Gaseous Hypothesis of Immanuel Kant


Scientists and philosophers all over the Earth from time to time, on unravelling the mystery of the Origin and evolution of our Solar system in general and our Earth in particular propounded various theories, hypotheses and concepts. However, these theories could not be accepted by a greater scientific community on the whole. Apparently, there is no consensus among the scientists about the origin of solar system and our Earth. Nevertheless, they safely concluded that the Earth would have been formed by the same process as the Solar system.

Historical Background

In earlier days, religious believes were prevailed to reason out the origin of Solar System. Notably, Archbishop Usher, the Prussian priest opined that the Earth was created on 26th October, 4004 B.C. at 9.00 AM (presumably Greenwich Mean Time) and this view has been quoted as mere fantasy since there is no supporting evidences submitted for his statement.

Due to the fact that the religious concepts lack logical and scientific basis & evidences, they were neglected by the modern scientific community. To solve this highly ambiguous riddle, numerous scientists came up with their own ideas, out of which Kant's Gaseous hypothesis served as the pioneer concept.

What does Kant’s hypothesis postulate?

In the year 1755, a German philosopher named Immanuel Kant presented his gaseous hypothesis in his treatise entitled "The General Natural History and Theory of Heaven or the Essay on the working and Mechanical Origin of the Entire Universe on the Basis of Newtonian Laws". Clearly, this hypothesis was based on Newton's Gravitational law and rotatory motion.

Assumptions

Initially, he made the following assumptions to postulate this hypothesis.

  • Primordial hard matter (conceived as supernaturally created) was scattered in the Universe.

  • Nebula (a slowly rotating cloud of gas) and the matter consists of cold, solid and motionless particles.

  • These particles began to collide against each other under their mutual gravitational pull.

Elucidation

According to Kant, since the particles possess mutual gravitational attraction and collision, the primordial matter experiences a random motion. In due course of time, these particles began to collide against each other. The friction between them generated heat and the temperature started rising. This process created random rotatory motion in the primordial matter. This provides an additional momentum for the rate of rotation of the primordial matter.

This temperature rise would change the state of matter from solid to gaseous particles. Hence, the initial primordial matter would gradually become hot rotating nebula. The size of nebula started expanding due to its continuous rise in temperature and rate of rotatory motion.

Due to repeated collision of these particles, the nebula started rotating at high speed that the centrifugal force (outward force) exceeded the centripetal force (inward force). This resulted in the formation of irregular ring from the core of the nebula. This process is repeated nine times and hence nine concentric rings were formed. The residual central mass of the nebula remained as the Sun.

The development of cores (knots) due to the irregularity of the rings, led to the formation of the respective planets over time. From the newly formed planets, rings were separated due to the small-scale repetition of the same process and developed into satellites of corresponding planets based on the condensation of materials. Hence, the Sun, nine planets and their satellites were formed.

Evaluation

Merits

  • He put forward the first scientific theory on the Origin of our Solar system based on gravity and motion.

  • His hypothesis sounds very simple and logical.

  • His idea set a trend on developing concepts related to the origin of earth for upcoming scientists. For instance, Laplace's Nebular theory was immensely influenced by Kant's hypothesis.

Demerits

Though he postulated this theory is based on scientific principles

  • The source of origin of the primordial matter remains untold.

  • Based on Newton's first law of motion, 'a body remains at rest, or if in motion it remains in uniform motion with constant speed, unless or until an external force is applied on it'. But his theory didn't explain the external force which acted on nebula for its rotational movement.

  • The reason behind the formation of the exact nine planets lacks any scientific base and supporting evidences.

  • It is contradictory to note that, the terrestrial planets of the present solar system have no evidences of ring structure.

Conclusion

In the beginning his hypothesis received a world-wide appreciation but later on it was disproved based on wrong application of Newtonian laws of gravitation and erroneous concepts. In spite of severe criticism, the theory was considered as a great step in the field of cosmogony.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the assumptions made by Immanuel Kant for his Gaseous Hypothesis?

He made the following assumptions to postulate this hypothesis.

  • Primordial hard matter (conceived as supernaturally created) was scattered in the Universe.

  • Nebula (a slowly rotating cloud of gas) and the matter consists of cold, solid and motionless particles.

  • These particles began to collide against each other under their mutual gravitational pull.

How does the Cold and stationary nebula evolve into Hot nebula?

According to Kant, since the particles possess mutual gravitational attraction and collision, the primordial matter experiences a random motion. In due course of time, these particles began to collide against each other. The friction between them generated heat and the temperature started rising. This process created random rotatory motion in the primordial matter. This temperature rise would change the state of matter from solid to gaseous particles. Hence, the initial primordial matter would gradually become hot rotating nebula.

Updated on: 08-Nov-2023

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