There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Prepare yourselves for the
end of the world.
Just as I am teeing off, and you are demanding a raise, and he is guzzling a Schlitz, and she is running a red light, and they are teetering single-file down an endless broken escalator, that’s when it happens:
For the first time since the end of the ice age, the center of our galaxy—the once reliable, now cranky Milky Way—explodes.
A superwave of cosmic rays sprints toward us, making the 23,000-light-year trek across the cosmos look like a quick jog to the corner 7-Eleven. An electromagnetic pulse triggered by this big bang pile-drives the planet; as a result, tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes pummel the globe. Cosmic dust fills the air, dims the sun, smothers the sky. Communication satellites—plus your precious little cell phone—are rendered kaput.
Unless you rape and pillage for a living, you will not be needed at work tomorrow.
For weeks, months, years before the explosion, a blue star—or what the Hopi called Saquasohuh—was shape-shifting day and night in the sky. Astronomers appeared on CNN insisting that the celestial anomaly was nothing more than an exploding supernova. Earth, the astronomers assured, was safe.
But the blue star was not a supernova, of course. The blue star was the starter pistol of the apocalypse.
The thoughts come fast: We should have been more open-minded. We should have questioned our science teachers. We should have demanded protection from NASA. We should have called our parents more.
But, most important, we should have believed the unbelievable: that extraterrestrials had been warning us about the end of the world since the beginning of time.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are screwed.
Paul LaViolette has just upped the ante on pickup lines: “Hi, do you have interest in extraterrestrial communication?”
Looking like a slightly sinister version of Babe’s Farmer Hoggett, LaViolette is stationed at an exhibition booth at last January’s 195th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Atlanta.
But the 52-year-old astronomer/physicist/bachelor—who is Ichabod Crane-thin, with full red lips and jug-handle ears—is not wooing an asteroid-randy companion back to his Alexandria, Va., apartment. What he’s doing—kindly, politely, shyly—is reaching out to believers, those envelope-pushing few who will stick around long enough for their fellow scientist to deliver his hair-raising spiel.
A full member of the AAS—whether the AAS likes it or not—LaViolette has just presented a paper stating that certain pulsars—rapidly rotating neutron stars—are actually “beacons fabricated by advanced ET civilizations for the purpose of interstellar communication.” Sure, this may sound like so much gobbledygook, but the basic premise, unearthed in LaViolette’s new book, The Talk of the Galaxy: An ET Message for Us?, is simple: Aliens, with far more sophisticated technology than our own, are saying, “Hey, how ya doin’? What’s goin’ on? You might want to keep an eye on that gurgling center of your galaxy”—and they’re manipulating a star in our very own Milky Way to do so.
With his mother and father cheering him on, LaViolette was given a scant 10 minutes to deliver his complex speech—a speech fueled not by imaginative guesswork, mind you, but by the crunching of suspiciously nonrandom radio-wave numbers culled from various telescopes—yet he claims history was made nonetheless: This was the first time a noted scientist announced such a discovery at a scientific conference—never mind that it was in front of 60 skeptical people in a cramped Hyatt Regency banquet room.
Unfortunately for LaViolette, there aren’t too many folks—fellow scientists or otherwise—willing to gather round the fortuneteller after his cerebrum-blowing presentation and find out about the killer—and I do mean killer—twist.
Back at his exhibition booth, the abbreviated dialogues—captured on a videotape—go something like this:
“Hi, do you have interest in extraterrestrial communication?”
“Yes, actual reception of radio signals?”
But LaViolette rarely gives in to the silence. Whenever someone so much as glances his way, he flashes an unsure smile and spills the goods—”pulsar sky positions,” “nonrandom distribution,” “clump termination points”—hoping for a flicker in the eye, a knowing nod, a please-just-once breakthrough. He even tries discussing his design for the Flash Gordon-esque “particle-beam communicator,” a cool-looking zap-gun that would transmit messages back to the extraterrestrials.
Nevertheless, only a scant few conference attendees are willing to entertain such mind-expanding thoughts. LaViolette might as well be building mashed-potato mountains on the display table.
Let’s be honest: There are hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of Chicken Littles spooking cybersurfers and hogging late-night radio with ramblings about beam-me-up abductions and shipboard rectal probes. But LaViolette isn’t one of them. And among scientists, he wasn’t always the weird dude with the even weirder ideas. Not so long ago, LaViolette was considered—by peers, professors, professionals—one of the brightest up-and-coming minds in the scientific community.
While a researcher at Harvard in the early ’70s, LaViolette designed revolutionary air-sampling equipment to measure the effectiveness of dust masks worn by coal miners. From there—his brain ever-churning—he developed cost-effective technology—irrigation pumps, desalinization systems—for use by Third World countries. And in his spare time, in 1975, he advised the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy on matters relating to solid-waste recycling.
Then, in 1976, LaViolette was courted by noted Hungarian scholar Ervin Laszlo to serve as a consultant on solar energy and appropriate technology for the scientific think tank Club of Rome’s annual report, Goals for Mankind. Quickly, LaViolette went from understudy to star: The United Nations was soon underwriting his study of the feasibility of building a solar power plant in the U.S. at a cost cheaper than that of an equivalent-sized nuclear plant.
For a short, sweet time, LaViolette made headlines in newspapers and magazines around the world. He was heralded as a hero.
“I found him to be a very creative guy,” says Professor George Lendaris, LaViolette’s dissertation adviser at Portland State University in the late ’70s and early ’80s. LaViolette’s solar-energy fixation had just started to morph into a theory that there had recently been a “massive energy outflow from the sun.” “I figured he was either a genius or a kook,” Lendaris adds. “And I’m willing to bet on his being a genius.”
But maybe Paul LaViolette is what happens when there are just too many ideas for one man to process—always have been, waves of them, crashing in his skull, jarring him awake, ever since he was old enough to stare into the sky and wonder: He turns to tackling questions that might not have answers, questions that most humans would never dare ask.
LaViolette’s recent trilogy of books—Beyond the Big Bang (1995), Earth Under Fire (1997), and this year’s The Talk of the Galaxy—challenge just about every tenet of astronomy, physics, and creation taught in school. (That whole big-bang theory? Yeah, nice try.) LaViolette’s tomes are shocking not for their outrageous claims of aliens and apocalypses, but for the calm and scholarly manner in which those claims are presented and defended. (He also has a far-out Web site—etheric.com—that is a veritable labyrinth of predictions and theories.)
LaViolette’s raison d’etre—around which most of his current theories, including the one about cosmic telegrams from extraterrestrials, revolve—is the galactic-core-explosion theory. Whereas many astronomers believe—even if they’re not exactly sure why—galactic cores explode every 10 million to 100 million years, LaViolette hypothesizes that such an event actually occurs every 13,000 to 26,000 years, the most recent superwave having raised hell on Earth at the end of the last ice age—when almost all life was erased from the planet.
In 1981 and 1982, LaViolette examined ice taken from an ice cap at Camp Century, Greenland, and, according to his Earth Under Fire, “discovered that ice samples dating from the last ice age contain much higher concentrations of cosmic dust than present-day snow and ice, indicating that cosmic dust must have been entering the Earth’s atmosphere at a much faster rate at that early time.” (Also, in 1987, he became the first American to directly receive ice-core samples from the Soviet Union’s Vostok station in Antarctica.)
By analyzing the levels of dust and integrating complex dating methods, LaViolette confirmed his own worst fears: Something had happened. Something horrible, something overdue to happen again soon. Very soon.
Despite having the evidence of cosmic dust legitimized by the U.S. Geological Survey, LaViolette kept hush-hush about his discovery. People, he figured, just weren’t ready to hear about the end of the world.
Most of us still aren’t, of course. LaViolette, however, is a patient man—usually: “Sometimes when I’m frustrated, I say, ‘I just hope the superwave arrives pretty soon to teach these people a lesson!’ Of course, it’s something you’d rather not have happen right now…but you know, when I’m frustrated…”
With the exception of a few friends and his ever-close family, LaViolette is a man alone in the cosmos. When asked if LaViolette’s presentation to the AAS was indeed the first time a scientist has announced the pulsars-as-ET-beacons discovery at a major scientific shindig, AAS spokesperson Stephen Maran says, “I think that statement is probably correct, but I don’t know of any pulsar experts who are convinced by LaViolette’s paper. People wondered how someone could come to such conclusions…which were not received favorably. We don’t endorse any of these statements. We just think it’s newsworthy, and we provide the forum.”
Such is the existence of LaViolette, a man whose life’s work can be justified only by a cosmic haymaker to our planet.
Needless to say, it’s a tough gig.
Out of respect for LaViolette’s notion that all seemingly unrelated events are nevertheless related—a blend of coincidence, “general system theory,” and “subquantum kinetics”—I present the man himself, in no particular order, but order all the same:
When LaViolette was 16, he learned geometry and trigonometry…in Greek.
(OK, so the young American had no choice—his parents moved the family to Greece in the ’60s—but given that most of us fail to learn geometry and trigonometry in English, it’s an impressive feat.)
LaViolette is not the type of guy who laughs at rings-around-Uranus gags. He does, however, smile often—although you get the feeling that his interpretation of the punch line is just a little different from yours.
LaViolette lives alone in a nondescript Alexandria apartment complex that is currently being painted; when he enters the building, the downstairs neighbor’s dog always barks at him. His pad is a tidy two-bedroom, one-bath. There is a well-read copy of Infinite Energy magazine on the coffee table, an out-of-tune guitar behind the futon. (He hasn’t played in years.) There’s also a copy of Dating for Dummies tucked almost out of view on a low bookshelf.
LaViolette earned a B.A. in physics from Johns Hopkins University (1969), an M.B.A. in organizational administration from the University of Chicago (1973), and a Ph.D. in systems science from Portland State (1983). It was during his junior year at Hopkins that he experienced the first of many epiphanies—or “mindshifts,” as he calls them—about his place, our place, in the universe (“I was a romantic in those days—in the larger sense, not just with women”).
Whereas most third-year (or any year, for that matter) college students spend most of their time knee-deep in cheap beer and Buffalo wings, LaViolette chose to party hearty in the recesses of his own skull. So says the astronomer in the preface to Beyond the Big Bang:
It began one night in the spring of 1968 when a series of insights began flooding into my mind, concepts at once simple yet of considerable advancement. The ideas themselves were as amazing as the manner in which they were coming to me, as if sensed from some other level. Superimposed on the background of music I had been listening to…came notions of flux, balance, and dynamic equilibrium. I was shown these principles harmonizing together, forming the very essence of existence. Like an attentive pupil, I absorbed them.
When I ask LaViolette if he was, perhaps, stoned out of his gourd during this time, he smiles sheepishly and does not answer.
When LaViolette was in high school, he developed a crush on a Swedish exchange student. Whenever she would try to talk to him, however, the school bully would charge the scene and claim the young woman as his own. The bully would scowl at LaViolette until the young scientist backed away. These events are still very fresh in LaViolette’s memory: “She liked me!” he shouts today.
LaViolette was the first to develop a unified field theory based on a subquantum kinetics methodology, in which “all material subatomic particles and energy quanta [are] wave-like concentration patterns that self-organize in the continuously transforming ether whose kinetics are specified by five reaction-diffusion equations.”
When I liken the galactic-core explosion to the events in killer-asteroid flicks such as Deep Impact and Armageddon, LaViolette shakes his head: “You see, that’s something I’m against: blowing up asteroids and comets in space. That creates a cloud of dust, and the dust could have worse long-term effects than the asteroid—of course, it depends on how big the asteroid was. There are other ways of doing it. One way, for example, is to plant rockets on the asteroid and give them a thrust to the side so they miss us. You don’t blow it up; you push it.”
LaViolette often makes sure I’m following him by asking questions such as: “You’ve heard of coronal mass ejections?”
Sure, Paul, keep going.
LaViolette is a religious man, praying and meditating often. He wears a gold necklace around his neck given to him by his mother. It’s his astrological sign: Scorpio.
Famed astrologer Sandra Fiddler writes that a Scorpio can be a “good organizer and leader” and has “the foresight to make long-range plans and can direct them to the finish.” Inner conflict can harm a Scorpio “psychologically and physically,” and the suppression of upsetting personal matters “can build up and become toxic.” As far as matters of the heart are concerned, Scorpios are “secretive and don’t establish bonds until [they’re] sure of others’ trustworthiness.” They approach “love emotionally and dream of fairytale romance.”
LaViolette says he doesn’t live in the past—”My tendency is to go forward. I don’t like going back”—yet he keeps meticulous records of his life in several leather-bound scrapbooks: articles, sketches, and pictures of family, friends, and the time at Johns Hopkins when he played lacrosse with Playboy bunnies. (“It was a charity game, and we were supposed to let the bunnies win,” LaViolette says, chuckling. “I was disqualified in the second half for playing too well.”)
LaViolette comments on each crackling artifact as if the frozen image had happened just yesterday: “I had a crush on her. She didn’t like me, though….The shade fell down on my friend. I told him to hold that pose while I got the camera….That’s from a Jefferson Airplane concert.”
There are also several crayoned scrawls LaViolette drew when he was 11 years old, including a “rocket-powered helicopter” and a “hand-held flamethrower”—the latter looking suspiciously like the particle-beam communicator he wants to build to chitchat with the extraterrestrials.
While gazing over my shoulder at these innocent drawings from childhood, LaViolette conjures a faraway smile: “I was a young kid then. I was interested in things exploding.”
All I have to do is ask one simple question—”Why do you assume that extraterrestrials are benevolent?”—and LaViolette takes off on a tangent that would have made Richard Dreyfuss’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind character weep with joy. LaViolette’s vision of alien life on alien lands is utopian, of course. Those distant lands in galaxies far, far away turn out to be places where a man as freethinking as LaViolette could finally be accepted, loved, and revered.
“[By manipulating pulsars, extraterrestrials] are referring to an event [the galactic-core explosion] that could decimate our civilization,” he says. “So that’s nice of them to be pointing that out to us. If they weren’t wanting to be nice to us, they just would have kept quiet….
“There’s no expectation that [aliens] would look like us,” he continues. “They wouldn’t have power lines; they would be generating power indoors with little gadgets….They would probably use air transport and develop the ability to control gravity and fly.
“Culturally, they would be operating at a very high level. They would not be dealing at the level of basic needs anymore. Theirs would be a civilization of self-actualization: Whatever you did for your work, it’s what you enjoy doing—it’s not something you have to do to earn money. You could do anything you wanted, as long as you enjoyed it….
“I even see the possibility of these civilizations communicating telepathically and being able to share feelings directly, without words. You can imagine going to a play and the actors are picked for their ability to project thought to the audience, to express the subtlest emotions. I picture this: I’m at the theater, and the audience is moved by this performance of emotion, all silent.
“You become more open to the idea of [extraterrestrials] when you realize there is intelligence out there communicating with us. You see some of these [pulsar] alignments and you realize there’s a message there; there’s a whole galaxy-wide network of civilizations not only communicating but traveling in space. They use these beacons not just to communicate with us but for navigational purposes as well. Pulsars are ideal for that. We would probably use them if we were navigating.”
If LaViolette’s vision sounds like something out of Contact, well, that’s about right. Currently, he’s the only astronomer who is able to discern nonrandom pulsar patterns in the cosmic static—a state of affairs that he blames on the stubbornly unbending minds of the scientific establishment.
Yet LaViolette—who, it should be noted, has never witnessed a flying saucer in the sky—has little time for UFO extremists.
“I had one fellow who was interested in my subquantum kinetics; he wanted to help out in simulating equations….The more I interacted with him, the more far-out the information got…stuff about aliens abducting young kids and having them for dinner. And that, for me, is too much of a mindshift. It takes time away from my work—plus it’s disturbing. I try to not screen [these people] out entirely, but stuff like that, it gets a little too much for me. You always want to keep an open mind to some extent, and then check against the evidence. Of course, with stuff like that, you can’t really prove it….
“After I made my discovery [about the galactic-core explosion],” LaViolette says, “I had a dream in which I met with people: I don’t know if they were extraterrestrials or advanced spiritual beings. In this dream, I was given a medal; they were awarding me for making this discovery. On their level, this was a major event: Terrestrials had finally found proof of this cosmic event so important that it has decimated the civilization before….They were very wise. You just had extreme respect for them. They were extremely mature beings—old souls. I don’t know if they were real or not, but when you’re doing work like I do, where you’re operating outside of the envelope, you need something to keep you going.”
LaViolette’s lips are ringed with a mysterious red goo, the same mysterious red goo coating the plate of unidentifiable edibles in front of him. He’s digging into his lunch, popping an array of dripping, crunching munchies in his mouth. He is pleased; I am unnerved.
Having met for the first time just a few hours prior, we are sitting in the half-empty dining room of Nagoya, a Japanese/Chinese restaurant in a strip mall in Springfield, Va., which offers an all-you-can-eat sushi lunch. The long line of food-stuffed buffet tables, however, would give Han Solo pause: None of the offerings are marked, nothing looks familiar, and I can honestly say that this is the weirdest sushi experience I’ve ever had—but I’m not just talking about the enigmatic cuisine (which, by the way, is damn tasty).
“I’m always working on something,” LaViolette says between bites. “I’m just curious. I want to understand. Curiosity has really driven a lot of my work. In the early years, I was just trying to figure out what is life, the essence of existence. How does matter come into being? How does this whole ball of wax work? What they were teaching me in college wasn’t giving me that. I felt really cheated by what they had to offer. I had assumed they had it all figured out. It was just a bunch of unrelated stuff. The top priority should always be getting to the truth.”
Another thing that perturbs LaViolette is the misinformation gamboling in cyberspace that makes his personal hypothesizing appear less than factual. Not only is he fighting a thus-far losing battle with rigid-thinking scientists, but he’s constantly trying to keep overzealous fringe thinkers in check: “One guy [on the Internet] was even saying that the core of our galaxy was already exploding and knocking out satellites. I wrote to the guy, saying, ‘It’s a disservice to be crying wolf, ’cause when it really does happen…’”
LaViolette currently runs both the Starburst Foundation, which, according to his resume, is “an institute [founded in 1984] that conducts interdisciplinary research in physics, astronomy, geology, climatology, systems theory, and psychology,” and Starlane Publications, which puts out his books. But LaViolette doesn’t like to advertise that fact for fear that people will question their validity.
“A lot of astronomers don’t get into theoretical aspects,” he continues. “They don’t look at the big picture. They’re more accountant types….Meeting people in the exhibition hall [at the AAS conference in Atlanta], I asked them if they were into ET communication. Half said they weren’t. This shocked me. People in astronomy and physics end up falling in love with the discipline. It’s hard for people to look at things different. You must be brave to criticize existing ideas.”
As far as money is concerned, LaViolette says he lives “a modest life.” “What I should be doing is making paper presentations at scientific conferences and keep drumming it in,” he adds. “It’s expensive, though: getting there, paying the conference fees, plus the time to write your paper. You really need an institution behind you to help you financially….I’m very conserving of resources. I don’t have an office; I work out of my house. Fundraising takes so much time away from your work. [The Starburst Foundation] gets contributions from people, but it’s not enough to do a big operation….[The Talk of the Galaxy] is fairly reasonably priced. People tell me I should have put a bigger price on it.
“All through my life there’s been a constant struggle between doing this and doing something that would put bread on the table,” he adds. “I’ve had strange things happen. At times, when it seemed like I almost for sure would get a job I’d applied for, something would go wrong, something out of the normal probabilities, and it would end up keeping me on the work. To help humanity, a person has to make a sacrifice. It’s sort of like following a spiritual path. You’re not doing it for yourself; you’re doing it for others.”
LaViolette has kept on his spiritual path through a series of mindshifts, otherworldly moments when his thought process has zoomed forward as though propelled by an outside source.
“Mindshifts happen quickly, with the snap of a finger,” LaViolette explains. “It’s what we call the ‘Aha!’ experience. Suddenly, things click, things that you didn’t understand before they started making sense. That happens in a flash. You feel exuberant; you feel great. The pleasure centers of your brain are stimulated when you get a new idea. Not only are you extremely aroused, but your pleasure centers are aroused, because it helps the memory implant that experience in your mind. You feel chills running up your back. You’re in amazement, wonderment. You get goosebumps. It’s so powerful that it competes with sexual experience. It can be more powerful than sex, I would say.”
LaViolette stuffs a few more sushi bites into his craw and looks out the window. The cloud-dotted blue horizon is reflected in his glasses; I cannot see his eyes.
“This is a totally new idea,” LaViolette says. “This is not something that’s talked about in the scientific media. When you’re making a paradigm shift like that, it’s something that has to grow and grow to a certain size before it really gets known. The same is true of a hit song. You might have a hit, but it’s not detected by the general public over all the noise out there. It’s only when it reaches a certain critical threshold where it’s being played a lot that it suddenly goes into an exponential growth stage.”
Britney Spears couldn’t have said it better.
LaViolette is very close to his mother and father, both of whom still live in the astronomer’s hometown of Schenectady, N.Y. (and both of whom are scientists who once worked on the Manhattan Project), and his sister, who resides nearby in Virginia. LaViolette has never married, although he admits that he is “looking to settle down.” “My parents would love grandchildren,” he says.
His folks worry about their only son, yet they’ve never faltered in backing his mission.
“I’ve told him before that he may never get recognition for this in his lifetime,” says his father, Fred LaViolette. “In a way, it’s very discouraging. On the other hand, he’s maintained his strong attitude. Once in a while, he complains, but that’s just to relieve his anxiety. There are so many things he wants to explain. These are not the last of his thoughts on the universe.”
Fred says that Paul was always “building all sorts of rockets when he was young. I told him, ‘I’ll help you build the rockets, but you must only set them off when I’m there.’ So he sneaked off once and set one off on his own. Almost lost his life! We had a little safety review after that incident.” Fred adds that Paul’s ideas were already very advanced when he was just 14: “It was a source of frustration for him.”
Paul’s mother, Irene LaViolette, whose parents were Greek—and who still has a thick Greek accent—tells me: “Paul’s first word, when he was 10 months old, was fos,” adding that “fos is Greek for light.”
“If it weren’t for all the kids into UFOs and things that scientists think are so weird, Paul would be totally isolated,” Fred says. “The changes in science always come through the youth.”
LaViolette also has a tight circle of friends—fellow scientists mostly—who defend him no matter where his next mindshift may take him.
“My wife and I are always assuring Paul that he is ahead of his time, and that every scientist ahead of his time has suffered,” says Tom Valone, an alternative-energy engineer (whose mother met Thomas Edison) and a friend of LaViolette’s for close to 15 years. “Einstein was the same way. Paul’s experiencing great opposition, violent opposition. He’s got powerful stuff, and people haven’t discovered him yet. He’s predicted almost a dozen different events, and yet he still hasn’t gained tremendous popularity, because his ideas are so unique. No one’s talking about the galactic core these days.”
LaViolette once told a girlfriend that he was Superman; she told him he was batshit-crazy.
“Superman is a modern myth, and you wonder if, when people are writing science-fiction stories, they’re tapping into their unconscious and maybe picking up information that has some kind of validity,” LaViolette says. “How does the Superman story go? If you look at the movie, [Krypton] is going through climatic disasters and upheavals of the planet, and finally it explodes. And they send out Superman as a message. Somehow I see this thing as the whole galactic-core explosion and the message being sent out.
“How does Superman find out about his past?” he continues. “He goes to the ice sheets, the frozen crystal, and creates the ice structure. And that’s where I went to find out about the past. I went to the North Pole. I didn’t physically go there, but it was shipped from there. In the movie, they have the bad guys who are imprisoned into a frozen state, in squares, that were cast into space as a result of the explosion. They represent the cosmic dust, the frozen debris that is out there.
“And then when the nuclear bomb is exploded, that’s what happens with a superwave. Cosmic rays vaporize the cometary material and generate the dust…and this gets blown into the Earth, just like these demons then came to the Earth for having fouled against humanity. So I saw this incredible symbolism between that movie series, which came out [in the early ’80s], and what I was doing. You tap into these romantic images that keep you going.”
Indiana Jones, eat your heart out.
In 1980, while hiking up Greece’s Mount Athos, on a peninsula that is the home to 14 monasteries, LaViolette had a spiritual awakening—and by far his greatest mindshift. It happened right before he almost fell off a cliff.
He had just started his run for a Ph.D. at Portland State, studying general systems theory and subquantum kinetics—some far-out stuff, certainly, but nothing like what was brewing in the recesses of his brain. He had also just begun thinking about the galactic core. His then-girlfriend had introduced him to a woman interested in the Tarot. At first resistant to such hocus-pocus, LaViolette soon found himself sucked into a portal of understanding, much as he had been as a junior at Hopkins. He then took a night class on the zodiac—and immediately saw parallels between his world, of astrophysics, and the strange world of astrology. The cogs of his brain popped and clicked—mindshifting and mindshifting again—until LaViolette came to an admittedly fantastic conclusion: The zodiacal constellations were not randomly situated, but deliberately aligned. Talk about your “Aha!” experiences.
Using ancient celestial and astrological symbolism, as well as his background in astrophysics, LaViolette reasoned that the arrow of Sagittarius’ archer and the tail of Scorpio’s scorpion were intersecting over our galaxy’s core. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing—it was a message, and a nasty one at that—and he knew that if he told other people about his discovery, they’d book him some nap time in the nearest rubber room.
So, with a major mindshift firing up his gray matter, LaViolette traveled to Greece both to clear his head and to conduct a few side studies, all the while unsure where his new discovery would take him.
“On my way to one of Mount Athos’ monasteries,” he says, “I came to this place where I got off the path. I mean, it looked like a path, but the rainwater had created it. The real path was obvious; you just went straight. So I started going down and down this wrong path….”
Because the mountainside was getting steeper and steeper, LaViolette took off his knapsack and threw it ahead of him. He kept doing so—throw bag, grab bag, throw bag, grab bag—until “the bag started rolling and disappeared over a ledge…and I heard this long silence…and then finally, ‘Bam!’ At this point, I started having doubts.
“Finally, I came to this ledge,” he continues. “On the left, it was all rocks, just ready for a roc slide; on the right was sheared rock with mossy cover. If I jumped on the moss, what if I slipped? At that point, I didn’t know what to do. The sun kept going down, and I started crying for help and heard somebody coming. But they were afraid, ’cause they thought I was going to try and get them.
“My tendency is to go forward; I don’t like going back. I think a lot of people are like that. But finally, I had to go back up to the trail. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it. I was struggling, and pulling on vines, going up this almost vertical face….I finally made it back up, and I realized what had happened: I’d taken the wrong path.
“Quickly, fast as I could go—I didn’t have anything with me; as the monks say, leave your material possessions—I got to the monastery just as they were closing the door. They gave me food and a place to sleep. That night, they had the worst rainstorm. Imagine me on that ledge! I was actually thinking of spending the night on that ledge! A whole waterfall would have been right there; I could have gotten washed off.
“The symbolism for me was that this was a test. If I didn’t pass the test, I wasn’t allowed to go on with my work.”
And go on he did, leaping over hurdles both scientific and personal. He left behind the world-wowing solar-energy studies that had made him a star to prove to himself—and someday the world—that the galactic core is getting ready to crack open a can of cosmic whupass.
But he waited 20-some years to write his books and clear his mind.
“[Back then,] I realized that people wouldn’t understand the significance of pulsars without realizing the message they were conveying. People weren’t in the mind-set of accepting a view where the core of the galaxy affects the Earth. And I had to first write that up. That was the most important thing, anyway; I saw [the galactic-core explosion as] more important than announcing the message of extraterrestrial communication. That was an urgent matter….Before I left this planet, I wanted to get that part written up. And I knew that if I announced the extraterrestrial findings, there would be an emotional reaction against that. Because there’s a tendency to make fun of that, and I would not have any hope of getting my papers published.
“It’s hard enough to get a new idea published…let alone saying, ‘I got this idea because I saw this coincidence of pulsars marking certain remnants or arrows in the sky left by some ancient civilization.’ That doesn’t help you get your papers published. So I kept quiet about all that, throughout the ’80s, up until the mid-’90s. It’s strategy, like war-playing…guerrilla warfare. You’re not part of the establishment, but you’re trying to change the establishment. You know what you have is correct. You see it with a clear mind.”
At 52 years old, LaViolette has completed a great scientific journey—cosmic rays, cosmic dust, polar ice cores, artificial pulsar alignments, and, ultimately, aliens. He says there’s one more book to add to the series, but he’s not giving out details. Rumor has it, however, that the fourth book will be about space travel—and will once again make history.
(By the way, when LaViolette did get his knapsack back, almost a full year later—the monks had retrieved it for him—only one of his belongings was missing: his hair dryer.)
This is how LaViolette describes the end of the world:
“The first warning will be the blue star…”
This is our last interview together. I want to know how it all ends.
“When the galactic core is exploding and shooting out the cosmic rays, you would see the blue light. That’s the center of the galaxy, and the blue light is more from the cosmic rays. [Normally], there’s so much dust between us and the center of the galaxy that you don’t really see light from the center….”
Again, his bespectacled eyes are lost in the reflection of the sky.
“As days and weeks go on, you begin to see more stuff around the blue star. It would start to back-light cosmic dust clouds in the sky….Right at the first instant, there would be an electromagnetic pulse wave; it could give a large radiation dose—whether it would be lethal or not, that would depend on the size of the outburst….
“About a year ago, gamma-ray bursts knocked out some satellites for a while. That really was a wake-up call for people. Before that, they were sort of oblivious to the idea that things out there tens of thousands of light-years [away] could affect our planet. I had been a lone voice back in 1983 saying, ‘Look, you gotta watch out for the galactic center, ’cause it can affect the planet.’ [Scientists] had been putting sort of a paper bag around the galactic center, saying that everything stays in there. That gives them a safe feeling that there’s nothing to worry about, but that doesn’t correspond to reality. Now, suddenly, they get these gamma-ray bursts that knock out satellites. Now they realize we aren’t immune. One of the bursts they detected…was in a galaxy outside ours. It was so strong that if it had come from the core of our own galaxy, it would have sterilized life on that side of the planet facing the burst. Maybe even trees wouldn’t have been able to survive.”
Anyway: “The [cosmic energy from a galactic-core explosion] could be more significant in terms of society rather than biological levels. It could knock out all the satellite communication systems. It could create a surge in the power lines, which would create blackouts over the planet. Communication systems could be suspended, like radio and TV. It could present a hazard if you were touching a metal object….
“If the galactic core erupts, and it goes a hundred thousand times more intense, and suddenly you get a whole blast of these things coming toward us, then we have to be worried. When we look out there, we don’t see this thing happening. [The galactic core is] perking along….The passive state of the galaxy lasts most of its period….[But when it] jumps into this very luminous state where the core is erupting, we’re really going to get showered with this stuff….
“Along with the electromagnetic pulse could be a gravitational wave, and that could cause seismic disturbances [in the Earth’s core]. Volcanic eruption could be triggered. It could also affect the polar-axis alignment. If there is a jerk to the axis, sudden displacement to the crust of the Earth could set off a tidal wave in the oceans….
“The real climatic stuff happens when the cosmic dust comes in. That’s the worst part. Once that comes in, and starts being swallowed by the sun, it would form a cocoon around the sun. The sun would have a hazy look to it as more and more dust accumulates. It would actually become red, almost like a sunset….
“And then you’re going to get all kinds of climatic effects from that. There was 100 times more wind activity during the ice age. But if you had a spectrum change in the sun, this would explain that kind of activity. As the months went by, and more and more lower-energy cosmic rays were arriving, the wind force would get greater and greater and push more of this stuff in. It would blot out the stars. It would affect the moon, too.
“Cloudlike forms could come between the Earth and the sun and form grotesque images. Halloween is a Druid tradition in remembrance of a cataclysmic happening long ago. So you can picture a lot of the forms flying in the air. It would be a creepy scene…endless days.
“Unless there’s some warning, of course. They’re watching the center now every day. It’s something they weren’t doing 15 years ago. Now the radio telescopes schedule time every day to observe the center of the galaxy. That’s what the Starburst Foundation was recommending back in 1984…at least daily observation of the galactic center….
“It would be nice if we had some warning. But even if there was a week of increasing [galactic] activity, do you know how slow the scientific community moves? They have to sit and discuss this stuff and debate, and some people will say this isn’t anything to worry about, that it might be a supernova close by. You should have the system already in place to know exactly what to do when that happens. Sort of like we have seismographs on certain volcanoes that we know erupt. If [the galactic core] starts to give readings, we shouldn’t be philosophizing and debating. We gotta take action.”
And when LaViolette says “action,” he means an “energy shield”—and not just around the planet, but the entire solar system. He’s a little fuzzy, however, on just who will build and pay for the thing—but these are mere details.
Aliens. Pulsars. Explosions. Scorpio. It’s easy to dismiss LaViolette as a victim of his own overworked mind.
But come on, just for a second, while you’re alone, sometime in the dead of night, say it out loud: What if he’s right?
Somewhere in Alexandria, Va.—in a small apartment, in an overstuffed closet, in a well-worn scrapbook—is a black-and-white picture of a clean-cut 10-year-old boy from Schenectady, N.Y.
The picture is from an article in the March 18, 1953, edition of the Chicago Daily News. The boy, who tells the photographer he wants to be a “rocket scientist,” has traveled halfway across the country to visit something called the “Atomfair” in the Windy City’s International Amphitheatre.
The boy’s crew-cut head rests in the palm of his hand; he stares into a blinking, humming model of a nuclear power station. The look on the young boy’s face—equal parts beauty, concern, wonder—says that he is just now, at the very instant the flashbulb pops, discovering that the world is a far bigger place than playground bullies and pedestrian teachers and people who just don’t understand the importance of rocket-powered helicopters.
The boy is dreaming about his role in the science of tomorrow. He is envisioning being a hero. He is, like 10-year-old boys everywhere, wishing upon a star.
His name is Paul LaViolette. The article is titled “A Boy and the Future.” CP