Tag Archives: Bode’s Law

Bode’s Law

Before we begin today’s VERITAS a little quote that both inspires and amuses :

        If this world were good for nothing else ,
        it is atleast a fine subject for speculation

Today we are going to see an example of scientific guessing and how scientists sometimes guess at an answer,see if it works and then try to find a theory that explains it .

Scientists since Kepler wondered about a formula that could predict the spacing between planets in the Solar System . Then in  1778 J.E Bode guessed at a theory . To find the ratio  of distance between planets do this :

Take the sequence of numbers :

0 3 6 12 24 ….

Add 4 to each number and divide by 10 to get :

.4  .7  1  1.6  2.8  5.2  10.0  19.6  38.8

Now these are the approx distance of planets from the sun in terms of Astronomical Units . ie if you take the distance of earth from the
sun as 1 AU( Astronomical Unit ) then Mercury’s distance is .4 AU . Venus .7 AU . Earth : 1AU . Mars 1.6 AU etc.


This comes REALLY close to the actual distances . And not only that , this theory predicted something too  . Jupiter is at 5.2 AU .
Mars is at 1.6 AU . So what is between them ? at 2.8 AU . The Astronomers searched and found the Asteroid belt at 2.8 AU !!!!!!!!!
WOW !!! Also this theory predicted a planet at 19.6 AU . And much later Uranus was discovered !!! cool aint it

But this theory does not work for Neptune and Pluto ! Which led some Astronomers to reject the Bode law . Other Astronomers suggest that
Neptune and Pluto were one planet earlier and that planet followed the Bode law 🙂

Nobody knows if this theory has any scientific explanation . Or is it just a mathematical coincidence.


A similar case of “scientific numerology” happened when in 1885 a Swiss Mathematician proposed a numerical theory that worked for the spectral series of Hydrogen . Later Neils Bohr used the quantum theory to predict exactly the same spectrum series . This series is name after the same Swiss Mathematician J.Balmer and is called the Balmer Series . What was a guess earlier is now a law .

It is funny how nature plays games with us and then gives  subtle hints to help us understand why she did what she did 🙂


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Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.