Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Yahoo: Earth-Venus smash-up possible in 3.5 billion years: study

  1. Jun 10, 2009 #1
    Hey Y'all:

    Been lurking many months now..... I have really been enjoying the discussion, exploration, exposition, etc on display here in PF.

    In any case, I saw the above headline on the Yahoo front page. Now, I understand that Yahoo headlines are not exactly a bastion of hard science reporting, but this was curious enough for me to expend a click and see just what in the name of The Wide World of Sports this was all about.

    This is the link in question:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090610/sc_afp/scienceastronomyearthmercurymarsvenus [Broken]

    I was greeted with a spectacularly non-informative, non-descriptive article. Something about 'orbital chaos' and running repeated computer models.... then a rather sensationalistic description of planets careening around in <ahem> non-traditional directions.

    Thing is, the article was so completely lacking in factual descriptions of what was being talked about that I found no way to tell whether this was simple crankery, a meaningful theory misunderstood and misdescribed, something legit that has simply had all of the meaningful substance edited out of the article or what......

    So, can someone here shed some light on what this is refering to, whether this is a real and meaningful model or whether this is just some complete nonsense, or somewhere betwixt and between or what?

    Anyway, this is a terriffic community... thanks in advance for any thoughts on the subject.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2009 #2
    Thanks for the praise.

    Jacques Laskar is a legit researcher and does high-accuracy orbital modelling of planetary motions using standard physics - he's not a crank. In sum he has found that an orbital resonance between Mercury and Jupiter can cause Mercury to careen around the Inner Planets and cause them to collide - it takes millions of years to fully play out, but averaged across a bunch of simulations there's a decent chance of something dramatic developing over billions of years. He has a few papers online along similar lines on the arxiv.org so check them out if you want to know more.
  4. Jun 26, 2009 #3
    I suggest you read new scientist too. I read a 'sensible' report of this in it :)
  5. Jun 26, 2009 #4

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The Yahoo article starts on a bad footing. That opening paragraph is absolutely atrocious. There is of course no such thing as "a force known as orbital chaos" that "may cause our Solar System to go haywire".

    There is a force that may cause our Solar System to go haywire: It is gravity. As qraal mentioned, Laskar is a legit researcher. He has been working on the issue of the long-term stability of the solar system for 20 years. Here is a preprint of a 2003 article he wrote on the subject: http://www.imcce.fr/Equipes/ASD/preprints/prep.2003/th2002_laskar.pdf

    A slightly better lay article on the same subject as the article cited in the original post: http://tech.uk.msn.com/news/article.aspx?cp-documentid=147911006
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook