Email Exchange From Rob Roy Britt of
And Richard C. Hoagland on the Plait\Greenberg Allegations



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In a message dated 3/12/2004 3:14:35 PM Mountain Standard Time, [email protected] writes:

Hi Richard:
I will be going into some of these issues. Your serious criticism of NASA
requires that I discuss your credentials as well. I just spoke with Ralph
Greenberg, who has analyzed some of your biographical claims that on your
web site. I've read them too, and indeed your web site clearly says that you
claim to have been the first to propose the Europa ideas. If you'd like to
respond to Greenberg's comments, feel free to e-mail me back.


Here is what Greenberg said to me:

"It's clear that [Hoagland] deserves no credit for proposing an ocean under
the ice on Europa." And regarding the notion of life: "Others before him
wrote on the same topic with more merit."

Greenberg says Hoagland deserves some credit for helping to popularize the
Europa ideas. But he is bothered that Hoagland does not make an effort to
clear the record.

"He never made it quite clear that this was not his original idea in any
sense," Greenberg said. "I think it's really shameful that he hasn't been
willing to make it crystal clear."





OK, here's the real story behind Plait's current accusations ....


Greenberg is the source.  It is his long-standing "Hoagland obsession" -- which has been going on for years, and can be characterized as nothing less --  that is a clear example of how far certain people are willing to go to smear our reputation and our work.  This is a classic case of what I pointed out a couple days ago, about these baseless accusations being fundamentally "political" ....


I would hope, as a good reporter, you would prefer to rely on "primary sources" for your story -- as opposed to merely "hearsay" from third parties -- certainly third parties with an obvious political agenda.  I would therefore strongly recommend that you begin by actually reading my original 1980 article, "The Europa Enigma" (on the Enterprise website -- -- which appeared in the January, 1980 issue of Star & Sky Magazine ... now 25 years old.


In the entire article -- at no time --  do I take undue credit for the original idea of a potential ocean under Europa's icy surface.  That is a skillfully spun fiction -- created specifically by our less than honest critics ... such as Plait and Greenberg.


What I actually do in this extensive paper is clearly credit Cassen, Peale and Reynolds -- who originated and published in Science Magazine the first tidal model for internal Jovian satellite heating, just before Voyager 1 arrived at Jupiter in early 1979.  I clearly credit their original calculations regarding the possibility of tidal heating of Io ... and a lesser tidal input maintaining a current possible "liquid ocean for Europa." 


But, I also carefully cite their strong caveat (in the then just-published Science tidal paper) that, depending on certain "incalculable factors," such an originally liquid Europan ocean could have frozen solid in the 4.5 billion years of subsequent solar system history. 


In other words, in their published model, there was a more than even chance that Europa's ocean now was no longer liquid -- but had become a 100 miles-deep glacier of solid ice!  And, if this was the case, if such an original Europan ocean had ever frozen solid, their own tidal calculations in Science clearly stated it could never be unfrozen!


This is where the dishonest critics have carefully, repeatedly "spun" my words of 25 years ago .....


For, based on the stunning close-up Voyager 1 and 2 imagery of Europa, from the March and July 1979 flybys -- which showed NO SURFACE CRATERS, and a planet-wide series of enigmatic "cracks" in the all-encompassing icy surface -- I realized, and proposed in writing in "Enigma" some months later, that this Europan ocean in all likelihood had to be still liquid!! 


Let me repeat: based on the actual, new Voyager data we all saw for the first time in 1979 -- whose resolution was orders of magnitude beyond all previous terrestrial observations -- I concluded scientifically (by analogy with arctic imagery of Earth, and solar system cratering statistics from Masursky and Shoemaker also indicating a VERY YOUNG Europan surface) that Europa's proposed ocean was still that: an ocean.  That it had NOT "frozen solid"--


And thus, was potentially the only other place in the entire solar system where life might have originated billions of years before ... and still might exist ... other than on Earth.


Here is a first-person account by a key witness to my "revelation": my old editor (who subsequently published my "Enigma" piece), Terrance Dickenson, of Star & Sky Magazine.  Writing a few years ago in the Toronto Star (Toronto Star article, April 13, 1997, Context Section, page F8.), Dickenson said:


"... It's a strange story, but 18 years ago I was there when the first person on Earth realized what Europa is really like. It was July 10, 1979, just hours after the American space probe Voyager 2 had cruised near Jupiter and its family of 16 moons. I was standing beside science writer Richard Hoagland at Voyager mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, gazing intently at one of the television monitors displaying Voyager 2 images of Europa.

"Nobody had ever seen anything like Europa before. Instead of the usual cratered landscape, Europa's surface is smooth, like a billiard ball. The highest resolution images did reveal some detail - low ridges and linear features covering the surface in apparently random patterns - but at first glance it was baffling. Then Hoagland said, almost in a whisper, 'Its a crust of ice. And there's water below it.'

"He stood there, thinking about what he had just said, then asked me if I would be interested in an article on the idea. At the time, I was editor of 'Star & Sky', an American popular-level astronomy magazine that has long since ceased publication. I readily accepted. ..."


Greenberg, an obvious "Hoagland hater," has pestered almost everyone I know -- for years -- with claims that what I subsequently wrote was "not original."  But, since his diatribes against me actually began over a totally different matter -- my refusal to debate him on "Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell" vis--vis Cydonia on Mars, after he proposed "stacking the deck" and excluding certain powerful statistical evidence published by other scientists (Crater, et-al)  in favor of our model -- I (and everyone else I've ever heard from) took his repeated wild claims against me re Europa with the proverbial "grain of salt."


All, of course, except Phil Plait -- who obviously now has his own "anyone but Hoagland" political agenda.


The question of "who's first" is tricky.  Clearly, I was NOT the first (nor have I ever claimed to be) to propose an original liquid ocean for Europa.  But I do maintain I was the first to recognize in the new Voyager data that it might still be liquid -- as opposed to the Cassen et-al paper, which could not determine its current state, and said so.


And, I certainly maintain I was the first to realize (and then publish) a detailed model for what kind of biological, evolutionary process could have occurred in that "still liquid ocean" ... as witnessed firsthand by Terrance Dickenson.  If someone else did indeed propose previously that Europa "may have life," it had to have been based on a totally different model for Europa -- as the Cassen, Peal and Reynolds seminal tidal model (which Voyager itself proved correct in that first flyby!)  was only published just as Voyager flew by! 


And, "scientific" predictions -- to be credible -- MUST be specific to actual observational evidence ... otherwise, they're called "guesses."


At no time -- either when the wire services (AP, UPI, etc.) widely published their initial, highly controversial (to NASA) story on our work in 1980 around the world, nor in the 25 years thereafter --  has anyone contacted me directly and claimed original credit for these two seminal ideas.   [However, Steven Squyres (yes, that "Steven Squyres"), after Galileo arrived in 1995 and confirmed a lot of what I'd originally said about Europa in 1980, actually wrote in an e-mail decades later, that "the Voyager spacecraft should be given actual credit for this pioneering Europa work" -- see below.]


I've now heard that Greenberg is asserting Carl Sagan was "someone who had these ideas years before ...."  But, I knew Carl -- and worked with him -- for decades.  And he never once told me I was "trespassing" on his turf, even after the Star & Sky piece was published (and Carl was a man who jealously guarded every one of his original ideas!).  In fact, in Science, Carl credited me (and another writer at the time, Eric Burgess) with another original idea -- of including a "message from Mankind" aboard Pioneer 10 ... which I now find that Greenberg and Plait are also claiming "was not original with Hoagland ....!"


This escalating political tirade -- even when there is clear documentation affirming my position (in this case, an unequivocal statement by Sagan in Science, in March of 1972, re "how the Pioneer Plaque actually came about") -- seems to have no bounds ....


After I published my "Europa Enigma" model in the January 1980 issue of Star & Sky, I got a surprising and gracious note from Bob Jastrow.  Jastrow, as you may remember,  was one of the "founders" of NASA, and was then Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.  He and I had initially worked together when I consulted for Cronkite and CBS, during the Apollo missions to the Moon.


Jastrow's note was highly complimentary of my Star & Sky Europa ideas, and of the article itself.  In fact, he specifically stated that in Europa I had "proposed the first new place for life in the solar system, in over twenty years ...."


And he would surely know.


Unfortunately, in all my moves since then, Bob's note has disappeared.  I know I eagerly mentioned it to Arthur Clarke, who subsequently used it in his kind acknowledgement in "2010" of my priority vis--vis Europa.  (But, I cannot remember now if I sent him an actual copy of the note!)


The reason this latter bit of trivia is important, is that recently I've heard that Arthur himself has become uncertain regarding "who was first" in all of this -- having received a barrage of e-mails over recent years from Greenberg!  Since Arthur would have no reason to suspect a "hidden agenda" on Greenberg's part  (he's often said to me, "do not attribute to conspiracy that for which stupidity will suffice ....") I can sympathize with his apparent current confusion on this issue. 


The ultimate proof of the absurdity of (and hidden political agenda behind) all of this -- Arthur's position on "conspiracy" notwithstanding -- comes from the literature itself. 


The final arbiter of "priority" is normally determined via peer-reviewed scientific papers, through formal citations of previously published work.  In the November 1983 issue of Icarus, the first peer-reviewed paper on "potential Europan life" was finally published ... four years after our own work! 


The paper was co-authored by Reynolds (co-author on the original tidal heating model for Io and Europa), and several others -- including Steven Squyres (yes, THAT "Steven Squyres").  It was titled "On the Habitability of Europa" (Icarus, vol56, Nov. 1983, p.246-254).  (Curiously, this paper is NOT currently available anywhere on the Internet -- but can only be read by locating a hard copy of Icarus in a college library ... for November, 1983.)


In the "Habitability" paper's end citations, our own prior work on Europa four years before -- both the "still liquid ocean" model, and our proposed "potential origin and evolution of subsequent biology" because of it -- is specifically and clearly referenced.  There were no other "prior references" given for these ideas.  Just our own original "Enigma" article in Star and & Sky!


Please note: Reynolds, one of the authors of the original tidal heating work (remember, from which the possibility of a liquid ocean for Europa was first modeled) did NOT claim we were infringing on or taking undue credit for his work in the "Habitability" paper.  Quite the contrary!  Further, Carl Sagan at the time was the Editor in Chief of Icarus.  If he had felt reference to our work neglected his own "prior speculations" re Europan biology, he certainly could (and would!) have forced a clarification or revision.  He did not.


The only voices accusing me -- of everything from "plagiarism" ... to outright "fraud" on this -- are from my enemies vis--vis NASA and Cydonia -- in particular,  Ralph Greenberg and Phil Plait. 


One final note:


Is it not curious, that just as Plait begins publishing his latest list of accusations against Hoagland, especially on Europa, a remarkable photograph from a quarter century ago at JPL appears on the official JPL website ... a photograph clearly showing me at the first Voyager encounter of Jupiter and Europa, in 1979!?


Of all the images that were taken of that historic flyby, and all the VIPs and press who were in attendance, why do you suppose THAT one image was selected for publication ... at this time? 


Maybe, we do still have some friends at JPL ....     :)







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