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Q: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes ( No Answer,   6 Comments )
Subject: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
Category: Science > Astronomy
Asked by: citizena-ga
List Price: $75.00
Posted: 25 Oct 2004 17:18 PDT
Expires: 04 Nov 2004 01:14 PST
Question ID: 420046
I am looking for a scientific response which examines  and critiques
the claims of Dr. Paul LaViolette. His "galactic superwave" theories
have been outlined in his book "Earth Under Fire" (1997) and on his
website I have not been able to find anything on the
internet or in books from astrophysicists or other scientists who have
taken a look at his unusual claims. Any help?

Clarification of Question by citizena-ga on 27 Oct 2004 02:27 PDT
My post of 10/27/04 may be helpful, so one knows what I am trying to get at.

Request for Question Clarification by mathtalk-ga on 27 Oct 2004 06:29 PDT
Hi, citizena-ga:

If you could point me to the beryllium-10 ice core measurements that
you say Dr. LaViolette relies upon, perhaps I could provide an

The conventional understanding of 10Be variations (taken not only from
Greenland and Antartic ice cores, but from soil and ocean sediments)
is that this unstable isotope (half-life of ~1.5Myr) is produced in
the atmosphere as oxygen and nitrogen atoms are fragmented by cosmic
rays.  The 10Be precipitates to the ground.

An 11 year cycle of solar activity is believed to be observed in the
10Be concentrations of ice cores.  I'm not aware of any observations
of a unique spike in 10Be concentrations at around the end of the last
ice age (circa 10Kyr), though cyclic variations of period ~41Kyr have
been sought as evidence of the "insolation" theory of ice

regards, mathtalk-ga
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
From: iang-ga on 26 Oct 2004 03:12 PDT
There's a bit about him on  I doubt you'll find
any in depth critiques though - life's too short!

Ian G.
Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theories
From: citizena-ga on 26 Oct 2004 11:59 PDT
Thanks Ian... I post at Bad Astronomy myself, and the felt that the
inquiry wasn't addressed there too well. Perhaps LaViolette is being
largely ignored because he hasn't caused much of an uproar in the
scientific community.
Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
From: iang-ga on 26 Oct 2004 15:14 PDT
>Perhaps LaViolette is being largely ignored because he hasn't caused
much of an uproar in the scientific community.

Why should he?  There are any number of crackpot theories out there
and it's just not possible to rebut them all.  As I said, life's too

Ian G.
Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
From: mathtalk-ga on 26 Oct 2004 17:18 PDT
Something of the difficulty of formulating a "scientific response" to
LaViolette's theories can perhaps be gathered from the following
sample text from the Web site linked above:

[Galactic Core Explosions]

"A study of astronomical and geological data reveals that cosmic ray
electrons and electromagnetic radiation from a similar outburst of our
own Galactic core (Figure 1-b), impacted our Solar System near the end
of the last ice age. This cosmic ray event spanned a period of several
thousand years and climaxed around 14,200 years ago. Although far less
intense than the PG 0052+251 quasar outburst, it was, nevertheless,
able to substantially affect the Earth's climate and trigger a
solar-terrestrial conflagration the initiated the worst animal
extinction episode of the Tertiary period."

These are certainly remarkable claims, but where is the data that support them?

The coupling of "the PG 0052+251 quasar outburst" with "a similar
outburst of our own Galactic core" is mere hand waving, and the
following caveat about it being "far less intense" sweeps the rug from
under its own feet.  If Dr. LaViolette's claims are typically put
forth in this manner, then they are not susceptible to scientific
response because of their incoherence.

Where LaViolette does assert something empirical here, it is not
astrophysics but biology.  He seems to say that "the worst animal
extinction episode of the Tertiary period" was initiated sometime
around 14,200 years ago (plus or minus several thousand years). 
Perhaps he means the end of the last ice age?  Even without belaboring
the absence of any support evidence, he has his terminology wrong. 
The time indicated is part of the geologic Quaternary, not the

Of course someone else might be inclined to overlook this gaffe as
"mere semantics".

As a teacher one quickly learns to spot bluffing.  Weigh for yourself
the remarkable missed opportunities in the brief paragraph above to
support his theories with logic and evidence, and I think you'll
appreciate my doubts about the value of further pursuit.

regards, mathtalk-ga
Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
From: citizena-ga on 27 Oct 2004 02:21 PDT
Thanks to you also, Mathtalk. Now this is where I'll try to clarify
where I'm coming from in asking about LaViolette. I'm not a
scientitist-I'm an RN by profession, which does require certain
disciplines-but not in astronomy and Earth sciences; I'm self-taught,
rudimentarily, in those areas. And sure I also see where maybe I could
sharpen my critical thinking skills! :-). However, I stumbled onto
LaViolette's writings and he can appear credible (IMO) to the
uninitiated. (Detrimentally, however, he  weaves in  a sort of
"metaphysical" interpretation, which even I can see tends to undermine
his attempt to present himself as a scientist). Nonetheless, I  was
caught up by his claims of  beryllium-10 concentrations found in
ice-cores at the end of the Ice Age. He uses this data as "proof" of
his increased cosmic ray activity (if I understand this correctly).
Maybe this data has been manipulated to suit his theory, so perhaps
someone could shed light on this. And... as he takes an
interdisciplinary venue to weave his theory, I can begin to appreciate
how it would be difficult or next to impossible to critique everything
he claims. I was furthermore taken in by his
"impressive-looking"scientific "predictions" as supposedly presented
in his dissertations---I'm thinking: "Is this man really that
smart?... Is he really on to something here?" But,if he's just another
pseudo-scientist, (as I'm beginning to suspect), I do appreciate the
efforts of those pointing out his errors. After all, if his "science"
is fallacious, then his deadly "galactic superwaves" don't exist and
won't threaten us! Thanks to those who take the time to respond.
Subject: Re: Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette's theoroes
From: omnivorous-ga on 27 Oct 2004 04:19 PDT
CitizenA --

There are two books and possibly a magazine article that might make
interesting reading for you.  They are related to LaViolette at least

The first is "T.rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez.  Louis
Alvarez (Walter's father) and Walter had found layers of iridium, a
rare earth element, at various geological sites in the 1970s.  Alvarez
went so far as to date it -- and noted that it roughly corresponded to
the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, 65 million
years ago.  But Alvarez was a physicist, so his theories on it
coinciding with dinosaur extinction were disregarded.  After all we
have paleontologists and biologists for that expertise.

Was it incumbent on science to debunk the Alvarez' theory?  No it was
incumbent on Alvarez to accumulate additional evidence -- which they
did.  It's now well-accepted:

Walter's book tells the story of accumulating the evidence -- some of
it from very unusual places.

Yet another book to reflect on the same story is William Glen's "The
Mass-Extinction Debates: How Science Works in a Crisis."  Glen takes
this very debate on comets and mass extinction through the stages that
all controversial theories go:
1.  the idea is preposterous
2.  okay, there's some evidence but not enough
3.  now there's lots of evidence but current theories account for it
4.  acceptance of the new theory

Here's the Amazon link:

Finally, in about March of this year, The New Yorker magazine ran an
article on "crackpot" theories and what happens to them. 
(Unfortunately I couldn't find it indexed in Infotrac nor online at
The New Yorker site.)  One of the research secretaries at Berkeley
actually keeps a file drawer on submissions they receive.  Of course
the theories represent everything from ill-shaped concepts to fantasy.

Again, it's incumbent on LaViollette to build evidence for his claim.

But it does happen that scientific evidence and theories are developed
and never popularized.  The work of Gregor Mendel, the well-known
father of genetics, went unknown until well after his death.  Mendel,
who worked in a monastery, conducted his work in obscurity over 30
years and finally gave it up and went into administration.  There's a
story for a Dilbert cartoon there!

Best regards,


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