The Ambush


“I don’t think Manny knows what he’s talking about,” whispered the astronomer from Harvard.  I could hear her clearly even though she was five rows back.

“It’s obvious he still doesn’t understand celestial mechanics,” said her companion, who didn’t even bother to whisper. My daughter Cynthia turned around and glared at them. I ignored the whisperers and continued with my presentation.

“It’s time for scientists of the world, starting in this conference, to acknowledge there are other forces at work in the heavens besides gravity. Electromagnetism as a source of energy is billions of times more powerful than gravity. The planets are charged bodies.”

“So now you’re an expert on unified field theory. Get off the podium, Volynsky. Just because you knew Einstein doesn’t make you a scientist.” I recognized the other Harvard delegate as Harrison Stafford, who had been criticizing my work for years.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted, the historical record is clear. Earth has suffered natural catastrophes on a global scale both before and early in recorded history. The evidence for these catastrophes can be found in the recent geological record.”

“And you’ve been proven wrong over and over again. Give it up Manny. You’re a deluded crackpot. When are you going to accept the obvious?” I had known Harrison to be combative in his writing, but never rude like this in a public forum.

I turned to the moderator of the panel. “Mr. Goldstone, will you please ask members of the audience to be respectful? I was invited to present my research to an intelligent company of distinguished scientists. Is this a demonstration of the scientific method in action?”

Although it appeared Mr. Goldstone was amused by the outburst, he turned to the audience and obliged my request. “If there is time, we will have a question and answer session at the conclusion of the scheduled presentations. Please refrain from making comments until you are recognized.”

After a short pause he turned back to me and said, “You may continue Mr. Volynsky.”

I glared at Harrison. “I know only a few of you have read my works. Yet some of you have made public rebuttals. I understand some of my claims may seem a little, uh, unusual…”

“You mean crazy,” said Harrison.

“Doctor Stafford,” Goldstone started but Harrison waved him off.

“Time will bear out my claims. New evidence will come forth proving that the planets have not always been stable in the orbits we see today. The day will come when it will be common knowledge that Venus was once a comet on a collision course with earth.”

I tried to cut my lecture short but there was so much I wanted the people to hear. If only they would listen with an open mind. The fidgeting and coughs were becoming more frequent so I concluded with what I wanted them to remember more than anything else.

“Theories – that’s all we have. We weren’t there so we don’t know. We draw our conclusions from the same record – the geology of this earth and the records of the ancient people of this world. Don’t reject the ancient records because they don’t coincide with what we see around us now. The heavens once looked different than they do today.”

I sat down to a smattering of applause, anticipating the question and answer session to begin right away. I was disappointed to hear Dr. Goldstone announce that in the interest of time, the questions would have to be held until all presentations had been made.

Leaning over, I whispered to Cynthia, “Well, how did I do?”

“You were wonderful Daddy. You always are.”

“I can’t believe Harrison was so rude.”

“I don’t think he has read any of your books.”

We waited through three more presentations that afternoon. With each successive speaker it became clearer that this conference was not at all what I had been told. What I thought was going to be a vindication of my work was turning into a forum for attacking my theories.

The last speaker sat down and Mr Goldstone announced that there would be an hour break for dinner. This was preposterous. Half the audience would leave. How was I ever going to convince the scientific community what my years of research had revealed?

We found an open table at the hotel restaurant nearby. It was crowded and noisy. I almost had to shout so Cynthia could hear. It was so nice to have her here with me. I wish her mother were still alive to enjoy this trip to the West Coast. How I missed her.

“Cynthia, I think you’re right.”

“About what?”

“The biggest problem we have is that the most influential people in the field won’t read my books. If they did then we could at least have an intelligent conversation.”

Cynthia nodded in agreement. “From what I can tell, they have only read what Harrison has written. It’s obvious that he didn’t read more than a few pages, if any before writing that nasty review in his Science News Letter.”

How I appreciated that Cynthia had kept up with the controversy. I could always count on her. She didn’t dismiss me like so many others. She worked hard for her PhD, but never stopped believing in my work no matter what some of her colleagues said.

“Why won’t they take the time to read the sources? It’s all there in the books.”

“Turf wars, daddy. If you’re right then they’re all crazy. They can’t handle that.”

“I know I can never convince Harrison. His mind is made up. But no scientist should rely solely on what others have said without considering the evidence firsthand. That’s irresponsible.”

“No, it’s called keeping your job. Harrison is very powerful. If he tells them to ignore your books then they better not admit to anyone that they have looked at them.”

“So I’m a heretic. OK, I can accept that. But at least give me a fair hearing.”

Cynthia sighed. “You know I love you daddy, but I still can’t believe how naïve you are after all these years. People aren’t interested in the truth. They want things to remain the same.”

“But that’s the problem. Things change. Things have changed in the past and I’ve tried to give people the evidence. Things are going to change again. History repeats itself.”

“You know that and I know that, but you’re going to have to consider the possibility that your ideas are too radical for the scientists of our day. They will never accept your theories.”

“I can never believe that. I’ve got to keep trying. I know I’m right.”

Cynthia smiled at me. “That’s what I love about you. You never give up.”

“Let’s get back to the conference center. It’s time for the Q and A to begin.”

Copyright (c) Tim Malone, 2011

2 Responses

  1. This is a little background story for my novel, Red Sky, a work in prgress. You may recognize the scene if you are familiar with the life of Velikovsky. The idea here is that the main character, Manny is slowly coming to realize that nobody believes him or his theories. Yes he feels so passionate about his work that he can’t understand the rejection. To him, the things he has proposed can be easily understood or proven if anybody would actually take the time to read the sources for his conclusions. This scene will probably not be in the novel. It was an exercise to get into the character.

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  2. Velikovsky was an amazingly sharp debater. He routinely engaged others in public fora and demolished them. It is fascinating to realize just how skilled he was and how that impacted audiences.

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