Vic Lloyd (c)

(Investigator 45, 1995 November)

Some people think that our planet is unique and that, although there surely must be millions of suns with planets, there are none with the precise balance of natural phenomena ours possesses. Nor in the curious way in which some of these are manifested.

They might possibly be right. There aren't two grains of sand or two blades of grass exactly alike – so why shouldn't this rule apply to planets?

According to those who embrace this conviction, our uniqueness makes itself known in many ways, not the least of which involves our atmosphere. Dr Lyall Watson, for instance, says, "The composition of our atmosphere...remains largely mysterious. Almost everything about it violates the laws of chemistry."

That statement alone is enough to give one pause and contains more than a hint that something out of the ordinary is happening.

He goes on to say (in essence) that our atmosphere, being a highly combustible mixture should, by rights, contain no free nitrogen. Nitrogen, as a rule, reacts with oxygen and both gases should by now have ended up in the ocean as stable nitrite ions.

But they haven't. The oxygen and nitrogen in our air remain stubbornly uncombined in steady and separate concentrations of 21 and 78 percent respectively

And these proportions are not arbitrary; this exact mix is vital. If oxygen were greater in concentration we would be in grave trouble. For each one percent rise in our atmospheric oxygen, the probability of bush fires would increase by seventy percent. To take this a step further, if it increased from its present 21% to one of 25%, all land vegetation would instantly burst into flames. So what holds it at its present percentage level? Probably a number of factors, most of which we don't know about. But one of them is methane, present as the end product of fermentation of the fetid mud of marshes and the flatulence of cows. Without it the oxygen concentration would rise by that dangerous 1% every 12,000 years.

And if the nitrogen level fell by only 3% we would find ourselves in an equally disastrous situation – Earth would be faced with permanent glaciation.

The presence of ammonia in the atmosphere is also of great significance, the biosphere producing something like 1,000 million tons per year. Nitrogen and oxygen have a tendency to combine under certain circumstances and every thunder-storm creates tons of nitric acid (it is estimated that a hundred lightning bolts hit the Earth every second – that's eight million a day), and were it not for the neutralising effect of ammonia the soils of our planet would become intolerably sour and hostile.

Everything, including these few small samples, is in exquisite balance, but what keeps it this way?

Dr Watson provides a thought provoking answer: "The atmosphere," he says, "cannot be just a one-off emanation from ancient rocks. Life doesn't merely borrow gases from the environment and return them unchanged. Our air begins to look more and more like an artifact, like something made by, and maintained by, living things for their own ends. In other words, life defines the conditions necessary for its own survival and somehow makes sure that they stay there. The land and water surfaces of Earth, together with living matter and air, between them form a giant complex which is far from being passive. It deserves to be regarded as a single organism in its own right; a living creature, the largest one in the solar system."

To revert to the vernacular – how does that grab you?

We are accustomed to the assumption that the laws of physics and chemistry are immutable; that they equally apply everywhere in the Universe. But even Einstein once said that "…nothing in the universe is constant…" 

So maybe Dr Watson (who holds a M.Sc and a Ph.D in ethology – among other distinctions) has uncovered something unsuspected by the rest of us.

His conclusions (here only in condensed form) clearly indicate that not only does he think that our atmosphere is indeed unique, but that the Earth and everything on it contributes, in some mysterious and esoteric way, to its composition, resulting in an adjustable, finely balanced, and ongoing program for the sole purpose of survival.

And there are a lot of things going on for which there is – taking the 'laws of nature' into account, no rational explanation.

Take the case of the 'glycerine – crystal – phenomenon' for instance:

For more than 250 years from its first discovery, glycerine defied all efforts to crystallise it. Super-cooling, reheating, and all previously successful aids to induce crystallisation were tried, but nothing worked. The conclusion was reached that the substance had no solid form. Then one day a barrel of glycerine, in transit from Vienna to London, turned up crystallised. No one knew why and it was assumed that the phenomenon was due to some unusual movements somewhere in transit. Its arrival was greeted with enthusiasm, and scientists eagerly borrowed samples to 'seed' liquid glycerine. This, of course, worked.

Now comes the strange bit. Jars containing those samples were stored in a laboratory with jars of liquid glycerine. And in spite of the fact that all jars were tightly sealed, the liquid glycerine spontaneously crystallised.

Some sort of strange 'inanimate telepathy' at work?

Who knows? No law of chemistry applies and no explanation has ever been forthcoming.

There are many examples of such unusual events and it makes one wonder if, after all, everything is as cut and dried as we think.

Maybe there are 'laws' with which we are, as yet, unacquainted.

Or perhaps Earth is indeed an 'odd-ball'… (?)

[With acknowledgment to references from "Lifetide" by Lyall Watson. This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in these and associated subjects.]

Over 1700 articles from Investigator Magazine: