Ben Dehner's The Astrophysics of Wilhelm Reich, which I've archived here, already does a very good job of addressing the deficiencies in Reich's cosmology. But some other points, not addressed by Dehner's article, can be made:
"The sun and planets move in the same plane and revolve in the same direction due to the movement and direction of the cosmic orgone energy stream in the galaxy."Dehner then goes on to say:
The first point to make about the statement is that it is wrong; the sun and the planets do not revolve in the same direction. The planet Venus undergoes retrograde rotation, opposite of the Earth, and the planet Uranus has a rotational axis that is almost within the plane of the ecliptic.Here, I have to defend Reich, much to my personal chagrin. Rotation and revolution are not the same thing. While Venus does rotate in a retrograde direction, and Uranus's axis of rotation is at nearly right-angles to that of all the other planets, Venus and Uranus both revolve around the sun in the same direction that all the other planets do. This is all Reich was claiming, and in this instance, Reich was correct.
However, I hasten to add that comets usually do not orbit in the same plane (the ecliptic plane) that the other planets do. As often as not, a comet's direction of revolution about the sun is in the retrograde direction. Furthermore, the artificial solar-observing space probe Ulysses orbits the sun at right angles to the ecliptic. Yet comets and space probes are still drawn to the sun and move around it in ways precisely predicted by Newton's laws of gravitiation. Perhaps the "cosmic orgone energy stream" bends sideways when comets and space probes pass through it, or something.
The problem was, he based this assertion on where the auroral rings tended to appear in the night sky over Maine. In Maine, auroral displays tend to appear with the apex of the auroral arc (where Reich saw the rings) at 76 degrees northern altitude. Had Reich been viewing the Aurora Borealis from some other point on the Earth — even some other point on the Earth that was at the same latitude (say, Portland, Oregon, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Turin in Italy) — he would have seen the auroral arc at a different elevation. As seen from space, the Aurora Borealis forms a narrow ring about the Earth's magnetic north pole. (This large ring seen from space has no relation to the smaller auroral "rings" Reich claimed to see in the displays he watched.) At the time of this writing, the magnetic north pole is currently off the northern coast of Canada, a bit west of northern Greenland, just south of 80 degrees north latitude; it moves about 10 kilometers per year. In Reich's time, it was about 500 kilometers south of this position. This is hundreds of miles away from the geographic north pole; the edge of this large magnetic-north-pole-centered ring will appear much farther to the north from some areas of the globe than from others, even if those areas are all at the same latitude and thus the same distance from the geographic north pole.
Worse, Reich converted the 76 degrees northern altitude of the ring into a declination on the celestial sphere. He subtracted 45 degrees — the latitude of Rangeley, Maine — from 76 degrees northern altitude to get 31 degrees northern declination. Since he'd read somewhere that the plane of the Milky Way galaxy was at 62 degrees northern declination, exactly twice the 31 degrees he'd calculated for his auroral rings, he believed he was on to something. The problem is, declination only has real meaning for celestial objects very very far away. The Aurora Borealis takes place in the upper atmosphere, only a couple hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. An observer standing at 45 degrees northern latitude looking at a true celestial object such as a star or planet could deduce that, if the object had an apparent altitude of 76 degrees above the southern horizon, its true declination would be 31 degrees north. This is correct. And an observer standing at, say, 55 degrees northern latitude would see this same object at an apparent altitude of 66 degrees above the southern horizon. The object could be said to lie "directly above" the 31 degree north latitude line. But if the object being viewed is only a couple hundred miles above the Earth, seeing it at a particular elevation only serves to tell you how far away the object is. Seeing an auroral ring anywhere in the sky over Rangeley, Maine, means that the auroral ring lies "directly above" about the 45 degree north latitude line, because that's where Rangeley is. This is nowhere near being "half way between" the angle of the galactic plane (which lies "directly above" the 62 degree north latitude line) and the equator (which, of course, lies at 0 degrees latitude).
The thing is, what modern measurements of interstellar space have actually discovered is that it contains, on average, about one atom per ten cubic centimeters of space. This is not very much material. It is still a better "vacuum" than the best laboratory vacuums than we can achieve on Earth. It's more rarefied, even, than the space between the planets. Reich, in fact, did not predict that there would be matter filling the void in interstellar space; he predicted that interstellar space would be filled with orgone energy. The discovery of interstellar hydrogen atoms hardly vindicates the hypothetical existence of a cosmic orgone energy field.
True, Reich also claimed that whenever two orgone energy streams superimposed in deep space, they would create matter. But he used this hypothesis to explain the creation of huge objects, such as stars and planets and galaxies. He did not claim that superimposition would also create individual atoms. In fact, in Listen, Little Man!, he implies that he doesn't even believe atoms exist at all when he says, "Nobody has seen atoms or the airgerms of amoebas." (We have seen atoms since Reich's time, and microbiologists had seen the "airgerms" (cysts) of amoebas at least 6 years before Reich died.)
"During the summer of 1940, I took a holiday and travelled to Maine. One night, while I was still struggling with this riddle, I observed the sky above a nearby lake. The moon was low on the western horizon. Opposite, in the eastern sky, there were strongly flickering stars. I noticed that stars near the zenith flickered less intensely than those near the eastern horizon. If, as theory has it, the flickering of the stars is the result of the diffusion of light, then the flickering would have to be uniform all over the sky; if anything, stronger near the light of the moon. But exactly the opposite was true."The theory about why stars flicker, or "twinkle," as seen by an observer on the Earth — in Reich's time and in the present — in fact only indirectly relates twinkling to the "diffusion" (scattering) of light. Twinkling is actually caused by the fact that the air is not perfectly transparent, and is not perfectly uniform. Little pockets of warmer, more rarefied air are comingled with the denser, cooler air, sort-of like bubbles in a boiling pot. These "cells" convect like the water in a heated pot, as well. The warmer a given region of air is, the more of these convective cells there will be, and the more rapidly they will move. Whenever starlight passes through a convective cell in the air, it's bent and scattered a very very tiny amount. If the light from a given star has to pass through a lot of convective cells in any one instant, it will be bent many times and will appear dimmer as the cumulative effects of each cell's scattering reduce the total amount of light that gets through.
The thing about this theory is, it does not predict that twinkling should be uniform all over the sky. It predicts that twinkling should be more intense near the horizon than near the zenith. This is because of the "slant angle" of the starlight through the air. Light from a star directly overhead only has to go through about 50 miles of air before it reaches an observer standing on the ground. A star near the horizon, on the other hand, is at a much lower slant angle, and in fact its light must go through several hundred miles of air before reaching the observer. And the more air a given star's light has to go through, the more convective cells it will cross, and the stronger its twinkling will be.
Astronomers had known that twinkling is stronger near the horizon than near the zenith long before Reich noticed this fact. And their conventional theories did in fact bear this observation out. Where Reich got the notion that conventional theory predicts a uniform twinkling all over the sky is anyone's guess, but I'll bet it wasn't from any astronomy textbook.
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