Written by Russ Dobler
If you’re a regular reader of the pulp, at least one thing can be deduced about you. Whether practicing lightsaber techniques in Churchill Square, proudly cosplaying at the Calgary Expo or simply hunkering down with a good comic book, we all share in common the gift of great imagination. That ability to slip the surly bonds of reality and travel to fanciful places through literature, film and our own creativity.
That’s something to celebrate! As more and more dorks self-identify, nerd culture has finally clawed its way to social legitimacy. From Dungeons and Dragons players being accused of Satanism, to “Game of Thrones” ruling cable television, the culture has caught up to the idea that thinking outside the box is desirable and not demonic.
Even before that equilibrium was achieved, the vast imaginations of some science fiction writers had surpassed fantasy and found ways to influence our real world. Isaac Asimov, perhaps best known for his stories addressing how people would interact with intelligent machines, was actually the first person to use the term “robotics.” When not penning such legendary works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke was a futurist of great prescience, credited with some of the early ideas on global telecommunications and positioning systems.
Of course, not all fantasy can jive as well with observed reality. Indeed, that’s often part of the appeal. Sometimes it’s nice to leave behind curmudgeonly restrictions in favour of a world where mutated humans can soar above the skyscrapers and blast force beams from their eyes, in defiance of Newton’s third law of motion. But a problem can arise when the more outlandish of those ideas are pushed as genuine, especially when they contradict well-supported science.
Neal Adams began drawing comics in 1960 and is often lauded as helping to solidify the modern appearances of such legendary heroes as the Green Arrow, Batman and Superman. In the ‘90s, he was inducted into both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Harvey Awards’ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. A timeless juggernaut, Adams still works today, recently turning in a variant cover for Zenescope Entertainment’s Grimm Fairy Tales #100. None of that qualifies him to talk about science.
Yet Adams is out there, trying mightily to convince anyone who will listen of the widespread geologic conspiracy that keeps the lid on the real truth that the Earth is ever expanding in size. That’s a pretty cool idea, perfectly fit for far out realms where mole men inhabit hollow planets and lava monsters occasionally rise from the depths to terrorize humanity. But it doesn’t match up to what we see here on Earth Prime.
Geologist Donald Prothero perhaps summarized most concisely the case against an “expanding earth” in an article from Vol. 18 No. 1 of “Skeptic” magazine, although, as he points out, the most damning evidence could be recited by many college freshmen.
Adams’ main reason for believing the idea seems to be the observation that the edges all the continents kinda sorta look like they fit together—so they must have done so when the Earth was smaller.
Despite that, bedrock types don’t match along the coastlines he claims were once connected. Adams insists that subduction—the process of one tectonic plate diving beneath another—doesn’t occur, despite the consistent discovery of particular suites of rocks near subduction zones that could only have come from deep within the Earth. Prothero points out that remote sensing satellite technology, sensitive enough to measure the erosion of mountain ranges, has yet to detect this planetary inflation.
Here’s where Adams could use some instruction from the type of person he’s dealt with, likely begrudgingly, his whole career: an editor. In comics, it’s the editor’s job, amongst other things, to make sure a story is internally consistent and that it makes sense in the given context. Comic creators sometimes bemoan the editor as a stifler of “artistic freedom” but, unfortunately for Adams, he can’t just pack up and head to another publisher if he doesn’t like how Mother Nature the editor is hacking up his ideas. If she says it don’t add up, it don’t add up.
Adams isn’t the first person she’s hammered on this topic. Alfred Wegener noticed the coastline “fit” over a hundred years ago, prompting him to propose his “continental drift” hypothesis, that the giant land masses pushed their way through oceanic crust as they migrated across the globe. Nature threw the idea back in his face, reminding Wegener the oceanic crust is denser than the land and wouldn’t permit such a thing.
Time and again, proponents of what became the plate tectonic theory were sent back to the drawing board for more evidence. Matching fossils and rock types from the coasts of South America and Africa weren’t enough. Similar alignments of magnetic minerals in transoceanic samples weren’t enough. For 50 years, the world’s geoscientists tried to satisfy their harsh taskmaster, until finally she acquiesced when plate boundaries were found to be delineated by seismic activity, and a mechanism for motion was identified.
Imagination is undoubtedly important when trying to conceive the heretofore inconceivable, but unbounded imagination can give us some pretty crazy and unsupportable beliefs. Or even worse, Space Punisher.