Physics is supposed to be the king of “hard science” because of its precise mathematics, predictability and falsifiability.  When transferred off our planet, however, it seems speculation is the order of the day.

1.  Looney magnets:  According to simple physics, the moon should have cooled long ago, because any internal heat source from its formation was much smaller than Earth’s.  Why, then, did the Apollo astronauts detect magnetism in moon rocks that scientists surmise continued millions of years after its formation?  The most commonly believed theory of planetary magnetic fields requires convection in a rotating molten layer that sets up a dynamo.  New Scientist offered an answer with a Kipling-style headline, “How the cold, dead moon stayed magnetic.”  Reporter Melissa Fellet continued, “A mystery thrown up by the Apollo moon rocks may finally have been solved. How did the moon remain magnetic tens of millions of years after its molten core stopped sloshing?”

Two groups have presented their proposals.  The first is the Washing Machine Theory.  A physicist at UCSB suggested that the moon’s faster spin as it migrated away from the Earth might have sloshed its interior like a washing machine till 2.7 billion years ago, giving it a longer life (and, presumably, whiter whites).  The second is the Impact Theory.  A French physicist thinks large impacts could have jumpstarted the magnetic field for periods of 10,000 years at a time.  An MIT physicist commented that both models offer “a way out of a pretty major conundrum,” but then he threw in another: the fact that some meteorites (presumably chips off the old asteroid) are magnetic, too.  Will the new models help explain how they became magnetized?  Only Kipling could tell.

2.  Antimatter matters:  Another long-standing conundrum in space is why our universe is composed predominantly (actually, almost entirely) of ordinary matter instead of having equal parts of matter and antimatter.  Antimatter is not some weird sci-fi writer’s invention, but simply subatomic particles with the opposite charge, like positrons, counterparts of electrons with a positive charge….

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