied to fill missing gaps in our knowledge.

References 1. Asimov, Isaac, (1966) The Neutrino (Dobson Books Ltd., London) 2. Burbidge, E.M., G.R. Burbidge, W.A. Fowler, & F. Hoyle. (1957) 3. Morrison, Philip, (1962) Scientific American 207 (2) 90. 4. Overbye, Dennis (1991) Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos (HarperCollins) 5. Thorne, K.S. (1994) Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Picador, London)

Continental Drift

"There is a curious parallel history between the histories of black holes and continental drift. Evidence for both was already non-ignorable by 1916, but both ideas were stopped in their tracks for half a century by a resistance bordering on the irrational...but [resistance to] both began to crumble around 1960." Werner Israel, quoted in K.S. Thorne (1994) Black Holes and Time Warps (Picador, London).

The Urantia Book states quite categorically that all land on earth was originally a single continent that subsequently broke up, commencing 750 million years ago (663), followed by a long period of continental drifting during which land bridges were repeatedly formed and broken.

Wegener's theory The idea of continental drift was mooted in the 19th century and first put forward as a comprehensive theory by Wegener in 1912. It was not well accepted, being classified as pseudoscience. For example Rollin T. Chamberlin wrote in 1928 just 6 years prior to receipt of the Urantia Papers: "Wegener's theory in general is of the foot-less type...It plays a game in which there are few restrictive rules..."

Chamberlin went on to list 18 points that he considered were destructive of the drift hypothesis, and actually began his book with, "Can we call geology a science when there exists such a difference of opinion in fundamental matters as to make it possible for such a theory as this to run wild?" The theory remained discredited in the opinion of most geologists until the 1960's. The story of the earlier conflict and later acceptance of continental drift has been recently recorded by science historian H.E. Le Grand (see ref.).

New Evidence

The change in attitude by geologists, particularly in America, was initiated by the careful bathymetric, paleomagnetic, and seismological surveys in the region of long mountain ranges on the ocean floors, such as the mid-Atlantic ridge that stretches from Iceland to Antarctica. During the 1960's, geophysical surveys of the ocean floor revealed that the rock from the earth's mantle is being melted, then forced upwards resulting in sea floor spreading. This upwelling would be expected to push the continents apart, and thus provided the missing evidence for a physical mechanism that could bring about continental drift. Gradually the term continental drift was replaced by a new terminology and today it is known universally as plate tectonics.

Against the current! The Urantia Papers that mention continental drift were presented in 1934, and published in book form in 1955. The writers of the Papers could not have been unaware of the very tenuous nature of the theory and would have known that it was held in disrepute by most American geologists. Hence, unless these writers had access to pre-existing knowledge, they would appear to have been doing a very foolish thing in going against strongly-held scientific opinion.

The Urantia Book is at variance with many published estimates of geological time, for instance for the Carboniferous and Devonian periods where the discrepancy may be about 100 million years. In some areas there is good agreement; for example the book (683) talks of the disappearance of land bridges between the Americas and Europe and Africa in the era between 160 and 170 million years ago, and an article in Scientific American, June, 1979, places this break at 165 million years ago. However land bridges connected these continents again at later times via Greenland, Iceland, and the Bering Strait and also connected South America to Australia via Antarctica, and directly to Africa (The Urantia Book, pp. 694, 695, 698; Scientific American, January 1983, p. 60).

Time of break-up of continents A most remarkable aspect of The Urantia Book account is the statement that the breakup of the supercontinent commenced 750 million years ago. Wegener placed it at 200 million years ago. The 1984 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica's "Science and Technology" presented what was then purported to be an up-to-date series of maps depicting the progress of continental drift from 50 to 200 million years ago which is at variance with a similar portrayal in the April, 1985 issue of Scientific American by about 100 million years in aspects of the progression. Nevertheless, both versions still placed the commencement of continental drift in the vicinity of 200 to 250 million years ago.

Somewhere around 1980 some geologists were having a rethink about the commencement of continental drift, and in a book entitled Genesis, published in 1982, J. Gribbin reported the view that there may have been a pre-existing continent, Pangea 1, roughly 600 million years ago that had broken up into four new continents by about 450 million years ago, at the end of the Ordovician age. Then about 200 million years ago, the continents were thought to have converged to form Pangea 2, which quickly broke, first to Laurasia and Gondwanaland; further breakup then occurred at the end of the Cretaceous to give an appearance much like the present world. A different opinion was expressed in an article in Scientific American (1984) 250 (2), 41 which stated the view that a breakup occurred in late Ripherian times between 700 and 900 million years ago; but a 1987 article (Scientific American 256, 84) is more conservative and placed the breakup of Pangea 1 at somewhere near the beginning of the pre-Cambrian, in the order of 600 million years ago.


The further development of the theory of continental drift is reviewed by I. W. D. Dalziel in Scientific American 272 (1) 28 (1995). The date proposed for the commencement of break-up of the first supercontinent is now estimated as 750 million years ago—the same as is given in The Urantia Book. Co-incidence, lucky guess, or something else???

The Urantia Book, p. 663;
Scientific American 250 (2), 41, 1984;
Scientific American 256 (4), 84, 1887;
H.E. Le Grand, Drifting Continents and Shifting Theories, 1988. (Cambridge University Press)

Continental Drift and Land Elevation

The Urantia Book account of the geological history of our planet tells us that, following the breakup of the supercontinent about 750 million years ago, there have been repeated cycles of land elevation and submergence. Between approximately 400 and 200 million years ago, the periodicity appears to average very roughly 25 million years, with periods of much more frequent cycling during the Carboniferous and Cretaceous periods. Changes in sea level have often been attributed to advance and retreat of the polar ice caps, but this would not appear to account for the movements described in The Urantia Book. More recently a mechanism has been proposed involving the accumulation of heat beneath the great land masses that is thought to cause the elevation, doming, and breakup of continents, and their subsequent rejoining. Although the concept has been put forward mainly to explain transverse movement, it also provides a physical mechanism that could account for the vertical movement described in The Urantia Book . The mechanism proposed indicates a relatively slow build up of heat, but the subsequent blow off can occur in a number of ways, hence considerable deviation from sine wave periodicity would be expected. This theory will be of interest to Urantia Book readers who have been puzzled by its account of the alternate elevation and depression of continents on such a large scale.

REFERENCE: "The Supercontinent Cycle" R.D. Nance et al. Scientific American 259(1), 44-51 (1988).

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