Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Planets Formed - Current Ideas

"The Chaotic Genesis of Planets"
Scientific American (May, 2008)

"Long viewed as a stately procession to a foregone conclusion, planetary formation turns out to be startlingly chaotic"

"... The basic idea behind the leading theory of planetary formation—tiny grains stick together and swoop up gas—conceals many levels of intricacy. A chaotic interplay among competing mechanisms leads to a huge diversity of outcomes. ..."

It's quite an interesting article. I'm quite sure that the enormous increase in knowledge we have about planetary systems makes this set of ideas more accurate, or at least more plausible, than informed speculations of a few years ago.

However, I'd be surprised if this were even close to the final word on the subject.

A few months ago, I wrote: "Humanity's efforts to understand where we are and how it works have been like that. We become aware of a facet of the world, learn what we can about it, and discover that there are more facets. I wrote a very brief summary of what we've learned about the universe as a whole during the 24 centuries: 'Once it Was Believed / Now We Know.' " ("What Would a Galactic Empire be Like? 'The Physics of Extraterrestrial Civilizations' " (January 2, 2008))

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