Answers questions I've held for years about coal & oil formation

I have just finished reading “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps” and enjoyed it very much. I found it fascinating. I have long doubted that coal was simply compressed vegetable matter.

Answers questions I’ve held for years about coal & oil formation

E-mail from an engineer – 26 Mar 2010

Dear Mr Felix,

I have just finished reading “Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps” and enjoyed it very much. I found it fascinating. I have long doubted that coal was simply compressed vegetable matter. You also mention Veilkovsky, whose books I read and enjoyed half a century ago.

As an undergraduate on an engineering course at Edinburgh I chose to take Geology as my ‘optional’ subject in my second year (1959). The course lecturer stated that mountains were formed by the earth cooling at the surface. As a gawky 19 year old  proto-engineer I challenged that argument telling the lecturer that the cooling of the earth’s surface whilst the centre remained hot, would put the surface into tension and that this would not result in the formation of mountains. That needed compression!

Having failed to convince my teacher, I retired to the library where I read up on the subject of mountain making and in the course of this discovered Velikovsky’s books.

I was looking for an external force sufficient to ‘skid’ the surface over the molten interior. A close approach from a celestial body seemed more likely to cause mountains than the then current, cooling theory. My lecturer did not agree and told me to stick to the cooling theory or ‘fail the course’. It bugged me, but I needed the pass.  In 1959 Tectonic Plate theory had yet to reach Edinburgh’s Geology Dept.

I must have been a real pain to the Geology Dept. because I also challenged the accepted belief that coal was the result of vegetable debris. I had never seen humus in the woods near my home that built up to the degree that would make a coal seam four foot thick.

I even went back to the Geo Dept. with calculations of how thick the debris would have to be to provide a four foot thick coal seam. I could not see how the debris could be piled up and covered without some huge external force  However,  I was told to stick to the proscribed theory or ‘ fail the course’. This bugged me, but I followed the course and got the necessary pass to proceed to the final year.

Twenty years later as a fully qualified engineer, I worked in tropical rainforests and saw that the soil is thin and leaf material decays and is quickly reabsorbed. No sign of a pile of debris that could ever make coal. Thus the proposal for the creation of coal and oil in “Magnetic Reversals” rings true to me.

About a month ago I happened upon a page on the ‘web’ that reported research that supported the belief that oil was not from vegetable matter but created in the earth’s crust. By a sheer coincidence while half-way through reading your book I stopped to watch a TV programme by Prof. Brian Cox that dealt with the moon, Titian and the fact that it probably has a methane cycle where we have a water cycle. The concepts for the source for coal, oil and gas, given in your book are supported by the moon Titian having abiotic hydrocarbon (methane) rain, rivers and seas. The methane can not have come from vegetables!

I am glad to have your book since it answers, for me, questions I have held for years about coal & oil formation. Thank you. But the possibility of a magnetic reversal gives me cause for concern for my grandchildren They already think I am “past it” since I say I believe that they face a bigger threat from a shortage of fossil fuels that they do from any warming burning them might cause. Now perhaps I should encourage them to go and live in an old building with a lead roof!

Kind Regards
Bill Bowie

Reader asks, “What exploded?”

I’ve just finished reading your new book (Magnetic Reversals and Evolutionary Leaps) and find it fascinating. It’s written to a very non-technical audience. Yet this is surely one of its great strengths. Your compilation of extinction events and the subsequent explosions of life lends itself to no gradualist interpretation.

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