October 29, 1999
Subject: Two Living Geniuses - Dr. Randell Mills who is helping to change forever
the future of this world and James Lovelock who is helping us to see our planet as
a living being -- Please see my comment in the other acompanying email
October 6, 1999
REPRINT FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Researcher Claims Power Tech That Defies Quantum Theory
By ERIK BAARD NEW YORK -- A researcher based in New Jersey is presenting
to a gathering of chemists in Ontario, Calif., Wednesday the science that
he says will underpin a multi-billion dollar energy and materials company.
The catch is that his theory - that hydrogen atoms can be shrunk in a
stable form - is an impossibility in the established understanding of
quantum physics. Still, Dr. Randell Mills, a Harvard University-trained
medical doctor who has done postgraduate studies in physics and chemistry,
isn't going it alone. His start-up, BlackLight Power Inc. of Cranbury, New
Jersey, has received support and advice from utilities Conectiv (CIV) and
PacifiCorp (PPW) and from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. (MWD). Other
major companies are waiting in the wings, Dr. Mills claimed.
"We have stayed supportive of this in the face of fairly significant
scientists saying it can't be," a senior executive with Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter, who asked that he not be identified, told Dow Jones
Newswires. Pending further verification and commercial commitments, Morgan
Stanley Dean Witter plans to usher BlackLight Power to an initial public
offering within two years, the executive said. The investment bank will be
an underwriter and hasn't put its own money into the start-up, the
executive said, but another source close to the situation said Morgan
Stanley Dean Witter had made an overture to that end.
Dr. Mills claimed the process of transforming hydrogen atoms into smaller
"hydrinos" by chemical catalysis will provide "a virtually unlimited
supply of energy" through distributed power turbines. The hydrinos
themselves combine with other elements, he said, to make compounds that
could be the basis for batteries to power cars 1,000 miles at highway
speeds before recharging; a plastic that conducts electricity and shares
magnetic qualities with iron; and super-strong coatings, among other
things. There could be "potentially thousands, if not millions" of novel
compounds, he said. He also said that compounds such as the ones
BlackLight Power is creating account for the more than 90% of the mass of
the universe that scientists say is so far unobservable.
Dr. Mills hasn't made acceptance easy for himself or his sponsors by
claiming he has found the holy grail of a grand unified theory of
classical quantum mechanics and that the effect of his work on humanity
will be "bigger than fire." Indeed, Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist at Stanford University, said in September "it's extremely
unlikely that this is real, and I feel sorry for the funders, the people
who are backing this." Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at City
College of New York cited another time-honored law that might apply to
BlackLight Power investors: "There's a sucker born every minute."
The American Chemical Society forum is the first open peer review of
BlackLight Power's findings, while mainstream quantum mechanics,
scientists point out, has evolved from decades of tests and analysis.
BlackLight Power has sent its work out for numerous tests at independent
laboratories over the past several years and has seen positive results,
Dr. Mills said. Conectiv is "really on the optimistic side," albeit
"cautiously" so, said David Blake, Conectiv vice president and BlackLight
Power board member. "It's getting more and more difficult to argue with
the results Dr. Mills is presenting and the validations he is starting to
accrue," Blake said. Both Dr. Mills and Conectiv's Blake say "two major
corporations" are currently testing crystals provided by the labs, but
they declined to name them.
"These folks are spending their time and energy, and the money it takes
to pay technical people, on this. You don't do that unless you've got some
inclination that you'd better look at this," Blake said. But are Conectiv
and PacifiCorp making a "Hail Mary pass" in a once stolid industry thrown
into turmoil by deregulation? "Utilities...especially on the second tier,
like Conectiv and PacifiCorp, are really looking for edges because they
don't have the size and scope" of mega-utilities that are forming through
mergers all around them, said Robert Rubin, a utilities analyst with Bear
Sterns Cos. in New York. Shareholders will forgive managers for making a
few odd bets because "the payoff could be huge," Rubin said. Still,
"there's a difference between investing $2.5 million and $250 million."
"Randy has had no trouble raising the funds he needs," the Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter executive said.
Dr. Mills confirmed that the company had $10 million, largely from the
two utilities, and equipment and property bringing its capital up to about
$30 million. BlackLight Power will present about 10 compounds to the
American Chemical Society and "five papers that give explicit details and
is absolutely reproducible," Dr. Mills said. "I have a unified field
theory that's absolutely testable at every stage and on every item."
"Thank God we're getting our day in court," Dr. Mills said. Also speaking
at the meeting about the reported hydrogen energy release, in the form of
visible and ultra-violet light, is Dr. Johannes Conrads, who retired last
week as the director of the Institute for Low Temperature Plasma Physics
at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany.
The BlackLight Power research done at the institute was funded by the
company, but "my research was completely independent," said Dr. Conrads,
who has studied plasma since 1959 and has worked for NASA and taught at
Princeton University. Dr. Conrads has flown to the society's meeting in
California to report that he's seen "a few astonishing things" from the
hydrino process, he said. "Something from the Mills cell is releasing
energy, and remarkably high energy, that is clear," Dr. Conrads said.
Equally compelling is that energy in the Mills cell decays at a rate
independent of the removal of outside electricity, and the reaction works
only with BlackLight Power's catalyst, he said. But Dr. Conrads stops
short of vindicating the hydrino theory.
"None of my experiments so far is falsifying Randy's theory, but
unfortunately none of my experiments is verifying it, either," Dr. Conrads
said. Dr. Conrads said he's taking his time to examine Dr. Mills' theory
because "this is not for sensation. I am an old professor in physics." Dr.
Conrad, who emphasized his lack of credentials as a materials scientist,
said he has sought Dr. Mill's permission to invite peers at
DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) to examine the hydrino crystals. Dr. Conrads
parts with Dr. Mills somewhat by standing with traditional quantum
mechanics as it applies to the ground state that the Mills theory claims
to breach. But Dr. Conrads says he could see Dr. Mills work as a chemical
approach to the new science of non-ideal plasmas. This unusual plasma is
composed of charged particles at low temperatures and as densely packed as
a solid, he said. Indications are that in such an environment,
conventional quantum rules might not apply, he said. With more sensitive
equipment, however, he expects to find stronger evidence for "fractional"
hydrogen, he said.
"Everyone was telling us that heat was too nebulous," Dr. Mills said. To
put his work on more solid ground, he manufactured hydrino-based crystals
in mass, he said. "The hydride ion cracked the nut, right there, that did
it," he said. BlackLight Power's laboratory cabinets are stacked with
vials of crystals of varied colors and forms. Other scientists have been
supportive. On the BlackLight Power board sits Dr. Shelby Brewer, a
nuclear engineer and physicist who is also the former chief executive of
ABB Combustion Engineering and an assistant secretary in the U.S.
Department of Energy from 1981 to 1984. Dr. Melvin H. Miles, an
electro-chemist researching batteries at the U.S. Navy facility in China
Lake, Calif., said the BlackLight crystals put Dr. Mills "way ahead of
cold fusion in that he has a tangible product to show people."
"Randy Mills impressed me that he may also be brilliant. He talks off the
top of his head in a way that other scientists can't. But that doesn't
mean he's right. I think his results are right, but doesn't mean his
theory is right," Miles said.
RESEARCHER UNVEILS UNIQUE NEW CLASS OF HYDRIDE COMPOUNDS
Discoveries Point to New Source of Low Cost Energy, Longer-Life
Batteries, Magnetic Polymers, Lighter-Weight Materials; All Based on
BlackLight Power's Application of Dr. Randell Mills' "Grand Unified
ONTARIO, Calif. - Oct. 6, 1999 - Dr. Randell Mills, CEO and chief
researcher of BlackLight Power, unveils today, at the 1999 Pacific
Conference on Chemistry and Spectroscopy, the results of his research into
the area of novel hydrogen chemistry. The conference, with some 800
scientists and researchers in attendance, is co-sponsored by
California-based sections of the American Chemical Society and the Society
for Applied Spectroscopy. During the meeting, Mills and his colleagues are
reviewing BLP's ongoing research which indicates the discovery of a vast
new energy source and a new field of hydrogen chemistry. Joining BLP's
presenters today is Dr. Johannes Conrads, retired Chairman of the Board
and past Director of INP, Greifswald, Germany, one of the world's foremost
research centers for the study of low temperature plasma physics. Dr.
Conrads will be discussing INP's independent study of Mills' theory, which
has demonstrated the generation of extreme ultraviolet emissions at low
temperatures from atomic hydrogen.
"We are pleased to have Dr. Conrads join us today to report on his
findings. In his 40 years as a researcher, he says he has never before
observed the phenomena associated with the BlackLight Process," says
Rather than heating hydrogen to extreme temperatures or using high
voltage, Mills and Conrads have demonstrated the capability independently
of using the release of energy from hydrogen by specific catalysts to
cause a plasma in hydrogen which may be observed and recorded by its
ultraviolet emissions. "Essentially, we have shown we can produce heat,
and therefore electricity, in a hydrogen plasma without a power input. We
have a chemical reaction that produces valuable products," said Mills.
Conrads' findings support and underscore the potential for revolutionary
applications of the Mills Process in the fields of chemistry and energy.
The world could have a new source of low-cost, renewable, pollution-free
energy because these reactions can be harnessed to create electricity.
When hydrogen transitions to these lower stable states, energy in the form
of extreme ultraviolet light is released. Extraordinary compounds are
formed as by-product. An early application of these products would be
vastly improved high voltage batteries with at least 10,000 times the
power of conventional batteries, charged and recharged with low-cost
electricity. This could help usher in the age of the electric automobile.
One new class of hydrogen polymers generated using the BlackLight Process
has been shown to be conductive and ferromagnetic. Plastics capable of
conducting electricity would have far reaching implications in electronic
packaging and magnetic storage media.
Compounds capable of having the flexibility, durability and lightweight
properties of plastic but the strength and conductivity of metal would
change how vehicles and aircraft are manufactured, producing lighter
weight, more cost effective and more energy efficient modes of
transportation. Mills and his colleagues from BLP are presenting four
papers today at the conference discussing the synthesis and
characterization of this unique new class of hydride compounds, and the
experimental data proving their existence. Two of the papers have been
accepted for peer-reviewed publication, one in the International Journal
of Hydrogen Energy, published by the International Hydrogen Energy
Association, and the other in Fusion Technology, published by the American
Mills' work is based on his "Grand Unified Atomic Theory," published in
1995, stating hydrogen can exist in states lower than the ground state
recognized by classical quantum physics. Mills' theory challenges
long-held principles of quantum mechanics, but Mills has the data,
products, evidence and confirmation from outside labs that his
breakthrough theory is in fact correct. "I have kept the nature of this
work confidential until now because I wanted to ensure we had the proper
supporting data and corroboration by other researchers, such as Dr.
Conrads, so my theory and its implications would receive serious
consideration," said Mills. This controversial theory has potential
applications reaching far beyond new hydrogen compounds.
BlackLight Power and Mills are now attracting widespread attention both
within the scientific community and among serious investors. BlackLight
Power's most recent private offering was quickly oversubscribed, and the
company has signed an agreement with Morgan Stanley to serve as its
investment bank. Along with the financial backing of several major
utilities and manufacturing companies, BlackLight is capitalized at more
than $20 million. Mills is president and founder of BlackLight Power, and
inventor of the BlackLight Process. He also has started several other
companies, including Luminide Pharmaceutical. Mills graduated Harvard
University Medical School with an M.D. in 1986, and did postgraduate work
at MIT in physics and chemistry. Mills' book, The Grand Unified Theory of
Classical Quantum Mechanics, first published in 1995, details his theory
which neatly stitches together quantum mechanics and relativity. "Most
significantly, my theory and the research we've done gives rise to the
possibility of an inexhaustible energy source," said Mills.
BlackLight Power is expanding rapidly, with a major 53,000 square-foot
research and development facility slated to house more than 100
researchers and supporting staff located in Cranbury, N.J., near
Princeton, N.J. Mills has been awarded patents by Australia and South
Africa within the past year, and has several patents pending in the United
Dr. Randell Mills is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Researcher of
BlackLight Power, a company dedicated to discovering and developing new
hydrogen compounds that are a by-product of a practically inexhaustible
novel form of energy produced via the BlackLight Process. BlackLight
Power is headquartered in Cranbury, N.J., near Princeton, N.J.
* * * * *
October 1999 page 98
The idea that organisms collaborate to keep the planet habitable was once
dismissed as New Age earth science. Now even skeptics are taking a second
look. BY OLIVER MORTON
The small crowd milling about an Oxford University courtyard on a sunny
Easter afternoon is an unusual mix ~ part academic, part acolyte. Ron
Williams, for example,a professor of biochemistry at the University of
Toronto, is retired but still active, sharp of mind, neat in appearance,
the sort of person you'd expect to find enjoying academic discussions at
Oxford. Peter Horton, a few decades younger and trying his hand at living
off the land in the south of France, is bearded, thick-sweatered, and
direct. He has not been in formal education since he was a teenager.
Still, he has come to Oxford for the same reason Williams has. And it's
not a religious one, although it can seem that way.
Williams and Horton are here because of James Lovelock. Eighty years old
but quick and amiable as ever, Lovelock has for 30 years promoted the idea
that Earth regulates itself as if it were one huge organism, not just a
collection of millions of relatively independent life forms. Among
Lovelock's earliest audiences for this idea was the Nobel Prize-winning
novelist William Golding. During walks through the Wiltshire countryside,
Lovelock would tell Golding about how plankton control the greenhouse
effect and about how forest fires regulate oxygen levels. Golding,
intrigued, suggested he call this system Gaia (pronounced GUY-ya), after
the ancient Greek earth goddess. And so Lovelock did.
Is the Earth alive?
When the public first heard about Gaia it liked the message. At a time
when people could talk about the Age of Aquarius without grinning, the
notion of Earth as a single living being, not quite-what Lovelock
proposed, but not inaccurate either, seemed to fit. Academic scientists,
on the other hand, were not impressed. And the quasi-religious name didn't
help. But worst of all was the concept itself - the Earth in some way alive?
Today, 30 years after Lovelock gave his first seminar on the idea to a
nonplussed audience in Princeton, New Jersey, Gala has made sonic
progress. While to many mainstream researchers Gaia remains out-of-bounds,
some ideas that flowed out of Lovelock's Gaian thinking have been proven
correct, even if their provenance is forgotten or hushed up. And a growing
number of scientists" have decided to center their work on the Gaian
concepts. Some are gathered here at Oxford for the third meeting of the
Gaia Society, which sponsors this sort of research. But there's still a
problem. Even among believers, there's no real consensus as to what Gaia
is or how it really works.
Oxford zoologist William Hamilton, perhaps the world's most eminent
evolutionary biologist and a man no one would have expected to take an
interest in Gaia a few years ago, puts it this way: "Lovelock is a figure
like Copernicus." Copernicus came to believe in a strange phenomenon that
his contemporaries rejected: The Earth moves around the sun. But he never
came up with a proper explanation for it; that was left to Newton. As far
as Hamilton is concerned, "Jim's still waiting for his Newton."
Lovelock, like Copernicus, started off by looking at the planets. Because
he had invented some of the most sensitive chemical measuring devices
ever, Lovelock was asked by NASA in the 1960s to help design life
detecting instruments for Mars missions. After thinking the problem
through, Lovelock decided that the best way to detect life on another
planet was to look at the atmosphere. If a planet had life like Earth,
its atmospheric composition would reflect it.
The proof, he argued, is in every breath you take. Earth, abundant with
life, has an atmosphere composed of an unstable mixture of gases. If you
bottled a sample of Earth's atmosphere for a million years, the mingled
gases would react with one mother. But strangely, if the mixture is left
outside the bottle, it stays reasonably stable because life forms absorb
some of the gases and replenish others.
Lovelock surmised that if Mars had life, its atmosphere would show
similar characteristics. The fact that it didn't, he concluded, meant that
Mars was dead and therefore not worth the cost of sending spacecraft to
look for life. This was not the answer NASA wanted, although all
subsequent studies have tended to support it.
Lovelock went on to look at other ways in which life might shape the
development of Earth. For example, we know that when the solar system was
formed the sun was dim and that it has heated up ever since. Yet Earth
wasn't too cold for life in the beginning, and it isn't too hot for life
now. That's because the composition of the atmosphere has changed. Huge
amounts of warming carbon dioxide have conveniently been absorbed by
little planktonic shellfish and used to make shells. When the animals die,
the carbon dioxide is locked up as their remains turn into chalk or
Then there is sulfur, which has to be recycled from the sea to the land
for life to go on. Lovelock suggested that this recycling was done by
living creatures rather than by inorganic processes. He was proven right.
Plankton pump more sulfur into the atmosphere than all the world's
volcanoes. Lovelock started to think that Earth was in some sense alive,
its various cycles part of a great physiology.
Of all those who objected to the idea, no group was more vehement than
evolutionary biologists. They don't believe in free lunches. They believe
creatures are out to help themselves and their relatives survive, not to
help strangers. The idea that some creatures waste effort making the world
a better place for others didn't make sense to them. As for global
self-regulation, the complex physiological systems of living beings do not
come about by chance. They evolve. Many different versions are tried out;
only the best leave descendants. That's natural selection. And natural
selection cannot apply to a whole planet, which has no competitors or
To convince the evolutionary biologists, Lovelock needed a way of
demonstrating how organisms could act selfishly yet still interact to
control the planet. His solution was to invent a computer model called
Daisyworld. Imagine, he said, a cold planet with a dim young sun. On this
planet are two kinds of daisies, black and white. The black daisies begin
to spread across the face of the world, soaking up sunlight and warming
themselves. In doing so, they take the chill from the ground and warm the
air. But as the sun slowly grows warmer, Daisyworld's temperature remains
stable because the white daisies begin spreading around the world,
reflecting the sun's rays back into space. They cool themselves, the
ground beneath them, and the air above. The black daisies, on the other
hand, bake to a crisp and die out. So the planet's surface grows ever
whiter, and its overall temperature stays the same.
The charm of this parable is that the daisies didn't set out to keep the
planet's temperature stable, but still they did so. The rigors of the
environment controlled the daisies' fate, and the temperature regulation
came free. Evolutionary biologists still didn't buy it. William Hamilton,
who has done more than anyone else to understand how genes can, in some
circumstances, make the creatures that bear them nice to one mother, saw
Daisyworld as rigged. He pointed out that if the daisies had been allowed
to evolve, rather than forced to sit with the same temperature preferences
they started out with, they would adapt themselves to the sun's
ever-increasing heat and allow the environment to go to hell. "It doesn't
account for how the phenomenon [large- scale stabilities in the
environment] appears," says Hamilton. "That's what we're still waiting
Which brings us back to what Gaia is supposed to be. Is it a system, a
property of a system, a process, a thing? All those views could have found
support at the Oxford meeting. New York University biology professor Tyler
Volk, for example, calls Gaia a thing: a system comprising Earth's soils,
oceans, atmosphere, and biomass. For Volk, Gaian studies show how things
circulate through this system. No need for Daisyworlds, no need for
anything but natural selection. On the other hand, Lee Klinger, a
researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
thinks there's more to Gaia. To him, it's basically similar to all sorts
of other complex phenomena, from atoms in magnetic fields to gamblers
playing the stock market.
For the hard core, Gaia is about biology, not earth science or complex
systems. Their battle cry is symbiosis, the many varied ways that
creatures have of coming to depend on one mother. That's something Gaians
think traditional evolutionary biologists don't know how to deal with.
Hamilton disagrees with that. But he agrees that there seem to be
long-term stabilities in the environment that he and his colleagues may
have under-played. This intrigues him deeply--and that may help bring Gaia
a new respectability.
Hamilton first began investigating Gaian ideas while working with a young
protege' of lovelock's, Tim Lenton, now at Edinburgh's Institute of
Terrestrial Ecology. They were thinking about the plankton that release a
kind of sulfur into the ocean, where it reacts and forms dimethyl sulfide.
Some of this gas escapes into the atmosphere, interacts with oxygen, and
forms little acidic particles. The particles help form cloud droplets, and
more droplets mean thicker, whiter clouds. Bob Charlson, a professor of
atmospheric sciences and chemistry at the University of Washington who
collaborated with Lovelock, reckons that if the ocean did not release
dimethyl sulfide, the number of droplets in the most common marine clouds
would be less than half of what it is today. So if it weren't for
sulfur-producing plankton, the planet might be much hotter. The plankton's
product could conceivably be changing the nature of the clouds enough to
cool the planet by as much as m degrees Celsius.
Gaians take this as evidence that these plankton are part of Earth's way
of staying cool. But why should the plankton bother? That was the question
that struck Hamilton. As an evolutionary biologist, he tended to think
organisms are mostly interested in improving their odds of reproduction.
He couldn't accept that plankton cooled the world with no benefit for
themselves. So he enlisted Lenton's help in looking for a payoff.
Their answer was strange but appealing: Plankton encourage clouds because
clouds help plankton spread their genes around. Hamilton and his
colleagues showed that dispersing some of your seeds always makes sense,
even if their chance of thriving wherever they end up is tiny. If this is
true, then contributing to the release of dimethyl sulfide may be one way
plankton can move to new territory. Producing dimethyl sulfide, in short,
could help create winds that whip up whitecaps and loft plankton into the
air. If plankton somehow get into the clouds, they could travel
significant distances - hundreds or even thousands of miles - before
It's a nice idea, one you could expect natural selection to favor. It may
even be true, though no one has yet caught the astronaut algae on their
way to the clouds. But does it support Lovelock's theory? The fact that
the clouds are being made by the plankton is interesting. The possibility
that these clouds are significantly cooling the planet is important. But
these insights don't prove the Gaian theory that life and the environment
come together to form a self-regulating whole. To try and get a better
take on Gaia at that most basic level, Hamilton and ecologist Peter
Henderson are trying to build a more realistic model to replace
Daisyworld. They want a model that shows a suite of organisms whose
interactions stabilize the environment in ways that don't depend on the
parameters the model starts with. Their fast stab at an answer, presented
at the Oxford conference, could be called Damworld.
Imagine Damworld as a basin ringed by mountains, in which a single
species of algae lives. The rain that falls into Damworld can leave only
through one narrow outlet. Living in the outlet are creatures that feed on
the algae. These creatures anchor themselves to the sediments and tend to
build up a dam, like coral polyps build up a reef. The third species is
one that breaks down dams for food. If the dam rises, the lake behind it
swells, creating a larger supply of sunlight-warmed, nutrient rich water
in which various organisms thrive.
If you have just those three species, then the dam's height oscillates
fairly regularly. When it gets big, there's more for the dam-busters to
work on and the dam starts to crumble. When it crumbles, the dam-busters
starve and the builders make the dam bigger again. But Henderson and
Hamilton aren't content with just three species. Each time the model runs,
they add new species to the original three. These species are similar to
the originals, but with randomly assigned food and habitat preferences
that are just different enough to make things interesting. Sometimes the
newcomers cooperate with the established species; sometimes they compete.
Each time the model runs, the result is different. But over many runs,
some statistical trends emerged. Worlds with tall dams, on average,
accumulate more species and richer ecosystems than those with shorter
dams. What's more, they also resist shocks better. They're not without
problems, but they are robust. In damless worlds, the model often ends
with everything going extinct after the introduction of some vicious new
species. While total extinction can happen in worlds with big dams, it is
What seems to matter most in the model is how much control the various
species gain over the physical aspects of their world. The more profound
the links between what's alive and what isn't, the more stable things seem
to get. Big changes can still occur in such systems, but they are not
Damworld seems to suggest that the more intimately life intermingles with
its physical environment, the more the two may together move toward
stability. But it offers no certainty. Sometimes dammed ecosystems are
unstable. That Gaia-like properties develop in the Damworld model only
sometimes, not always, could point toward another concept of Gaia. This
concept was voiced at the Oxford conference by Andrew Watson, a professor
of environmental science at the University of East Anglia. Maybe, he said,
Gaia is an accident.
Watson, one of Lovelock's first disciples and his co-author on the
original Daisyworld paper, argues that with just one Earth to study, you
simply can't say much about Gaia. Just because life persists on this
planet despite all sorts of change doesn't mean that it had to. Yes, some
nice, big, simple feedback loops involving atmosphere and organisms may
have done a lot to make the planet livable, but that doesn't mean these
interactions were a necessary outcome of life being there in the first
place. Maybe we just got lucky.
And that brings us back to where Lovelock began: looking at the
atmospheres of other planets. Although NASA didn't much like Lovelock's
theory that the Martian atmosphere proved the planet lifeless, it has
adopted his theory for finding life outside the solar system. When planets
the size of Earth are found, the next order of business will be studying
their atmospheres through spectroscopy to see whether they are deathly
stable, like those of Mars and Venus, or alive and kicking like Earth's.
The extraordinary space telescopes needed to make such measurements are in
the works. If the search turns up living planets, Watson's accident
theory, and the general credibility of Gaia, could be tested. If the
sustainability of life on planets is a matter of luck, life will be most
common around young stars, where its luck hasn't yet been tested. But if
life makes its own luck, as Gaia would have us believe, then there will be
life on planets around stars of all ages. We could know within a few
decades. And what does Lovelock make of this? He's happy that Gaia is
still alive, still attracting interesting people, still provoking new
fines of thought. If not all of it accords with his own ideas, well, fine.
Lovelock didn't present any new hypotheses or results at the Oxford
conference. But he did kick off the proceedings with what he styles as a
sermon, and that was where he made his contribution to the debate: "Gaia
is a theory of science and is therefore always provisional and evolving.
It is never dogmatic or certain and could even be wrong. Provisional it
may be but, being of the palpable Earth, it is something tangible to love
and fear and think we understand. We can put our trust, even faith, in
Gaia, and this is different from the cold certainty of purposeless atheism
or an unwavering belief in God's purpose.... I have put before you the
proposition that Gaia, in addition to being a theory in science, offers a
worldview for agnostics. This would require an interactive trust in Gaia,
not blind faith. A trust that accepts that, like us, Gaia has a finite
life span and is provisional. "
That may sound like a best-of-both-worlds cop-out. But you could also
read it as the words of a wise old man who knows that a powerful metaphor
never relies on only one mewing, who wants broad-minded scientists in a
broadminded world to keep asking the questions he has asked, and not to be
put off by criticism or seduced by dogma. These could be the words of a
man who knows that science never exists in a moral vacuum, but rather in a
pre-existing atmosphere, and who wants that atmosphere to be off balance
and alive, not stuck in a dead equilibrium.
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