Really … When You Sit On a Chair, You’re Not Really On It

The rare first English edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s landmark The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy sold for $40,625 at an April 2012 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1976, Apple Computers used a logo that featured Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) sitting under an apple tree. It was designed by Ronald Wayne, a lesser-known co-founder of the company who famously sold his stock for $800. Today, those shares would be valued at more than $50 billion.

Later, the logo changed to the more familiar rainbow apple with a bite in it.

Newton developed a complicated theory involving the universal laws of gravitation. In plain terms, it simply explains the motion of planets and ocean tides, and why we aren’t flung into space as Earth spins.

Every object in the universe exerts a tug on every other one. Sounds simple enough.

What is fairly astounding is to consider the solidity we experience all around us. One example: Billiard balls don’t actually strike each other. Instead, the negatively charged fields actually repel each other as opposed to colliding. In fact, were it not for their electrical charges, the balls would pass right through each other.

Similarly, when you sit on a chair, you are not actually sitting on it, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimeter). Your electrons and the chair’s electrons are opposed to any closer intimacy.

The truly great physicists are generally disdainful of other scientific fields of endeavor. They have a history of disparaging remarks …

“All science is either physics or stamp collecting,” physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) once said.

Personally, I prefer coin collecting.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

We Need to Take Care of Our Cozy Home

Chesley Bonestell’s oil on board Rings of Saturn sold for $20,000 at an October 2014 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Four gigantic planets dominate the outer solar system. Very different from the rocky inner planets, these strange worlds are huge globes of gas and liquid, with no solid surface and hundreds of moons.

After the sun formed, its heat drove gases away from the inner solar system, leaving behind heavier compounds such as rock and metals. Astronomers call the outer planets gas giants, though they consist mostly of liquid, with solid cores.

Mighty Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in the solar system – so big that it is 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets combined! Its strong gravitational pull greatly affects the orbits of other planets, and its rate of spin stretches its surface clouds into spots (storms) and ripples swirling together.

The second-largest planet and sixth farthermost from the sun is Saturn, which shines like a bright yellow star. Even a small telescope will reveal its most famous feature: a magnificent ring system. Saturn’s main rings are 220,000 miles wide, yet they are only 30 feet thick. Beyond the main rings are hazy outer rings.

Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, was unknown to ancient astronomers, even though it is visible with the naked eye in perfectly clear and dark skies. Composer William Herschel discovered it from his back garden in Bath, England, in 1781. It is similar to Neptune and is the coldest of all the planets. A faint set of rings was discovered in 1997 and all of its 27 known moons are named after characters in works by Shakespeare or the English poet Alexander Pope.

Neptune, the eighth and farthest from the sun, was discovered in 1846. Astronomers had noticed Uranus wasn’t following its expected path – there seemed to be an unseen body, perhaps an undiscovered planet, pulling on it. Two mathematicians calculated where it might be and within days, it was spotted by an observatory in Germany. The violent weather on the surface is thought to be powered by 1,300-mph winds from internal heat, since it is too far from the sun to absorb much warmth.

Our sun belongs to a giant whirlpool of stars called the Milky Way. Like all galaxies, the Milky Way is unimaginably vast. Galaxies come in all shapes and sizes, with some containing a few million stars, and others trillions. Our little home seems to be quite cozy and we need to take good care of it since there are no known options (at least yet).

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Where We Are

A meteorite believed to have originated from the planet Mercury sold for $4,780 at a June 2010 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Our sun formed from a cloud of dust and gas around 4.6 billion years ago. The force of gravity generated by the sun’s vast mass keeps a family of planets and other bodies trapped in orbit around it. Together, the sun and all these bodies make up our solar system.

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are the solar system’s inner planets. On the face of it, they are worlds apart – but underneath the surface, it is a different story. The inner planets all formed from the same material when the sun was formed. All are a mix of rock and metal, with interiors that are roughly divided into layers. The heavier metals are concentrated at the center, while the lighter rock is on top. Each of these planets was bombarded by asteroids and comets early on and each has been affected by volcanic activity. Mercury’s heavily cratered face still bears the scars, but the surfaces of the other three have changed over time.

Mercury is the smallest and closest to the sun. It is a lifeless world that has barely changed in 3 billion years. The entire surface is pitted with craters formed when asteroids crashed into it. Mercury orbits the sun more quickly than any other planet, but it rotates slowly; for every two orbits, it spins around just three times. So a “day” on Mercury (sunrise to sunrise) takes 176 Earth days. Such long days and nights give it the greatest temperature range. During the day, it is hot enough to melt lead and at night, cold enough to liquefy air.

Venus is sometimes referred to as Earth’s twin due to size and similar internal structure. But the two worlds are very different. The surface is hotter than a pizza oven, its air pressure is a crushing 90 times greater, and it’s covered by volcanos. It is permanently overcast, which causes a greenhouse effect. Venus spins more slowly than any other planet and in the opposite direction (clockwise). One orbit of the sun takes 224.7 Earth days.

Mars is the second-smallest planet in the solar system and is half the size of Earth. The average surface temperatures is minus 81 degrees, which makes it a frozen desert world. However, it wasn’t always dry since riverbeds show that water flowed here a long time ago. Mars may have been warm and wet enough for life to have flourished. The “Red Planet” nickname comes from the reddish color of its iron oxide (rust). It has a crust made of solid rock like Earth.

Third from the sun, Earth is the largest of the inner planets. It’s the only planet with liquid water flowing on the surface. Our vast oceans, land and two polar ice caps are all supported by a thin rocky crust. The crust is broken into seven huge segments and many smaller ones. Called tectonic plates, these giant slabs of rock creep slowly over Earth’s surface. Earth completes a spin every 24 hours, but it isn’t entirely upright. Its axis is tilted 23.5 degrees, so as it travels around the sun, one hemisphere and then the other is tilted toward the sun. This is what causes the seasons.

Fortunately, for us, we are exactly the perfect distance from the sun to maintain the temperature ranges to support the only known life in the universe. Just one degree of tilt or distance would have a profound effect. It is similar to Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ porridge … not too hot and not too cold. Personally, I like it here … a lot!

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Death of Last Astronaut on Moon Reminds Us to Press Forward

No more than 80 Silver Robbins Medallions were flown aboard Apollo 17, inscribed with the names of crew members Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt. This example, from the personal collection of astronaut Alan Bean, sold for $59,375 at a May 2014 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On Jan. 16, 2017, Eugene Andrew Cernan, the last NASA astronaut to walk on the surface of the moon, died in a Houston hospital. His historic flight on Apollo 17 lasted from Dec. 7 to Dec. 19, 1972, and man has not been back since then. Cernan was 82 years old and the first astronaut to be buried at Texas State Cemetery.

Eight space missions visited the moon between 1968 and 1972 as part of NASA’s Apollo program. Each mission carried three American astronauts inside a spacecraft launched by a Saturn V rocket. Apollo 8 was used to test the spacecraft as it orbited the moon. Then, in a dress rehearsal prior to landing, Apollo 10 flew close to the lunar surface.


The first of the six missions that successfully landed on the moon was Apollo 11 in 1969. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down in July of that year, with Armstrong the first to actually walk on the lunar surface. Just 27 daredevil astronauts made that same remarkable trip and a total of 12 walked on the cratered, lifeless surface.

The Apollo astronauts were blasted into space inside the nose cone of the largest rocket ever built, the Saturn V. It was designed by Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph at Huntsville, Ala., and remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket brought into full operational status. It was developed as “Operation Paperclip,” a special program using German rocket engineers and approved by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to leverage their expertise in building Nazi Germany’ V-2 rocket.

Von Braun had started in the U.S. Army after World War II and then transferred when the National Aeronautical and Space Administration was established in 1958 in response to the Russian Sputnik panic. He then became director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where they designed the Saturn V. After President John F. Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon, von Braun and his team ensured that the United States would win the space race against the Soviet Union.

The giant Saturn V rocket – 40 feet taller than the full Statue of Liberty – consisted of three rockets in one. The first two stages lifted the Apollo spacecraft into space and the third stage put Apollo on course after reaching low Earth orbit. Apollo also had three sections: command, service and lunar modules. All were linked together for the 250,000-mile journey. Once there, the lunar module took two astronauts to the moon’s surface and back. All three astronauts then returned to Earth in the command module. Its conical shape allowed it to withstand the heat of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere for an easy splashdown.

Each night, the moon looms over Earth, peering down and wondering when to expect the next visitors. Perhaps it will be Mars instead. Space … the final frontier!

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Our Planet is a Truly Remarkable Piece of Real Estate

A 1968 “Earthrise” photo signed by the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 crews sold for $16,730 at a November 2010 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In a little-known experiment, a graduate student at the University of Chicago hooked up two test tubes containing water (the “ocean”) and a mixture of methane, ammonia and hydrogen (the “atmosphere”). A few days later, after a few electrical sparks to simulate lightening, there was a goopy broth of organic compounds … “life.” His professor, Nobel Laureate Harold Urey, reportedly exclaimed, “If God didn’t do it this way, he missed a good bet!”

This theory has since been dismissed since Earth didn’t have these inputs available that early.

The experiment happened in 1953 and more than a half-century later, there is still no certainty on how life actually began on this planet. Famous people like Lord Kelvin (1871) have suggested it came from outer space via aliens or comets. But that theory – panspermia – doesn’t answer the basic question; it just moves it to some distant location. But there is general consensus that life on Earth started about 3.5 billion years ago.

Rather than pursue how life started, NASA in the 1960s assembled a team to think about how to look for life … on Mars. British scientist James Lovelock decided to solve the problem by identifying the necessary features for life on Earth. He started with water, since all life depends on it. Then he specified that the average temperature must stay between 60 and 65 degrees to ensure it remained liquid, as it has for the past 3.5 billion years.

Next was salinity, since cells cannot survive levels above 5 percent and the oceans have remained at about 3.4 percent. Oxygen is another must-have element, but close to the 20 percent when it first appeared 2 billion years ago … 16 percent to 20 percent for breathing, but below 25 percent because at that level, forest fires would never go out.

Eventually, Lovelock suggested that the entire planet makes up a single, self-regulating being which he called Gaia. The very presence of life regulates the temperature of the surface, the concentration of oxygen and the chemical composition of the oceans.

Voilà … the perfect conditions for life.

However, Lovelock also warned that the human impact on the environment may disrupt this delicate balance. As early as 1935, another British scientist, Arthur Tansley, described Earth lifeforms, landscapes and climate as a giant ecosystem.

Personally, each time I see pictures of Earth taken from space – this astonishing blue orb suspended in space – it reminds me just how insignificant we are. Relative to the enormity of the ever-expanding universe, we live on a truly remarkable piece of real estate. I hope we can maintain the balance Lovelock identified. Moving isn’t an option … yet.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Luftwaffe’s Incendiary Bombs Devastated British Treasures

A first edition of John Dalton’s A New System of Chemical Philosophy (Manchester: S. Russell, 1808-10) sold for $7,812.50 at an October 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

“Peace for our time” was proudly announced by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain after signing the Munich Pact in 1938. This agreement effectively conceded the annexation of the Sudetenland regions of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in the hope it would quell Adolf Hitler’s appetite for European expansion. Today, it is universally regarded as a naive act of appeasement as Germany promptly invaded Poland.

A full year before, the British Museum had located a deserted, remote mine to store their priceless treasures in anticipation of war. Other institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery joined in by relocating historic records, manuscripts and artwork. Steel racks were constructed to store boxes and other containers, while shelves were hollowed out of solid rock walls. Special consideration was given to maintaining proper humidity, temperature and delicate atmospheric pressure. It turned out to be a prudent strategy.

However, despite all the frenzied planning, once the bombing started, there were simply too many British libraries to protect and the Germans were using special incendiary bombs designed to ignite buildings rather than destroy them. The effect was devastating and before the war ended more than one million rare volumes were destroyed.

One particularly perplexing example was the remarkable library of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society (the famous “Lit & Phil”), England’s oldest scientific society. Alas, this included one of the most fascinating and least-known scientists, John Dalton.


Dalton was born in 1766 and was so exceptionally bright he was put in charge of his Quaker school at the improbable age of 12. He was already reading one of the most difficult books to comprehend – Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia – in the original Latin! Later, at Manchester, he was an intellectual whirlwind, producing books and papers ranging from meteorology to grammar. But it was a thick tome titled A New System of Chemical Philosophy that established his lasting reputation. In a short chapter of just five pages (out of 900), people of learning first encountered something approaching modern conception. His astounding insight was that at the root of all matter are exceedingly tiny, irreducible particles. Today, we call them atoms.

The great physicist Richard Feynman famously observed that the most important scientific knowledge is the simple fact that all things are made of atoms. They are everywhere and they constitute everything. Look around you. It is all atoms … and they are in numbers you really can’t conceive.

When Dalton died in 1844, about 40,000 people viewed the coffin and the funeral cortège stretched for two miles. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography is one of the longest, rivalled by only Charles Darwin and a few others.

Shame on the Luftwaffe for destroying so much of his original work. It is somehow comforting to know they weren’t bombed out of existence since their atoms are now merely part of something else … somewhere in our universe.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Science Tends to March On, Despite Public Opinion Polls

A 1932 first edition of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, with its custom leather clamshell box, sold for $3,585 at an October 2008 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The healthy, lusty cry that emanated from a delivery room in a British mill town hospital at precisely 11:47 on a summer night in 1978 brought joy to Lesley and John Brown. Since their marriage in 1969, the couple had wanted a baby and now they had one, thanks to $1,500 John won betting on football. There was also the brilliance of two British doctors who became the first physicians to create a test-tube baby. They had been unsuccessful in 80 previous tries.

The formal term for the method that produced little 6-pound Louise Brown was IVF – “in vitro fertilization” (literally “in glass”), but “test tube” better fit the imagination that was running wild around the world. With the news, people began recalling Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World and its vision of a society where “babies are mass produced from chemical solutions in laboratory bottles.”

Actually, Louise was nothing close to this concept. She represented the union of John’s sperm and Lesley’s egg, and was carried to term by her mother as other babies were. Only the joining of the ingredients had been done in a lab. The incipient embryo was transferred back to Lesley, where it implanted itself on the wall of the hormone-prepared uterus.

The moral and legal implications touched off incendiary debates when the news from Britain spread. And the fact the story came from a hysterical tabloid (the Browns sold the story rights to the Daily Mail for $500,000) took the episode further into the realm of science-fiction.

The clergy were unanimous against “baby factories” and scientists “playing God” – but the issue was overtaken in the headlines by women’s rights, feminism, industrial abuses of the environment (Earth Day), fossil fuels and materialism. Climate change, and income and wealth inequality battles were on the way.

In August 1998, I hosted a PepsiCo dinner for the Scottish scientists from the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) who had just cloned the first mammal from an adult somatic cell, the famous Dolly the Sheep. Dolly was born on July 5, 1996, and the great controversy this time was “designer babies.” As I recall, they suspected the Koreans would be the first to attempt humans, but the only ones I’ve read about are pigs, deer, horses and bulls.

I think Dolly died just before her seventh birthday from a lung disease – living about half as long as hoped. I assume little Louise Brown must have 5 to 10 million IVF cousins by now.

Science marches on, despite public opinion polls.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

We Should Let Geniuses Do What Geniuses Do

This signed photograph of Thomas Alva Edison, taken sometime around 1910, realized nearly $3,900 at an April 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Thomas Alva Edison was awarded about 1,100 patents in the United States and more than double that worldwide.

They are generally grouped into categories that include electric power, telegraphy/telephony, recorded sounds, batteries, cement and motion pictures. His practice of keeping meticulous records to protect his intellectual property became the “gold standard” for future scientists, engineers and inventors in general.

Naturally, he made a lot of money, which proved useful when some of his ideas turned out to be expensive commercial failures. At times, he appeared to lack practical sense or perhaps he lacked the “Steve Jobs gene” when it involved customer preference. Another more plausible explanation is that he simply did not care, period.

One of the more interesting examples is his refusal to adopt the concept of movie theaters (people might sneak in without paying), so he held out for hand-crank, peep-show boxes. In 1908, he confidently predicted that airplanes had no viable future (the Wright brothers disagreed).

Then he became mesmerized by the possibilities for concrete and formed the Edison Portland Cement Company and built a huge factory. By 1907, Edison was the fifth-largest cement producer in the world and had four dozen patents to make a better cement, some of which was used to build Yankee Stadium.

But his abiding passion was to fill the world with cement houses.

The concept was to pour concrete into giant molds to form walls and floors, followed by baths, sinks, cabinets, toilets and even picture frames. A four-man team could build a new house every two days for $1,200 (one-third the cost of traditional structures).

The concept was scheduled to be showcased at a cement industry convention in 1912 in New York. However, when the show opened, the Edison exhibit was empty and Thomas Edison never discussed the issue publicly. There was also no word on the fate of the cement piano that was scheduled to be exhibited.

He was now interested in modernizing war and casually predicted he would be able to induce comas in enemy troops through the use of “electrically charged atomizers.” It is not clear how this idea was abandoned. He also worked on a plan to build giant electromagnets to catch enemy bullets in flight and then “return to sender.” It was another mysterious project that was abandoned.

One last example was a heavy investment in an automated general store where customers would insert coins into slots and then bags of coal, onions, nails or potatoes would come sliding down the chute. The system never worked. It never came close to working.

If you believe in reincarnation, then there is a good chance Thomas Edison is back. This time his name is Jeff Bezos, who had a nutty idea about selling books over the internet and now owns a major print newspaper and is in a race to conquer outer space, since NASA has scaled back. Elon Musk has managed to find time to enter the rocket business, too, while he tinkers with electric cars and batteries.

Our country seems to be blessed when it comes to producing geniuses. Let’s hope the government doesn’t put up too many regulations or red tape as we go hurtling into the future.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Despite Cataclysms, Life Continues – But How Did It All Begin?

Remains from the Late Triassic, like this skull plate section from a Metoposaur, routinely are offered at auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Scientists generally assume the planets were formed by the accretion of dust and gas in a cosmic cloud, but the length of time this process takes is hard to estimate. Our little orb acquired its present size about 4.5 billion years ago (some use 4.6) and life originated about 2 billion years ago. We don’t know how it got started or if it exists elsewhere, but we do know that life goes on (so far).

A recent book, The Worst of Times by Paul B. Wignall, examines the extinction of life with the most notable events dubbed “The Big 5.” The largest one occurred at the end of the Permian Period – 252 million years ago – when 95 percent of all animals and one-third of insect species went extinct. It was the closest all us earthlings have come to total obliteration.

The next mass extinction was 210 million years ago at the end of the Triassic Period. This time, 70 percent to 75 percent of all life vanished.

Despite these and other cataclysms, the simple fact that life is so abundant demonstrates the difficulty in ending it. This may be the first time in our history that the power to eradicate life ourselves exists. Hopefully, we will be wise enough to avoid this.

One interesting observation is that for the first 99 percent of human history, we didn’t do much more than survive and procreate. Then a remarkable but still unexplained era began, when people all over the world discovered farming, writing, architecture, irrigation and even governance.

We call this the Neolithic Revolution. Scientists can tell us where it happened and when, but they cannot explain precisely why.

The puzzling aspect is that it happened among people who had no idea that others in distant places were doing precisely the same things. Farming was started independently seven times – China, New Guinea, the Middle East, the Andes, the Amazon basin, Mexico and West Africa – all without any possibility of shared contact.

When Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico, he found roads, canals, palaces, courts, markets, irrigation works, kings, priests, art, music and books – all independent of similar developments on other continents.

It is tempting to think of this as a global lightbulb event, but most developments involve long periods of trial and error. The tempo of progress has been unpredictable and erratic. Clearly, there was no master plan, yet humans conquered the disadvantages of geographic isolation, variable conditions and diverse cultures.

Contrast that with today’s billions of people constantly communicating, replicating and innovating. The world has become very small in comparison. The rate of change and increase in knowledge is directly proportional to the increase in Internet connectivity.

NASA has defined “life” as 1. Metabolize + 2. Reproduce + 3. Evolve = Life. Now if we could just discover how it started.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

What’s the Incentive for the Further Exploration of Titan?

Chesley Bonestell’s oil on board Saturn Viewed from Titan, circa 1952, realized $77,675 at a May 2010 Heritage auction. Bonestell’s paintings are credited with helping to inspire the U.S. space program.

By Jim O’Neal

In addition to mighty Jupiter, there are three outer planets: Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. Astronomers generally call them gas giants, though they consist mostly of liquid and have solid cores.

The four have a lot in common including numerous moons, deep stormy atmospheres and rings that consist of rock or ice flakes. Today, we take a brief look at one of them, Saturn, since we’ve gained a lot of valuable scientific information about it in the past 10-plus years.

For starters, it is the second-largest planet (after Jupiter) and about 10 times the size of Earth’s diameter. It shines like a bright yellow star and its most famous feature is a magnificent ring system that is easily seen with a common telescope.

What makes Saturn even more interesting is information gathered from the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet since 2004. On Jan. 14, 2005, a probe from Cassini landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The Huygens probe marked mankind’s first landing on a body in the Outer Solar System.

The mission was to monitor Titan’s atmosphere and surface.

Titan turns out to be one of the most Earth-like worlds we’ve found to date, with a thick atmosphere and organic, rich chemistry. Cassini has revealed that Titan’s surface is shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane (the main component of natural gas). It appears volcano-like with perhaps liquid water under an ice shell playing the role of lava.

It is analogous to a frozen version of Earth … before our cyanobacteria began pumping oxygen into our atmosphere. Scientists speculate there may be a huge liquid ocean beneath the surface. All we would need then would be to find there a few sunken Spanish galleons loaded with gold coins to spark a new numismatic frenzy!

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].