Debunked: Galactic superwave theory

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Debunked: Galactic superwave theory

Summary: This is hard to debunk because it’s by someone who is trained as a scientist. It is “minority view science” rather than just out and out BS. But his ideas are so far fetched, making tenuous connections , that most other scientists just ignore him. They don’t try to debunk him because it’s just not worth the effort it would take to try to understand what he is talking about. It’s not something to worry about.

In detail

The “superwave theory” is minority view science. It claims that our galaxy is related to a “Seyfert galaxy”. These are genuine things, but ours is not a Seyfert galaxy. So that’s an eccentric thing to claim.

I think it is fair to say that probably most astronomers have never heard of a “superwave”. I’ve been interested in astronomy all my life and only heard the term last autumn. It’s just one scientist saying this, Dr. Paul LaViolette. Nobody else is studying it as far as I can tell.

LIfe is too short to try to figure out what he is talking about, with lots of bizarre seeming ideas, tenuous connections, and with the grand aim to rewrite most of modern astronomy. I just skimmed his ideas but enough to get a flavour and a few of his main lines of thought.

His papers are long and complex, but he claims that every 5,000 to 15,000 years we get mass extinctions saying that the megafauna extinctions in the last ice age were due to this. E.g. extinction of mammoths etc. Most people would say they were due to a combination of climate changes and human hunting. See for instance Why did the wooolly mammoth die out?

Woolly mammoth – model at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair

Most people say that the large mammals that died out at the end of the last ice age died because of changes of climate exacerbated by humans hunting them. The Earth’s climate was much more variable during the ice ages than it is now and it was easy for species to go extinct. The mammoths lived on great plains of grassland which disappeared, turned into the Siberian tundra and they must have needed to eat a lot of grass to survive

It’s the abrupt warmings that caused the extinctions, at least some scientists think. Megafauna extinction: DNA evidence pins blame on climate change. That’s going back through previous extinctions not just the most recent one. During the ice ages large animals often go extinct. They can’t take the heat as the climate suddenly warms up from time to time.

The Earth’s climate is much more stable in between the ice ages in an “interglacial” as it is now.

However perhaps humans had something to do with it as well, hunting already vulnerable large animals to extinction. In one particular place, Australia, there’s good evidence that humans caused th extinction according to this paper: Climate change not to blame for late Quaternary megafauna extinctions in Australia.

Also, clearly humans survived fine. So whatever happened back then harmed mammoths,

These are not the same as the mass extinctions which happen on average every few tens of millions of years. Many are at least partially caused by asteroid impacts, the most recent one definitely.

I haven’t tried to understand his work in detail. I just skimmed through his papers and got a rough idea, it is very “way out” stuff. Huge extrapolations, waving his hands in the air, saying that things would happen based on the flimsiest of reasons.

There are violent galaxies called Seyfert galaxies and there are stars a bit like our sun with more violent flares called T-Tauri stars. Based on nothing except the flimsiest of extrapolations and a lot of hand waving, he says that our galaxy turns into a sort of Syefert galaxy briefly every few thousand years and somehow this causes our sun to turn briefly into a T-Tauri star, then it all reverts to normal again.

At least I think that is approximately what he says. That’s just looking at the abstracts and conclusions of a couple of his articles.

Honestly I wouldn’t worry about it at all, it is indeed astronomy after a fashion, by someone who has studied astronomy but it is so far-fetched.

It happens from time to time in astronomy that someone gets a “bee in their bonnet” and everything they hear about seems to them to fit into a grand pattern that nobody else can see in the data. Sometimes scientists who have done good work, and then they end up diving into this conceptual rabbit warren, at least it seems so to everyone else.

For instance, Charles Hapgood‘s theory of the entire crust shifting was briefly a viable theory but soon fell out of favour

Chandra Wickramasinghe’s strangest idea perhaps is that flu is caused by viruses brought to Earth on comets. Hard to see how a scientist could think such a thing. He has some good ideas though so it’s a mix of almost mad way out ideas with a few blips of brilliance. Fred Hoyle who collaborated with him thought the same way. They were very early pioneers of the idea of Panspermia – that life can be transferred between planets and solar systems – long before anyone else thought it was possible. But the idea that flu comes from comets is really quite strange to most scientists, how could a virus – keyed to human beings, somehow come to us from comets? I read their book in the 1970s I think it was and I couldn’t make head or tail of it, why they’d think this was possible.

Then, Robert Shawyer, inventor of the EM Drive has really bizarre ideas of how it works, publishes papers full of maths that don’t make any sense at all to other mathematicians / scientists. They just seem incoherent. The drive itself might or might not work, the jury is out on that, but I don’t think anyone much apart from himself thinks he is right about how it works (if it does). See my Suggestion: The EM Drive Is Getting The Appropriate Level Of Attention From The Science Community

These are all professional trained scientists with degrees, PhDs etc.

Paul Lavoilette has many other unconventional views. He doesn’t think there are such things as black holes. But he thinks our galaxy periodically has large bursts of cosmic radiation. He has a theory that he thinks solves just about all the fundamental outstanding problems in modern physics. He thinks that 10 to 15 percent of the solar output comes from “photon blueshifting” whatever that is. He is a self-proclaimed expert on Electrogravitics. He doesn’t think there was a Big Bang.

Basically he is saying that just about all of modern ideas about stars, galaxies and the universe are fundamentally flawed and that he has a new theory that solves it all.

Now very occasionally a scientist like that will turn out to be really onto something. Everyone cites continental drift as an example here. But to win over everyone else then they had to find out lots of more data and develop a theory that really worked. The original continental drift theory wasn’t convincing at all. But it turned out that he was onto something.

Most of the time they don’t win anyone else over to their views, or just one or two, they work away most of their life on these ideas, like Charles Hapgood, and eventually they are shown to be completely wrong. So – you shouldn’t dismiss eccentric scientists like this out of hand, but the chances of them being really onto something are low, most of the time they are wrong.

Paul LaViolette is CEO of the The Starburst Foundation which is a website which summarizes his theory. His papers include: The Cause of the Megafaunal Extinction:Supernova or Galactic Core Outburst? and Cosmic ray volleys from the galactic center and their recent impact on the Earth environment.

It’s hard to find anything debunking him, basically because it is crackpot stuff. Like someone says here:

“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 short.”

Many “doomsday scenarios” are easy to debunk. The difficulty with debunking something like this is that because he is a trained scientist, then he knows how to put things together, but he’s threading a story in a fantastical way picking up genuine astronomy here, there and everywhere and tying it together with coincidences and very tenuous similarities and connections.

So, to debunk well you can go through all those things saying “this looks tenuous”, “that does”, “the next does”. He is not going to say a single out-and-out outrageous thing such as that brown dwarfs are invisible. It’s rather the way he connects all the ideas together that is far-fetched in the extreme.

Critiques of Dr. Paul LaViolette’s theoroes

So, it’s so complex that anyone who debunks it will have their work cut out just summarizing what it is they are debunking, in any scientific detail, and then by the time they’ve explained why it is far-fetched, they’ll have lost their audience anyway. It’s like a big tangle of strings with everything tied to everything else in a jumble.

This is the video I was asked to debunk. It makes many incorrect claims. However I expect they are not quoted correctly. If they are correct then Paul LaViolette is no longer doing even minority science.

With videos like this normally I just go as far as the first incorrect claim and debunk it, because it takes so long to debunk them all.

He claims that our Sun orbits the galaxy every 26,000 years so that’s completely wrong. That’s the period of precession of our Earth’s axis. Nothing even to do with our Sun at all. Axial precession

Our sun orbits the galaxy once every 230 million years Does the Sun move around the Milky Way?? and How long to orbit Milky Way’s center? | EarthSky.org

Simultaneously our Sun bobs up and down above the galactic plane in a cycle which it completes every 70 million years. It is currently above the plane moving upwards and will cross the plane again 30 million years from now. What causes our Sun to oscillate around its mean Galactic orbit?

There is no 26,000 year period at all. There are many other rookie mistakes in it, which, for all his eccentricity, I don’t think Paul Lavoilette would make. I suspect this video is by someone who took elements of the already minority view eccentric “Superwave” theory and mixed it up with other elements in a big incoherent hodge podge.

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