by David Talbott

from Thunderbolts Website



  • Visual Evidence It's Solid Rather Than a Vapor

Additional Information









The Iron Sun

Nov 23, 2005

Image: The Sun in FeXII Light
Credit: SOHO-EIT Consortium, ESA, NASA


The image of the sun above was recorded in the light given off by iron atoms that have lost 11 of their 26 electrons. The energy required to remove that many electrons is far greater than the energy available at the surface of the sun. These iron ions occur high in the sun's atmosphere--in the corona--where the effective temperature is 2 million degrees or more, 400 times that of the photosphere.

The conventional explanation is that the high temperature causes the iron atoms to collide with enough force to knock off those 11 electrons. But then the question arises about how the atmosphere can be hotter than the surface. The corona is farther away from the putative source of energy inside the sun, and it is less dense. It should be cooler than the photosphere.

The Electric Universe reverses the accepted ideas of which phenomenon is cause and which phenomenon is effect. The sun's atmosphere contains a complex of electrical fields that are strong enough to pull off those 11 electrons. A field that strong will also accelerate the ions to speeds interpreted as high temperatures. This activity is only one element in a circuit that connects the sun with electrical currents in the Galaxy. These galactic power lines are the source of energy that "lights" the stars, including the sun. The energy from those power lines is liberated at the photosphere rather than being transported from the core to the surface.

The voltage between the sun and its galactic environment is not distributed uniformly and gradually. As is typical with plasma behavior, most of the voltage difference occurs in "double layers" (DLs). These are thin layers with an excess of positive ions on one side and an excess of negative electrons on the other. They resemble, and act like, capacitors: They store electrical energy in the strong electrical field between the positive and negative layers.

Each DL is separated from the next by a low voltage gradient, across which ions and electrons "drift." This drift current is often called a wind. A familiar example is the "solar wind" that drifts from the DLs near the sun to the DLs that make up the heliopause at the other end of the sun's connection with the galactic currents.

When the low-energy iron ions from the photosphere drift into the DL above, the stronger electrical field strips off more electrons and accelerates the ions to high speeds. The strength of the field keeps the ions moving in alignment so it is not apparent that their energy is increasing. But when they emerge into the low-voltage gradient of the corona their motion becomes turbulent, like that of water in a waterfall when it hits the river below. Because temperature is a measure of randomness of motion, the corona appears to "heat up" suddenly, and the 11-times-ionized iron atoms begin to radiate their newly acquired energy.

What the Electric Universe sees in "the iron sun" is the iron-ion component of the electric current driving the sun's radiation output as part of a galactic electrical circuit.



Nuclear Reactions at the Solar Surface

Jan 20, 2006

This colorized picture is a mosaic of ultraviolet images from the orbiting TRACE satellite sensitive to light emitted
by highly charged iron atoms. Growing in number, the intricate structures visible are the Sun's hot active regions
(with temperatures over a million degrees Fahrenheit), all with associated magnetic loops.

Proponents of the "Iron Sun", a theory widely represented on the Internet in recent months, challenge the popular idea that the Sun is powered by thermonuclear reactions at its core. And they point to nuclear reactions on the Sun's surface, something considered impossible under the standard model.

Scientists now supporting a new approach to solar physics—the “Iron Sun” — mention neither the Electric Universe nor the “Electric Sun”. But their findings add powerful support to the electric model of the Sun posited by Wallace Thornhill, Donald Scott, and earlier pioneers beginning with engineer Ralph Juergens in the late 60's. It was the electrical theorists who first suggested that surface events, not a hidden nuclear furnace at the Sun’s center, appear to be the source of neutrino production (the subatomic signature of nuclear fusion).

In recent years nuclear chemist Oliver Manuel and several of his collaborators have attracted scientific attention for proposing a radical alternative to the standard model of the Sun. Manuel suggests that the Sun is the remnant of a supernova, now holding in its core a “neutron star” encased within an iron shell. In this model, most of the radiant energy of the Sun comes from the neutron star’s slow decay over long spans of time.

Manuel draws attention to recent discoveries by solar scientists. He finds compelling evidence that nuclear reactions occur at the foot points of solar flares—hot spots associated with prominent magnetic loops and intense electric fields. This observation places the nuclear reactions far from where conventional theorists locate them--at the Sun’s core.

To confirm these surface events Iron Sun proponents point to the telltale signatures of the “CNO cycle” first set forth in the work of Hans Bethe. In 1939 Bethe proposed that the stable mass-12 isotope of Carbon catalyzes a series of atomic reactions in the core of the Sun, resulting in the fusion of hydrogen into helium. This nucleosynthesis, according to Bethe, occurs through a “Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen (CNO) cycle,” as helium is constructed from the nuclei of hydrogen atoms—protons—at temperatures ranging from 14 million K to 20 million K.

For some time now, solar scientists have observed the products expected from the CNO cycle, but now they see a relationship of these products’ abundances to sunspot activity. This finding is crucial because the nuclear events that standard theory envisions are separated from surface events by hundreds of thousands of years as the heat from the core slowly percolates through the Sun’s hypothetical “radiative zone”. From this vantage point, a connection between the hidden nuclear furnace and sunspot activity is inconceivable.

Proponents of the Iron Sun, therefore, have posed an issue that could be fatal to the standard model. But as we shall attempt to show, there is a good deal more room to add objections within this question.

The Iron Sun proponents are to be congratulated for their research showing that the Sun does not shine because of nuclear fusion in its core. It takes great courage to stake your work and reputation against established dogma. If science operated in the way it advertises, the search for the truth in this essential matter would involve a concentration of resources to confirm or deny the evidence amassed by the Iron Sun proponents. The questions raised are crucial whether or not the proposed model of the Sun is correct. Yet there seems to be pressure on researchers to have a model at hand to explain "anomalous" results. In the case of the “Iron Sun”, the result is less than perfect because there is a flaw at the very heart of popular cosmology:

All matter in the universe is composed of electric charge. The electric force between charges mediates all physical interactions, irrespective of scale. It is the electric force that energizes matter. By ignoring electricity, cosmologists have committed an error so fundamental that the mistake invariably propagates through any and all of their theoretical excursions. The electrical theorists see this as the overriding cause of the oft-noted “crisis in cosmology”, and the effects on related disciplines—bound as they are by the assumptions of cosmologists—have been nothing less than catastrophic.



The Myth of the Neutron Star

Jan 23, 2006

Credits: Crab Nebula from VLT: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT, ESO; X-ray Image
(inset): NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al; Optical Image (inset): NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.
Caption: The Crab Nebula as viewed by the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The inset superimposes two images: an X-ray
photograph of the Crab Nebula’s intensely energetic core, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory; and a Hubble
Telescope photograph of the same region.

In his argument for the “Iron Sun”, Oliver Manuel relies on a popular theoretical concept—the “neutron star”. Electrical theorists, on the other hand, say there is no reason to believe that such exotic stars exist.

At the core of the Crab Nebula pictured above is a remarkable churning “wheel-and-axle” structure (inset above and click picture below) whose discovery shocked astronomers. No conventional model of supernova remnants ever anticipated exotic structures comparable to what is seen here.

Some things are known about the Crab Nebula, however. It is close to certain that it is the result of a supernova observed from Earth in 1054 A.D. The inner ring of the central “motor” has a diameter of about one light year. Intensely energetic jets stream outward from the central light source in two directions along the axis of an intense magnetic field. Additionally, observations over time have shown that rings and strands of material are moving outward on the equatorial plane at great speeds, some up to half the speed of light.

The point of light at the center of the image is a pulsar, so called because it generates pulses at radio frequencies roughly 60 times a second. (Pulses can also be observed optically and in X-rays.)

But what cause these rapid pulses? Most astronomers today attempt to interpret pulsars using a strange idea based entirely on mathematical conjectures. They say that the pulsar is a tiny spinning “neutron star”—the collapsed remains of the historic supernova.

Neutron stars were predicted theoretically in the 1930's to be the end result of a supernova explosion. For many years astronomers doubted their existence. But then, with the discovery of the first pulsar in 1967, astronomers imagined that the pulses were due to a rapidly rotating beam of radiation sweeping past the Earth. Having ignored all of the things that electricity can do quite routinely, the theorists were required to conceive a star so dense that it could rotate at the rate of a dentists drill without flying apart. So the neutron star received a second life. The energy of the star’s radiation, it was supposed, came from in-falling matter from a companion star.

The imaginative construct received no support from later observations. In the Crab Nebula, what we now see is not gravitational accretion, but material accelerated away from the central star. In fact, all of the weird and wonderful things said about neutron stars, such as the super-condensed "neutronium" or "quark" soup from which they are claimed to have formed, lie outside the realm of verifiable science. They are abstractions disconnected from nature, but required to save a paradigm that has no other force than gravity to provide compact sources of radiation.

Oliver Manuel and the Iron Sun advocates have taken a daring step in questioning conventional fictions about the Sun. But unfortunately, they have relied upon another popular fiction. They suggest that the Sun was formed by accretion of heavy elements, chiefly iron, onto a “neutron star” following a supernova explosion. They further claim that energy from neutrons, supposedly repelled from its neutron star core, accounts for the Sun's radiant energy and the source of protons in the solar wind. The model does not explain the acceleration of the solar wind out past the planets (a crucial requirement according to electrical experts).

Such speculations, resting upon the earlier flights of cosmological fancy, beg the question as to the origin of all other stars. Supernovae are exceedingly rare events, and there is no sound reason to believe that neutron stars are even physically possible.

However appealing the original logic may have been to some, the neutron star model should have been discarded when pulsars were found with supposed “spin” and cooling rates that required the mathematicians to conjure ever more dense and exotic particles–like quarks–that have never been observed.

Critics of the “neutron star” hypothesis say that it is a violation of common sense to speak of matter being gravitationally compressed to the point that the orbiting electrons in an atom are forced to join with the protons in the nucleus to form neutrons. The nearly 2000-fold difference in weight between the electron and the proton will ensure charge separation in an intense gravitational field. Each atom will become a tiny radial electric dipole that assists charge separation. And the electric force of repulsion is 39 orders of magnitude stronger than gravity, so extremely weak charge separation is sufficient to resist gravitational compression. The force of gravity is effectively zero in the presence of the electric force.

All of today’s popular ideas about supernovae, the supposed progenitors of neutron stars, were formulated under a gravity-only ideology that has, in recent decades, been challenged (and electric theorists would say overturned) by the discovery of plasma and powerful electric and magnetic fields in space. Supernovae have recently been identified as catastrophic stellar electrical discharges. The remnant of such a discharge cannot be the imagined rapidly spinning super-dense object: powerful electrical forces will always prevent gravitational "super-collapse."

Plasma physicists have shown (in the words of K. Healy and A. Peratt) that the pulsed radiation detected from some supernova remnants may,

"…derive either from the pulsar’s interaction with its environment or by energy delivered by an external circuit. …[O]ur results support the ‘planetary magnetosphere’ view, where the extent of the magnetosphere, not emission points on a rotating surface, determines the pulsar emission.”

These concrete results do not rest on events merely imagined. And they dovetail with facts that are now inescapable: electric discharges in plasma are fully capable of generating the exotic structures of supernova remnants seen in deep space. The "wheel and axle" form of the supernova remnant in the Crab nebula is that of a simple Faraday electric motor. Its structure also conforms to the stellar circuit diagram espoused by the father of plasma cosmology, Hannes Alfvén.

It is a pity that the “Iron Sun” researchers are not conversant with plasma cosmology and the Electric Sun model. They make a compelling case against the standard solar model, and their recent findings of electrically induced nuclear reactions on the solar surface could open a pathway to discoveries reaching well beyond solar science.



Exploding the Myth of the Imploding Supernova

Jan 24, 2006

Credit: NASA/STScI/CfA/P Challis
Caption: Supernova 1987A is the closest supernova event since the invention of the telescope

When a star called “SK-69 202” exploded on February 24, 1987, becoming “Supernova 1987A”, the shock to conventional theory was as great as the visual wonder in the heavens. The event did not “emulate the theory”, but rather appears to have involved catastrophic electrical discharge.

Prior to Supernova 1987A, astronomers assumed that a supernova signaled the death throes of a red supergiant star. But the star that exploded — SK-69 202 — was a blue supergiant, perhaps 20 times smaller than a red supergiant and a much different breed of star.


Astronomers had long supposed that supernovae occur when a star “exhausts its nuclear fuel", causing a collapse or implosion followed by a violent “rebound” effect when the outer layers of the star hit the core. The resulting blast, they said, ejects a spherical shell of material into interstellar space where it collides with its own slower moving stellar wind generated during its earlier, more stable phases.

But Supernova 1987A tells a different story.

Pictured above is the changing appearance of Supernova 1987A over a 27-month period as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. The photograph shows three axially aligned rings. The bright inner ring is about 1.3 light-years in diameter. The conventional theory of supernovae had not predicted, or in any way anticipated, the distinctive bi-polar structure of Supernova 1987A, similar to that of many nebulas now documented. Nor did the theory have anything to say about the bright "beads".

Since there is an entrenched habit today of reinterpreting the surprises of the space age as if they were not really surprises, readers would do well to remember the original statement by Dr. Chris Burrows of the European Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, when Supernova 1987A was first discovered.

"This is an unprecedented and bizarre object. We have never seen anything behave like this before”.

Thus, the Astronomy Picture of the Day” for July 5, 1996, states without equivocation that “the origins of these rings still remains a mystery”.

Nevertheless, the inertia of prior theory is strong enough that astronomers continue to identify the rings as “shells” of gas struck by the supernova’s high-energy “shock front”—though it is only necessary to look at the pictures to see that the rings are not shells. They are tori (rings) around a dynamic center occupying a common axis—a characteristic structure observed in high-energy plasma discharge experiments. But the crucial feature of SN 1987A is the bright beads.

Both the number and position of the beads conforms to Birkeland current filaments in a powerful plasma discharge known as a "z-pinch." Electrical theorist Wallace Thornhill has predicted,

"…the ring will not grow as a shock-wave-produced ring would be expected to. Some bright spots may be seen to rotate about each other and to merge. It is an opportunity …to be able to verify the electric discharge nature of a supernova."

More than fifty years ago a British scientist, Dr. Charles E. R. Bruce (1902-1979), argued that the bipolar shape, temperatures and magnetic fields of “planetary nebulae” could be explained as an electrical discharge. Bruce was ideally situated to make the discovery, being both an electrical engineer versed in high-energy lightning behavior and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was ignored.

Since that time, the structure and dynamics of high-energy electrical discharge in plasma has been well researched—most importantly, in the work of Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfvén, and over the past two decades or more by Alfvén’s close colleague, Anthony Peratt.

The work of the cosmic electricians bears directly on the “Iron Sun” debate. When Oliver Manuel began to formulate his model of the Sun, ideas about supernovae lay at the heart of his thinking. From a study of the unusual isotopic composition of meteorites, Manuel had concluded that the objects had formed from the remains of a supernova. In this, he was following a tenet of conventional astronomy, which argues that elements heavier than iron and nickel in the solar system were created by distant supernovae over billions of years. Except that Manuel concluded that the supernova creating iron and other heavy element abundances in meteorites was the precursor to our own Sun.

Though the Iron Sun model brings with it an insightful critique of the standard nuclear fusion model of the Sun, Manuel did not break free from the old gravitational concepts on the nature of supernovae; but he did add a new twist, suggesting that the Sun hides a neutron star around which accreted an iron shell after the Sun’s supernova explosion.

As the electrical theorists see it, the mistake of following a conventional myth invariably set Manuel on a dead-end course. The Electric Sun model, these theorists claim, can account for all of the strange phenomena exhibited by the Sun and its environment. And the explanations do not require them to guess what is inside the Sun or to posit unlikely events leading to the birth of the Sun.

Concerning the birth of stars, the Electric Sun model embraces the new science of plasma cosmology. Plasma cosmologists can demonstrate the principles of star birth in the plasma "z-pinch"; and they achieve their results both in the laboratory and in supercomputer simulations. In contrast, the earlier notion of gravitationally collapsing molecular clouds began as a theoretical guess and never found the required observational support. Nor has it been shown how planets can form from a ring of dust about a star, a crucial requirement.

Stellar explosions have always been a problem for conventional gravitational theory. What could trigger the sudden release of such prodigious energy? The sudden gravitational implosion of the entire star is an ingenious idea for a trigger but highly implausible because it requires spherical symmetry on the vast scale of a giant star. The ejections observed from supernova remnants show that the process is axially symmetric. However, if a star is the focus of a galactic electric discharge together with internal charge stratification, it may naturally undergo an expulsive stellar "lightning-flash" to relieve the electrical stress.


An electric star has electromagnetic energy stored in an equatorial current ring such as the torus (imaged in UV light) around our Sun. As stated by electrical theorist Wallace Thornhill,

"Matter is ejected at low latitudes by discharges between the current ring and the star. The Sun does this regularly on a small scale. However, if the stored energy reaches some critical value it may be released in the form of a bipolar axial discharge, or ejection of matter along the rotational axis."

Creation of heavy metals, according to Thornhill, does not require a supernova. In the electric model of stars, electrical energy produces heavy elements near the surface of all stars—a claim now given additional support by Manuel’s own findings.

But the Iron Sun model makes the curious claim that energy from neutrons, supposedly repelled from its neutron star core, provides most of the Sun's radiant energy and the protons for the solar wind. The Electric Sun model, on the other hand, says that external electrical energy, supplied from the galaxy, is responsible for producing the radiant output of the Sun, the solar wind and most of the heavy elements seen in the solar spectrum. The production of iron atoms requires energy input. So all stars participate in the synthesis of heavy elements. (This is a far more satisfying theory than relying upon rare supernovae, which then disperse their heavy elements into deep space).


The solar wind is merely an equatorial current sheet forming part of the circuit that "drives" the Sun. The magnetic field of the Sun is generated by a varying direct-current power input to the Sun. It is only to be expected, therefore, that the observed power variations would be reflected in the sunspot cycle and in changes in both x-ray brightness and the magnetic field of the Sun. No mysterious "dynamo" inside the Sun could explain these synchronous patterns.

The Electric Sun model anticipates the building of heavier atomic nuclei from the protons and neutrons at the foot points of solar flares. But it also expects most nuclear reactions to occur in the tornadic discharges that form solar granulations (where the nuclear kitchen is in full view). In particular, the latter prediction fits the observed anti-correlation between neutrino count and sunspot number. The more sunspots there are, the fewer solar granulations and neutrinos. This unique correlation does not fit any model that proposes an energy source inside the Sun, unrelated to sunspots.

For an Electric Sun, what happens in the Sun’s core is of little consequence. We should expect an incompressible solid or liquid core composed of heavy elements gathered in the primordial z-pinch and later synthesized in the continual stellar discharge. But since the glowing sphere we call the Sun is an electric discharge high in its atmosphere, we should naturally expect the lightest element, hydrogen, to predominate as the plasma medium for the discharge. There is no need to postulate an internal source of energy to support the photosphere since (as direct observation confirms) the photosphere and phenomena above the photosphere, such as flares and prominences, are not governed by gravity.

The energy which fuels the Sun may be transferred over cosmic distances via Birkeland current transmission lines. This energy may be released gradually or stored in a stellar circuit and unleashed catastrophically. The cosmic circuits now revealed threading themselves along the arms of the Milky are the energy source for the supernova explosion– not the star. Only an external power source can explain why the continuing energy output of some nebulae such as Eta Carina exceeds that available from the central star. (click below image)

A supernova does not signal the death throes of a star. There is nothing inside the star to "die." Nor does it herald the birth of a neutron star.


Meteorites and the Modern Myth of Solar System Genesis

Jan 26, 2006

Caption: In the fashion of a textbook frontispiece, the illustration above captures
the modern myth of solar system formation from a collapsing nebular cloud.

In his “Iron Sun” theory, Oliver Manuel has developed an unorthodox answer to puzzles concerning the birth of the solar system, recorded in meteorites and lunar samples. But in interpreting these samples, he has fallen prey to a conventional myth as to their origins.

The popular theoretical picture of our solar system today is strongly wedded to the “nebular hypothesis”. The theory traces the origin of the Sun and planets to a primordial cloud of gas and dust, in which the gravitational force led to the cloud’s progressive collapse into a spinning disk. Within this disk, the Sun formed at the center and all of the secondary bodies from planets and moons down to asteroids, comets, and meteorites accreted from leftover debris.

  • But how did gases in a diffuse “cloud” collapse against the inherent tendency of gases in a vacuum to expand and rotating systems to fly apart?

  • Why is the Sun tilted 7 degrees to the ecliptic?

  • Why should giant planets, recently discovered in distant planetary systems, favor a close orbit about their star, while Jupiter and Saturn orbit far from the Sun?

  • And if the different bodies in our solar system arose from a homogenous cloud, why does their composition vary so?

Plasma cosmology provides the simple answer to the question of how stars are formed. They are formed by the powerful and long-reaching electromagnetic force of a “plasma pinch”, a principle well researched in the laboratory and now observed in detail in high resolution images of planetary nebulae.

According to Hannes Alfvén and other pioneers of plasma cosmology, a stellar system gives way to gravity only after the star is formed and as the plasma pinch subsides. In this view it is not correct to look to gravity as the cause of star formation. It is also normal for a number of stars to be formed along the axis of the plasma pinch and subsequently scatter "like buckshot" following the collapse of the pinch. Planets are generally not formed at this stage. We should expect that stars formed in this manner would, as a group, tend to have their rotational axes aligned along the direction of the galactic magnetic field.

The “Electric Universe” model of stars takes the role of the electric force further, suggesting that evolving star systems move through phases of electrical instability before achieving the equilibrium that marks our own solar system today. Stellar companions and gas giant planets are "born"—ejected—fully formed from a star before it achieves electrical balance with its new environment. That explains both the preponderance of multiple star systems and the close-orbiting gas giants. Rocky planets and moons are similarly born at intervals by means of electrical expulsion from gas giants. Rings about gas giants and stars are principally a result of electrical expulsion, not gravitational accretion.

In this view, the electrical birth pangs associated with newly-born planets and moons can immerse celestial bodies in violent plasma discharge, sculpting the surfaces of the newcomers. Planets and moons are charged objects, and subsequent encounters in an unstable system can leave surfaces dominated by electrical craters, vast trenches, and other scars. Much of the excavated material can then be lofted by the discharge into space as comet nuclei, asteroids, and meteorites, while portions of the material may fall back to form strata of shattered rock and loose soil. Electrical interactions between planets also have the beneficial effect of quickly restoring order out of chaos.

Like any biological family, the planets of our solar system were born at different times and from different parents. They have a complex history that includes electrical exchanges capable of upsetting atomic clocks and producing numerous isotopic anomalies. As rocky surfaces are excavated electrically, for example, the resulting short-lived radioactive isotopes may wind up in the grains of meteorites.

Proponents of the Electric Universe suggest that most conventional claims about the birth of the solar system, though stated with great confidence, are highly conjectural. And if one discerns something fundamentally wrong in a common teaching in the sciences, a skeptical posture toward other conventional assumptions is also appropriate. We have already suggested that Oliver Manuel, in developing his argument for the “Iron Sun”, was too willing to accept orthodox assumptions.

Manuel writes, for example:

"The Apollo mission returned from the Moon in 1969 with soil samples whose surfaces were loaded with elements implanted by the solar wind," we can see that it is an assumption based on an undisturbed, clockwork planetary system.

But in this case the more telling facts may relate to lunar soil isotopes that do not appear in the solar wind.

Based on the isotopic composition of meteorites, Manuel has suggested that the nascent solar system must have experienced a very close supernova explosion before meteorites were formed. But the idea that either the Sun or any other body in the solar system is the remnant of a supernova is unnecessary. There is no necessary connection between supernovae and meteorite isotopes. In fact, it was suggested long ago that the many strange features of meteorites could have been formed in gargantuan lightning flashes within a solar nebula. And Manuel has noted that grains in the Murchison meteorite have isotope abundances related to grain size that "mimic the properties of 'fall-out' grains produced after the explosion of a nuclear weapon…" The Electric Universe model satisfies both ideas.

As we have already suggested, supernovae are emphatically an electric discharge phenomenon. So the many puzzling features of meteorites may be explained by their formation in the debris of any high-energy plasma discharge.

In these pages, we have documented the recent electrical sculpting of planets by cosmic scale discharges in the solar system. We have suggested that meteorites are the debris of planetary encounters, a conclusion now supported by direct observation of planetary surfaces and by the study of meteorites, the latter revealing the effects of flash heating, ion implantation, and the isotopic anomalies that would be expected from an interplanetary thunderbolt.

Of course, the close encounters required for electrical exchanges mean that the planets were not formed in their present orbits, as astronomers commonly assume. And there is good reason why virtually every rocky body in the solar system shows evidence of catastrophic encounters. The history of the solar system is one of "punctuated equilibrium" – long periods of stability punctuated by brief episodes of chaos as new members are accommodated. The fact that no simple gradation of planetary characteristics occurs within the solar family needs no other explanation.