August 26, 1952
Dear Professor Einstein:
When, by chance, we met last week at the lake, I became aware that you are angry with me personally for my Worlds in Collision. From you I have not expected this reaction.
I have written a culture-historical book. A physicist cannot prescribe to an historian what he is allowed to find in the past, even if he finds contradiction between the alleged historical facts and our understanding of natural laws. There are facts a physicist observes daily which are in conflict with the laws he formulated; one such case is the keeping together of positive elements in the nucleus of an atom; he accepts the fact though it contradicts the law, and he looks for some explanation.
Two facts appeared to the scientists as fallacious in my book: 1. No forces in the celestial sphere but a head long collision could retard the earth in its rotation or incline its axis into a different astronomical position, and in such a collision our earth would have perished; 2. No planet could have come to its orbit as recently as a few thousand years ago, and therefore Venus could not have traveled on a cometary orbit in historical times.
These two assertions are true only if gravitation and inertia are responsible for planetary motions, a notion subscribed by every vernünftigen Physiker. Here, though no physicist or astronomer, I am provoked to disagree.
The sun has a general magnetic field, the solar spots are magnets, the solar prominences return on an oblique line to the place on the solar surface from where they erupted, the cometary tails are repelled by the sun in a manner and with velocities which the pressure of light cannot explain; the earth is a magnet; the ionosphere, the polar light, the ground currents, the terrestrial magnetism react to solar disturbances; cosmic rays are charges that travel in magnetic lines of force; meteorites come down in a magnetic state; the position of the moon influences the radio reception (Stetson); the position of the planets influences the radio reception (Nelson of RCA); the fixed stars are strong magnets (Babcock). In the face of all this is it true or wrong to insist that only gravitation and inertia act in the celestial sphere? And if the electromagnetic fields are not invented by me for the solar system ad hoc in order to explain the phenomena and their interpretation as found in Worlds in Collision, then may I ask: Who is in conflict with observed facts, the astronomers that have all their calculations concerning the planetary motions perfect on the assumption that there are no electromagnetic fields in the solar system, or the author of Worlds in Collision ?
Venus could come to a circular orbit and the Earth could be retarded in its rotation or have its axis inclined, under the influence of electromagnetic fields. Such fields exist; at close distances they would act strongly. I believe, therefore, that not only the historical phenomena that I describe in my first book could have happened, but also that celestial mechanics that has all its motions explained without taking into account the electromagnetic fields in the solar system, is in conflict with facts.
I have read a book of a prominent astronomer of this city who says that nothing could take place in the celestial sphere which conflicts with the words of Jesus of Nazareth as preserved in the Gospels. Thus he has two world conceptions that live side by side in his mindone of mathematics, the other of faith. But the rest of astronomers are like him: they acknowledge the magnetic and electrical properties of the sun and its spots, or of the fixed stars, of meteorites, of cosmic rays, occasionally also of cometary tails, and they do not deny that the Earth is a magnet, and that the sun, the moon, and the planets influence in some way the ionosphere; but as soon as it comes to the celestial motions, they still keep to pre-Faraday Laplace and Lagrange, and actually postulate sterile electricity and impotent magnetism, which do not act at distances, and which do no more than produce a Zeeman effect.
In my debate with Prof. J. Q. Stewart of Princeton Observatory in Harpers Magazine, he presented the common view by asserting that electromagnetic forces have no part in the planetary relations. I, on the other hand, have written that the general solar magnetic field discovered by Hale (1912) was often denied to exist (Menzel). Has not a basic mistake in observation or interpretation been committed? Now this April, the same Menzel announces that the sun must have a very strong magnetic field, and that there was a difficulty of finding it because of the angle of observation.
For over two years I have been a target of abuse and calumny. When did it happen that a spurious book caused such a fury in the minds of the contemporary scientists?
I have taken too much of your time. I wish you everything best.