The origin of “fossil” fuels
The change of scientific paradigms
For this thesis I wanted to find
different examples of scientists who have had interesting new scientific
theories which were not accepted, or even ridiculed by most scientists in the
specific field. In many cases history proved the new theories of these
scientists right. Most interesting off course are some examples that are still
debated today. One might think that these topics are hard to find; and indeed,
often the established scientific community is correct in holding on to well
established theories, but I have found a few examples where there is still a hot
debate going on. The main example (in this thesis) of an established scientific
idea that is being overthrown at the moment is the theory of the origin of
natural oil and gas. Here I present compelling evidence for the alternative
theory; that oil and gas are not fossil fuels but originated from an abiogenic
source. This new theory has been accepted by many Russian scientists, as well as
a growing number of western scientists. As a bonus I will discuss a possible
biological explanation for so called paranormal phenomena such as telepathy and
presentiment and give a few more examples of scientific revolutions.
3: The abiogenic origin of “fossil” fuels
4: Evidence for the abiogenic origin of carbohydrates
6: Conclusion and discussion
7: Appendix I: Isotopic evidence of the abiogenic origin
8: Appendix II: Deep earth Gas and Earthquake Prediction
12: Appendix III: A possible explanation for paranormal phenomena
13: Evidence of parapsychological phenomena:
“The Ganzfeld experiments” “Retro PK Experiments”
14: The quantum mind
15: Quantum physics; feasible in the brain?
17: Appendix IV: Plate tectonics
18: Appendix V: Photosynthesis: Is sunlight really necessary?
18: Appendix VI: Thomas gold: The theory of hearing
The abiogenic origin of “fossil”
We all have been taught
where or oil and gas come from; they are fossil fuels. That means that millions
of years ago there were enormous (tropical) forests and swamps where a large
amount of carbon was captured from the air into biomass and later fossilized in
the ground (1, 2). This biomass supposedly turned into oil and gas and coal by
processes that scientists today do not fully understand. Nowadays there are
scientists with a different opinion; they believe that natural gas and crude oil
are derived from the initial materials that formed the earth. Even though this
theory of so called "abiogenic formation" has a lot of compelling evidence in
its favour it is still not commonly accepted among geologists.
Why are there two different theories?
The debate about the origin of petroleum has
been going on since the 1860s, but since in the 1870s it was thought that the
earth was thought to have formed as a hot body of molten rock, the debate
silenced in favour of the biological origin theory. In such a hot body no
hydrocarbons could have survived because they would have oxidized to carbon
dioxide and water. Since the 1950’s it is known that the earth was not formed as
a hot body; instead cold material from a nebula surrounding the sun accumulated
by gravity to form the earth (3). The centre of the earth heated because of
three reasons; radioactive decay, gravitational energy and chemical energy. When
the carbohydrates became warmer a large portion became liquid or gas, and thus
buoyant. This buoyancy forced many of the hydrocarbons to more shallow levels of
the earth’s crust, while the centre of the earth became so hot that it melted.
The presence of the bacteria in the earth’s
crust, the so called “deep hot biosphere”, is also indicative of the “cold”
formation of the earth; if the earth had had a hot origin the high temperatures
would have "burnt" most energy containing chemicals to a state where bacteria
could not oxidize them any further for their metabolism.
argument for the biological origin theory was the presence of biomolecules in
petroleum. Since people in the past did not know about the bacteria that live
deep in the earth’s crust, they took the presence of the biomolecules as
evidence for the fossil origin of petroleum. Since microbiologists have
discovered that bacteria live in great quantities in the earth’s crust (4, 70),
this argument has also vanished. The biomolecules in oil can originate from
sub-surface bacteria. This bacterial origin would also explain that the type of
biomolecules in oil is different from the type of biomolecules formed by surface
life. The biomolecules that were said to be "molecular fossils" in oil consist
of molecules like the porphyrins that are a closed bridge structure of four
pyrol rings which can form complexes with metal atoms (5). These porphyrins are
formed in surface life in chlorophyll, which contains a magnesium ion and in
haemoglobin and cytochrome, which contains iron atoms. In oils iron and
magnesium complexes have never been found, but only vanadium and nickel
complexes. Sometimes these nickel porphyrins are considered to be an unknown
chlorophyll or pophyrin structure (6).
There are also some oils in which no biomolecules can
Evidence for the abiogenic origin of carbohydrates
I have summarised the evidence previously
used for the abiogenic theory (7). More recent experiments on high pressure
hydrocarbon formation (8) have shown that hydrocarbons are stable at great
depths and that the mixture of hydrocarbons found in petroleum must have formed
at depths greater than those of sediments.
Reservoirs of petroleum and gas often occur in
geographical patterns of long lines or arcs extending for hundreds or even
thousands of kilometres (Figure 1). Mendeleyev (known from the periodic system)
noted this first in the 1870’s (9). This is an indication for the common
origin of the petroleum from a deeper layer than the sediments. The petroleum is
found in a large area that encompasses different geological origins.
Figure 1. Oil fields of the
Middle East, showing continuous region from Turkey to Oman. The dots represent
individual fields, and the size of each dot indicates the magnitude of the
Carbohydrates from a large area often show
common chemical features regardless of the varied composition of the substrate
in which they are found.
Methane is found in many locations that lack
a biogenic explanation. This occurrence of methane might be explained in
different ways; instead of having formed from primordial hydrocarbons or being
primordial this methane might have been formed from solid iron oxideFeO, marble,
CaCO3 and water. At high pressure and temperature these substrates have been
demonstrated to produce hydrocarbons (11,12).
Hydrocarbon-rich areas tend to be
hydrocarbon-rich at all (reachable) lower levels, corresponding to quite
different geological periods and extending down to the crystalline basement that
underlies the sediment. This is known as Koudryatsev’s rule (13).
A number of carbohydrate reservoirs seem to
be refilling as they are exploited. This can be explained by upwelling
hydrocarbons from lower levels.
The distribution of the large amounts of
carbonate rock in the upper crust and the isotopic composition of their carbon
atoms argue against the theory of biological origin of most of the hydrocarbons
(see isotopic evidence, appendix I).
Regional associations of hydrocarbons with
helium can be explained when we assume that the hydrocarbons have ascended from
great depth. Methane upwelling from great depth mixes with helium when it flows
through rock pores. Helium is produced in many crystalline rocks by natural
decay of radioactive elements.
The hydrocarbon molecules found in natural
petroleum are high pressure polymorphisms of the H-C system and evolve only in
thermodynamic regimes of pressures greater than 25-50 kilobar (figure 2). These
pressures correspond to greater depths then fossil substrates have been found
(8). Quote from Kenney et al. (8): “Hydrocarbon molecules from petroleum
reservoirs can not originate from biological matter, except for methane.”
Personally I have to disagree with this because most natural petroleum clearly
shows the presence of biomolecules from bacteria from the earth’s crust.
Nonetheless, I agree with the abiogenic origin of most of the hydrocarbons in
petroleum. This line of evidence is similar to the argument that the existence
of diamonds near the surface provides; since diamonds only evolve under extreme
pressures their mere existence proves that carbon is present at great depths
(more on diamonds and deep gas in appendix II).
Figure 2. Stability of hydrocarbons at temperatures and pressures in
the Earth (14). Pressure-temperature regime of Earth is indicated by the shaded
region. Thermodynamic calculations indicate domains in which various hydrocarbon
molecules are stable. The lines marked Paraffins, Naphthenes, and Aromatics
enclose domains in which a mix of hydrocarbon molecules would be set up from
hydrogen and carbon, and on crossing outward from these domains the percentages
indicated would be retained. Methane is essentially stable to the left of the
line marked 95 percent, and 10 percent would still be retained on crossing to
the right of the line so marked (that is, 90 percent would dissociate into
hydrogen and carbon). According to these calculations, most of the petroleum
components would be present in equilibrium of a carbon-hydrogen mix at a depth
between 100 and 300 km, and methane streaming up could bring a significant
fraction of these petroleum components toward the surface. b, bar; kb, kilobar;
km, kilometer; m, meter; T, temperature.
Biological debris would be unlikely to
produce hydrogen-saturated hydrocarbons. The hydrogen/carbon ratio of biological
materials is too low to produce hydrogen saturated hydrocarbons, and slow
chemical processing in geologic settings would lead to a further loss of
hydrogen. Yet most commercial hydrocarbon deposits contain methane and other
high hydrogen components. The average hydrogen proportion is greater, the deeper
the level from which the hydrocarbons are withdrawn, corresponding to a hydrogen
loss during the upward migration of the fluids (15,16).
Hydrocarbons similar to those from
meteorites form bulk of earth’s hydrocarbons (17,18).
Often oil or gas have been found in drilling
wells in crystalline rock, and oil or gas is generated (23, 24, 25). In one
occasion this was done on the initiative of the strongest supporter of the
abiogenic theory in the west, Dr. Thomas Gold (26). While Gold claimed success
critics pointed out the small amounts that were obtained, and possible
contamination with oil from lubricating drilling mud. Later in a nearby borehole
oil was produced while lubrication was performed with water (27).
Another overview paper on the abiogenic
origin, though slightly dated, can be found at (28).
Conclusion and discussion
It is clear that there is compelling evidence for the
abiogenic origin of fossil fuels. As J.F. Kenney (8) stated: "There has
not been any 'debate' about the origin of hydrocarbons for over a century,
competent physicists, chemists, chemical engineers and men knowledgeable of
thermodynamics have known that natural petroleum does not evolve from biological
material since the last quarter of the 19th century." (29). Apparently the idea
of a fossil origin just remains too long in the school books and in the minds of
many (petroleum) geologists who did not want to question the assumptions that
were at the basis of their work. It is easy to make superficial assumptions
about certain issues, but one should always be willing to question the basics of
our thinking. Especially when it is thought that “something does not happen” it
often is shown that there is an exception to that “rule”. Often this exception
is overlooked or ignored until one investigative mind looks further and finds a
new principle that sparks a new field of investigation with great benefits.
I wish to thank Antoon Akkermans for
usefull suggestions and comments.
Isotopic evidence of the abiogenic origin
Distribution of ratio (expressed as d13C) of the stable isotopes
13C and 12C in different terrestrial materials. Methane and
carbonate cements span a much larger range of these isotope ratios than all
other forms of terrestrial carbon (7).
The isotopes of carbohydrates have been
used for various scientific purposes. Isotopes of atoms are heavier atoms of an
element that we find in nature, for instance carbon 13 instead of carbon 12, or
hydrogen 2 instead of hydrogen 1. Molecules containing these heavier isotopes
are relatively rare, and the ratio between normal molecules and molecules with
heavier isotopes can vary. Because of the higher weight of the heavier isotope
of CO2 there is a selection in plants for a higher uptake of carbon 12 during
photosynthesis. This happens because the lighter CO2 is taken up faster across
the membrane of the plant. Normal CO2 has a higher diffusion speed than C-13
This higher diffusion speed also plays
an important role in the determination of the isotopic ratio if methane. As
methane travels upward through the crust of the earth it sometimes passes
through wet spots or porous rocks, where fractionation can occur. This
fractionation leads to a broad range of isotopic ratios in methane (figure 3).
Often the isotopic ratio of carbon in methane has led scientists to assume that
the origin of the methane is biological because of the C-13 deficiency. But the
C-13 deficiency in methane is often far greater than can be found in plants,
which is a clear indication for fractionation in the earth. In some cases the
carbon from methane from the earth has a higher isotopic ratio than carbon from
plants. This could be an indication of the abiogenic origin, or the ratio is
also due to fractionation in the earth while the C-13 deficient fraction has
The isotopic ratio of atmospheric CO2
has a relatively small range because CO2 molecules from various sources get
mixed relatively quickly in the atmosphere. Geological records show that this
ratio has been remarkably constant from early Archean times to the present (19).
This is also a strong argument against the biological origin theory. If plants
have taken all the carbon sources in the earth from the atmosphere over millions
of years, the atmosphere would have built up more and more C-13 CO2. Also the
amount of oxygen in the atmosphere would be much larger than it is now.
Figure 4. Carbon isotope ratios (expressed as d13C) of
methane plotted against depth of occurrence (20). Although there is much
variability in this relationship, it is almost always true that where methane is
found at different levels in the same area, the methane is isotopically lighter
(contains less 13C) the shallower the level.
Methane tends to be isotopically lighter, the shallower the
level (figure 4). This appears to be true irrespective of the type or age of the
formation from which the sample was taken. Some methane appears to be lost to
oxidation, ending up as carbon dioxide, and a fraction of that in turn as
calcite cements. This oxidation process seems to prefer the heavy isotope and so
the remaining methane gets isotopically lighter on the way up. At each level the
calcite thus derived from the already fractionated methane and so it also will
become lighter, but always remaining heavier than the methane at that same
Deep earth Gas and Earthquake
The theory prediction of earthquakes, is
related to the deep earth gas theory (41). New methods for earthquake prediction
can be developed when upwelling gas is taken seriously as a cause of
earthquakes (30). The results of the standard prediction methods still leave
much to be desired (31). The new prediction methods would probably not be
sufficient to predict all earthquakes. Near faultlines erupting gasses may
facilitate the release of the stresses in the crust, thus causing earthquakes in
some occasions, while there might be entirely “gas driven” earthquakes or
entirely fault related earthquakes as well. The theory of upwelling gas causing
earthquakes relies on the existance of gas deep in the crust of the earth. The
existance of natural diamonds indicates that deep in the earth carbohydrates are
present. Diamonds are a stable form of carbon at pressures from 45 kilobar;
corresponding to depths of 150 kilometers or more. Geological formations in
which diamonds occur near the surface are called “Kimberlite pipes”, these are
deep shafts filled with a mixture of rock types (fig 5). These rocks have
originated from great depths (32) The Kimberlite rocks have ascended rapidly
which allows the diamonds to cool down sufficiently quickly so that they do not
desintegrate to graphite. Tiny pore spaces in diamonds have been analyzed and
found to contain small amounts of highly compressed carbon dioxide and methane
Figure 5. Model of a
Kimberlite pipe (35).
There were two observations before the earthquake at Loma
Prieta on October 17, 1989 that seemed to be gas related and are clearly just
prior to the earthquake (36 and 37). These observations were made for purposes
unrelated to earthquake research, but still seem to be the best
earthquake-predictive observations for this earthquake. The observation of the
amount of helium in a shallow well showed a sharp increase a day before the
quake (Figure 6). This may have represented an increased flow of gases upwards
through the rocks, that had gathered up the helium that had accumulated in the
Figure 6. Helium measurements
before a major earthquake (38).
The other observation was the steep increase of the local
magnetic field amplitude, registered just before the quake (Figure 7); this may
be attributed this to the interruption and reconnection of earth currents
normally flowing in the groundwater, by bubbles of insulating gases that stream
through the pores of the rock.
Upwelling gas might also explain the success of a recent
method that has been used to predict earthquakes in China (39). This method
predicts earthquakes based on temperature increases observed by satellites.
These temperature increases may be caused by gas upwelling from deeper, hotter
Figure 7. Increase of a local
geomagnetic field in advance of an earthquake(40).
A possible explanation for paranormal
Parapsychology is a branch of science
that has been ignored by most scientists. This is not surprising; there have
been many good reasons to ignore parapsychology as a serious branch of science;
-Parapsychological phenomena often lack
a decent scientific explanation.
To give a scientific explanation of
certain parapsychological phenomena it seems that the “normal” laws of physics
have to be ignored in many cases.
-There have been many frauds; people who
claim psychic abilities or phenomena that turn out to be tricks; Uri Geller is a
well known example.
-Parapsychological phenomena often lack
repeatability. Often paranormal phenomena are experienced by individuals;
recounts of these experiences are not acceptable as scientific evidence for a
-Parapsychological phenomena rarely have
a direct use, and research into psychic phenomena usually does not contribute to
the development of a readily producible application.
Nonetheless parapsychology has remained
a work field for some scientists; they have repeatedly shown that they can
produce results that can not be explained by normal scientific explanations. The
results are just to “weird” for a simple scientific explanation.
On the other hand physicists have
developed their own “weird” theories.. It has even been argued that if you think
that you understand quantum physics that only shows that you have not understood
it at all. Some of the results from quantum physical experiments have defied our
understanding of matter and time. These experiments have attracted my interest
because some properties of quantum physics, like the possibility to transfer
information via quantum resonance, seem the only way to give a scientific
explanation for the results of certain parapsychological experiments.
Evidence of parapsychological
phenomena: “The Ganzfeld experiments”
The ganzfeld studies have generated more publicity than any
other field in paranormal research. This is the result of detailed meta-analyses
of the ganzfeld studies by a leading ganzfeld researcher, Honorton , and a
critic of this work, Hyman . The ganzfeld technique is designed in order to
send information from a sender to a receiver in a classically inexplicable way,
such as telekinesis. Since the signal from the sender is believed to be very
weak the researchers shield a receiver from normal sensory input. In theory this
would allow the receiver to be able to receive any weak signals from a sender in
another room without disturbance from normal sensory input. The sender gets to
see a picture or a repeated short video clip for a while which is randomly
chosen from a collection of four. After the experiment the receiver has to
indicate which of the four pictures or video clips has been observed by the
sender. If telekinesis plays no role in the outcome of such an experiment one
would expect the receiver to choose the right picture in 25% of the cases. In a
meta analysis of 11 different ganzfeld experiments with 240 test subjects
(receivers) over 329 trials there were 106 hits. The average score of the
receivers is 32%, which is statistically a highly significant effect (Z score of
2.89). In this study no explanation was given how this effect can be explained.
“Retro PK Experiments”
Retro PK experiments are designed to
demonstrate influence of our mind over matter. In order to test this influence
some large scale experiments have been designed in which the research subject
attempts to influence the outcome of a true random number generator*. The idea
is that the subject looks at a graphical representation of the outcome of the
random number generator and attempts by will to change the outcome. The results
of these experiments are small, but in some cases statistically significant
results have been published. Some of the largest experiments in Retro PK,
(http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp/) show very little evidence that humans were able
to influence the outcome of the random number generators. This might be
explained by the fact that in these experiments recordings from live number
generators were used. To create a significant outcome, the subject should alter
the outcome of a RNG in the past! In this experiment there was a significant
outcome when only the sign of the outcome was analysed. When people indicated
they would try to influence the outcome in one specific direction then the
outcome of the RNG that was selected was shifted in that direction in enough
experiments to yield a significant result. There can be different explanations
for this (the subject might just "predict"the experiment that will be selected
by the computer instead of really influencing the RNG in the past). And since
only the sign of the outcome is analysed a lot of data is ignored. Therefore I
find the resuts of this experiment not sufficiently convincing.
*: A true random number generator
generates random numbers based on an effect in nature such as radioactive decay,
instead of a completely computer generated random number generator. A computer
based random number generator can not be used because it uses a mathematical
algorithm to generate a series of numbers that has the properties of a stream of
real random number but these numbers are calculated. These numbers could in
principle be predicted if the algorithm was known and the outcome of the
“random” number generator is dependent on the algorithm and can not be
The quantum mind
Some time ago I came across a theory
that just might give a possible explanation for Psi phenomena, the so called
“Orch OR” theory (51). This theory states that our brains are not the clockwork
like processing organs we once thought them to be. Rather they have a link to
quantum physics via the microtubuli in the cells of the brain, thus enabling the
brain to produce phenomena comparable to the strange results some physicists
have had in their experiments dealing with quantum physics. The theory states
that the proteins that make up the long filaments called microtubuli in the
brain can flip between two states. The tubulin proteins of one state can form
patterns that move across the microtubulus; thus transporting information. The
proteins can also be present in a quantum state of both configurations when
isolated. When this quantum state is isolated long enough it can collapse on
itself to a normal state. When this collapse occurs information is generated in
the microtubuli presumably in the form of patterns of tubulins in a specific
configuration. Via interaction with other proteins this information might be
responsible for firing of the braincells (69). This theory gives a possible
explanation of how the brain can become conscious of things that only can be
perceived via quantum physics, such as backwards time referral (68). The
isolation of the microtubuli in the brain occurs at a frequency of 40 Hz.
Quantum physics; feasible in the
Quantum physics is a relatively new
branch of science that has generated some astonishing breakthroughs in our
understanding of the world. Quantum physics has shown that at a molecular level
the world works very different from the world of our every day lives. A molecule
for instance that can be either in an A conformation or a B conformation can
according to quantum physics be in a so called superposition of A and B at the
same time! Such a superposition can not be measured directly; when a measurement
is performed the molecule will show either the A or B position. The
superposition of A and B collapses to either A or B when you measure the
molecule. Physicists have done experiments with quantum superpositions in
sophisticated laboratories at near zero (Kelvin!) temperatures so that the
superpositions would be stable for at lest a short while. This stability problem
has somehow also been solved by nature, at much higher temperatures.
Another problem that physicists have
encountered in using quantum physics for calculations is the problem of
decoherence. No matter how well you isolate a quantum superposition, sometimes
it does return to a normal state when it is not desired, just because of
interaction with its environment. In quantum computing this can introduce
errors, and these errors need to be corrected somehow. Some schemes for
correcting these errors have been proposed for building a quantum computer, but
it will take quite a while before science is able to build a usefull quantum
computer. In biology in the other hand quantum computing is proposed to occur on
a large scale in the microtubili in the brain, and error correction for local
decoherence can occur by restoring a pattern in a microtubulus (figure 11).
Figure 11. A microtubule topological
qu-tetrit. Four vibrational patterns in the microtubule lattice (top), which
correlate with functional attachment patterns of microtubule-associated proteins
are the eigenstates of a quantum superposition of all fours states (bottom).
Quantum computation in the superposition phase reduces to one particular
eigenstate pattern. The topological patterns are resistant to decoherence at the
level of any particular subunit.
The microtubule lattice
features a series of helical winding patterns that repeat on longitudinal
protofilaments at 3,5,8,13,21 and higher numbers of tubulins. These particular
winding patterns (whose repeat intervals match the Fibonacci series) define
attachment sites of the microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs), and are found in
simulations of self-localized phonon excitations in microtubules (52). They
suggest topological global states in microtubules which may be resistant to
local decoherence. It has been suggested that the Fibonacci patterns on
microtubules may be optimal for error correction.
Of further interest is the
argument that synaptic signal transmission has a quantum character (53, 54),
although the debate on this issue has not been conclusive (55).
New developments in magnetic
resonance imaging of the brain demonstrate that artificially induced quantum
coherences of proton spins separated by distances ranging from micrometers to 1
mm are sustained for hundreds of seconds and longer (56-58).
Some evidence also supports biological
quantum states (46).
The “Orch OR” theory proposes that the
tubulin proteins of the microtubuli exist for some time in a quantum
superposition in the brain. Quantum physicists find this hard to accept because
they can demonstrate quantum superpositions in the laboratory only in a very
well controlled environment. This is because quantum superpositions are very
unstable. A quantum superposition returns to a normal state when a measurement
is performed of the molecule in superposition. This means that any contact with
the environment can return the tubulin to a normal state. It seems unlikely that
in the brain the microtubuli can be isolated well enough to allow quantum
superpositions to exist for some time. A biological solution for this problem
has been proposed that would allow the microtubuli to be isolated well enough
from their environment for a sufficient amount of time and allow interaction
with the microtubuli to transfer information (45). Nature may have solved this
problem of both isolation and communication by alternating cytoplasmic phases of
solution ("sol", liquid, sensitive to environment, classical) and gelation
("gel", solid, shielded/insulated, quantum). Thus microtubules can be both
sensitive to their environment ("sol" phase) and isolated/shielded ("gel" phase)
Schematic sequence of phase of actin gelation/quantum isolation (13) and
solution/environmental communication (4) around MT. Cycles may occur rapidly,
e.g., 25 msec intervals (40Hz) (42).
Negative charges on the C-terminus tail of the tubulin dimer are screened under
physiological conditions by counterions forming a Debye layer around the
Figure 10. Immunoelectron micrograph of cytoplasm
showing microtubules (arrows), intermediate filaments (arrowheads), and actin
microfilaments (mf). A dense actin gel (lower left) completely obscures
the microtubules below. Scale bar at upper right
represents 500 nm (44).
The “presentiment” experiments by Dr.
Bierman and others show that a response to a signal can be recorded in the brain
before the signal is given (47, 48 and 49). How can information run backwards in
time? Penrose first suggested that quantum effects in the brain could explain
backwards referral, and that such effects may occur commonly, even routinely. It
turns out that in quantum mechanics, quantum information can indeed run
backwards, or be time indeterminate. The Aharonov formulation (50)
suggests that each quantum state reduction has a dual
vector, both forward and backwards in time.
One of the most important paradigm
shifts in recent science was the development and acceptance of the theory of
plate tectonics. This theory was developed first by Alfred Wegener in 1912,
although by that time the theory was still flawed in some important respects.
Wegener was right in seeing that the continents must once have been together and
are moving. He also was right to propose that this movement of continents
creates mountain ranges where the continents collide. Unfortunately his theory
lacked a geological mechanism to explain how the continents could drift across
the earth’s surface as he proposed. Now we know that the continents do not move
as such; rather the crust of the earth is divided in a number of plates that
move across the liquid inner part of the earth, driven by convection. The
continents are merely higher parts of land on these plates and do not move
across the ocean floor, as Wegener first hypothesised.
Photosynthesis: Is sunlight really
“Photosynthesis is the process where plants use the energy of sunlight as a
source of energy.” This sentence is wrong in two parts; firstly not only plants,
but also algae and bacteria have photosynthesis. Secondly not only sunlight is
used for photosynthesis. You might think that I mean that nowadays also
artificial light is often used or that plants might also be able to use
moonlight (essentially reflected sunlight), but that is not what I mean. The
photosynthesis I am talking about happens in bacteria living 2000 meters deep in
the ocean near hydrothermal vents. These bacteria use geothermal light from the
hot black smokers for their photosynthesis next to their normal metabolism.
Geothermal light is light that is emitted by heat; when an object is hot it
glows. The black smokers emit water that can be up to 400 C, and this high
temperature emits infrared light that can be used by some bacteria for
Thomas gold: The theory of
is a scientist who has developed several scientific theories that were accepted
only long after they were published. He is an astronomer by training, but adapt
in many other fields. He has
280 publications in various
fields of science, including cosmology, mechanism of mammalian hearing, nature
of pulsars as rotating neutron stars, aspects of solar system research and
origin of planetary hydrocarbons (61). The paragraph about the theory of hearing
and much of the abiogenic origin of fossil fuels are based on his work. Even
though he was not the first to see that the origin of petroleum is abiogenic, he
is an important reminder for western scientists; he has even drilled in Swedish
granite to prove the abiogenic origin theory!
development of the theory of hearing: "How do we discriminate a pure tone from
an impure one?" This was the question in 1946, when Thomas Gold was
investigating this subject. In this case an impure tone is defined as a tone
that does not have a constant frequency. We are easily able to discriminate a
pure tone from a tone that wobbles by as little as one percent. There were two
possible theories that explain how we are able to do this; either the inner ear
contains resonators that vibrate in response to the corresponding frequency or
the ear does not resonate, but directly converts sounds into neural signals that
are analysed in the brain. In 1946, experts in the anatomy of the ear believed
in the second theory because the inner ear is only a small cavity filled with
flesh and water. They did not see how this could resonate to sound like the
strings of a piano. Gold designed an experiment to prove the experts wrong. If
it is true that the inner ear resonates with a tone, than test subjects should
be able to tell the difference between a constant phase and an alternating phase
of a tone after an interval. According to the first theory the inner ear should
keep resonating for some time after the first tone was heard. In this
experiment he demonstrated that test subjects are able to tell whether the phase
of a tone is constant or alternating, even after an interval of thirty times the
length of the tone. Gold published two papers from this experiment in 1948; one
with the results of these experiments and one describing the theory on the
workings of the inner ear (62). The auditory physiologists of the time found the
theory implausible and the experiment unconvincing. After thirty years a new
generation of auditory physiologists found out that the theory of the resonating
inner ear was correct by discovering the hair cells that resonate in the inner
ear. The community of physiologists recognised the importance of Gold’s work
forty years after it was published.
paragraph was summarised from the foreword of Gold’s book “The Deep, Hot
Gold’s Theory of hearing was recently revived and refined
More information on the
workings of the ear can be found in (66) and (67).
Hunt, J. M. Petroleum Geochemistry
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