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"Is it part of some deal to do with the Kronians?" Keene asked. A number of
concerns on Earth had worked out cooperative ventures with the colony where
they could be of mutual service.
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Salio nodded. "They'll transport the modules there for us and deploy them.
Don't ask me what the reciprocal arrangement is. I'm only interested in the
scientific side."
A discussion of technical details followed. Keene commented that walking in
off the street to find himself looking at a sophisticated piece of equipment
like this seemed, somehow . . . "casual."
"Oh, this is just a prototype that we're testing design ideas on," Salio told
him. "The one that'll actually be going is being assembled in California. And
you're right. There, it's clean rooms, gowns, filtered air the works."
Salio led the way through to a workshop area at the rear, where a bench below
the windows ran the length of one wall. There were racks for tools and
materials, and shelves bearing an assortment of containers, boxes, and pieces
of unidentifiable gadgetry. Several tubular steel chairs standing loosely
around a scratched plastic-topped table, and a small refrigerator supporting a
coffee maker denoted the lunch area. Salio filled a mug for Keene, waved a
hand at the milk and sugar containers for him to help himself, and got himself
a can of lemon soda from below.
"So, do I take it you're with the Kronians about Venus being an earlier
Athena?" Keene asked, getting back to the subject as they sat down.
"Well, it fits with the heat, the hydrocarbon gases all the other things we
talked about," Salio replied. "Also, its whole atmosphere is in a state of
super-rotation in an east-west direction at about a hundred times the speed of
the surface, which is consistent with the idea of a dense tail wrapping itself
around the planet and still dissipating angular momentum." He peeled open his
drink. "And then you've got the comets. The shower of new comets that
accompanied the ejection of
Athena is forcing a revision of the idea that comets come from outside the
Solar System which, personally, I never had much time for anyway. I mean how
else are you going to get material compressed to the density of rock out in
space?
"But it goes further. The whole question of how the Solar System was formed
might have to be rethought. There's work going back to the last century that
no one has ever refuted, saying that neither of the traditional tidal or
accretion models can be right. Because of its disrupting effects, none of the
inner planets could have formed inside the orbit of Jupiter. If so, then where
did they come from? An obvious thought is that if Venus and Athena originated
by fission from Jupiter, then maybe the others did too, which makes Jupiter
not just a comet factory but a planet factory too. And that's exactly where
the Kronian line of thinking is taking us." Salio took a drink at last and
paused again to think for a moment. "The biggest problem is to account for the
circularization of orbits. Conventional theory doesn't do it, and that's where
the Church
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n.txt of Astronomy is going to be digging its heels in."
Keene sat back and looked at him, amazed. They had converged totally. "Would
you believe I was talking to the Kronians about just that very thing last
Monday night?" he said.
"You've actually met them?"
"That was one of the reasons why I was in Washington."
Salio looked impressed "And do they have any ideas?" he asked.
"Yes," Keene answered. "I think they might." He paused, waiting for a
reaction. Salio waved for him to continue. "Well, go on. Now I'm the one doing
the listening."
"What would you say to the suggestion that the orbits aren't always determined
purely gravitationally?" Keene replied. "Suppose an event like Athena could
alter the electrical environment to create a temporary regime in which
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charge-induced forces became significant.
Mightn't that make a difference?"
Salio didn't answer at once but stared at him long and fixedly. "Is there some
reason to suppose that's true?" he asked finally. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]