In November 2020, a potentially epoch-changing paper was published in the esteemed Astrophysical Journal and reported in thousands of news fonts around the globe. Astronomers were presented with a competing solution to the enigma of how spinning galaxies held on to their peripheral stellar systems when the rotational velocity should be overwhelming gravity and flinging them off into space.
This answer didn’t invoke ethereal “dark matter” which can’t be seen, felt, heard, smelled or tasted and is undetectable in any way, other than fortunately weighing precisely enough to hold everything together and setting right gravitational disparities across the cosmos. Instead, the latest successes of how well Modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) solves the “missing mass” problem were detailed. MOND is a certainly revolutionary adjusting of supposedly inviolable Newtonian and Einsteinian formulae, tweaking the mathematics of laws assumed to be long since “settled” into stone.
The possibility that dark matter may well turn out to be a figment of so many scientists’ imagination is surely jaw-dropping, but so too is a team of top-tier international researchers daring to follow the precepts of the scientific method rather than meekly echoing the orthodoxy. That’s almost as eyebrow-raising as the data and results they published, since the current era is hardly one welcoming of divergent opinion and instead is shamefully unreceptive to differing views.
Science moves forward like a wave, with its ups and downs, so there have been inquisitions and witch-hunts when it had to hide like everyone and everything else. Today science is on its back foot again, constantly harassed by the bullying tactics of politics, in a society becoming more and more obsessed with partisan fervor. One need not search in outer space for it; beneath the ground in California is a prime example.
Californians have had the “earthquake prediction is impossible” dogma instilled into them over their entire lives. That particular piece of “settled science,” repeated over the decades and centuries, has weighed down seismic forecasting into a deep oblivion, there to remain until something even more powerful than the indisputable opinion of the scientific mainstream trumped everything: politics.
Earthquake prediction became not only possible but enshrined into state law — in New York — when politics demanded it be called into existence. The moratoriums and bans on fracking in the Empire State, from 2014 to the present, all cite as one of the reasons for its prohibition that fracking tends to increase the likelihood of earthquakes. However, it’s not feasible to outlaw some practice in New York because it’s foreseen that earthquakes will be the result, while at the same time in California to cast foreseeing things regarding earthquakes into the realm of impossibility. Yet, that’s precisely the situation at present.
That does dovetail though with Californians’ both acceptance and disbelief in matters impinging on their seismic safety, as concerns the recently completed Earthquake Early Warning System. Millions of Californians now are apprised of an imminent earthquake’s arrival, via their cell phones, in just the same manner as Amber Alerts are sent. Such a monumental step forward, such an astounding feat in pursuit of public safety, however, isn’t considered dead-certain “earthquake prediction” in any sense; with this too the term must never be used.
Nonetheless, as our best teachers taught us all, the last thing science could ever be is “settled.” When it has been distorted and vitiated that much it ceases to be science and is better described as cult, faith or sect. And a nation with a compromised scientific community is a weakened state, a country which may even stoop to endure scientific law being determined by time zone, on the East Coast one thing, and on the West, yet another.
David Nabhan, author of “Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology” (2017), is a science columnist for both Newsmax (“Shaking Up Science”) and the Times of Israel (“Tectonic Shifts”).