Something completely different happened to me several months back, and I’d like to share it with you. I got a letter from Prof Kiril Panov of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences with an unusual request: He had been invited by the prestigious Franklin Institute to submit a nomination for the 2009 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science. He had chosen as a nominee my friend and colleague, Prof Oliver Manuel of the University of Missouri, and asked if I would agree to writing the required letter of support. Of course I said yes, and here is the letter I sent them:

Ms Beth Scheraga
Awards Program Director
The Franklin Institute

Dear Ms Scheraga,
Below is my letter in support of the nomination by Professor Kiril Panov of Professor Oliver K. Manuel for the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science, 2009.

Nomination Support Letter
Nominee: Professor Oliver K. Manuel

Since the 1930s, studies of the Sun and the Solar System have been fairly well constrained by principles collected together into what is currently the Standard Solar Model (SSM), and for most of that time, it has harmonised with the Standard Model of Particle Physics (SMPP). Both are physical models that have enjoyed wide acceptance in the fields of astrophysics and cosmology. However, from the 1960s measurements taken empirically by many investigators in widely disparate arenas of study have given cause for concern that some of the underlying principles of the SSM may to some degree at least be in need of revision.

Prominently, it was seen that in order to retain the SSM wholly in its current form, the measured shortfall in solar neutrino flux would have to be theoretically accommodated. That required the imposition of untested physics in the form of MSW neutrino oscillation, which has led to an unavoidable conflict with the SMPP. Crucial incoherence between fundamental theoretical models in science, for example the unresolved conflict between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, are divisive and counterproductive. It seems that some objective effort is required to establish the true state of affairs regardless of philosophical assumptions. Oliver Manuel was amongst those scientists taking measurements within the Solar System that quite irrespective of any conceptual framework, were begging further investigation and the necessary revision of models where appropriate.

Although he has made outstanding contributions both as a hands-on physical scientist and as an educator who from his classroom and laboratory has given to science a stream of talented top achievers, including many Masters and Doctoral graduates, it is the former, empirical work that concerns us here. Professor Manuel’s discoveries emerged primarily from these fields of scientific investigation:

1. The inherent flaw in the formula for calculating nuclear binding energy, the realisation of the role played by W. H. Aston’s nuclear packing fractions, and the consequent revelation of neutron repulsion. Although now verified beyond doubt, this has not, to the best of our knowledge, been incorporated into standard texts of physics and chemistry.

2. Verification of the common age, elemental composition and abundance of metals in all objects in the Solar System by close scrutiny and chemical analysis. This confirms the notion of a common origin for Solar System bodies, a concept crucial to our understanding of stellar and orbital genesis, morphology, and evolution.

3. Isotopic analysis revealing nuclides that could only have been formed under extreme thermodynamic conditions, and the further identification of a local supernova as the progenitor of the Solar System.

4. Analysis of heavy metals in meteorites indicating that they were not extracted from a thoroughly mixed pre-solar stew of elements.

5. The measurement of mass fractionation in the solar wind, lunar soils, meteorites, and planetary atmospheres, and the implications of diffusive separation of atoms by mass in the Sun itself.

6. The discovery from satellite observational data that CNO nuclear fusion, first predicted by Bethe, occurs at the footpoints of coronal arches at the surface of the Sun.

Professor Manuel’s outstanding contribution to science is not so much what he discovered, but how he went about it. All his measurements are just that, physical data produced by standard instrumentation using the laws of physics and chemistry. They are utterly pure; there is nothing at all controversial or non-standard about the measurements themselves. It is precisely that example of objective, model-independent empirical science and the meticulous application of the classical scientific method that is a shining example for future generations of physical scientist, and is no doubt imbued in his graduate students. His principles, courage under adversity, and indeed his perseverance in the face of determined opposition from vested interest groups has given us hope for real progress in a field that has failed to produce any outstanding fundamental advance for more than half a century.

Professor Oliver K. Manuel is fully deserving of the Bower Prize, and would be an outstanding ambassador for the principles and vision of the Franklin Institute.

Hilton Ratcliffe
Astrophysicist, Alternative Cosmology Group

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