Science: Oil Rays

Geologists have squabbled for a century about the origin of petroleum. Last week M.I.T.'s Technology Review discussed a novel theory.

Most experts agree that petroleum was formed from organic remains which accumulated on the sea floor. The mystery: How was it done? Almost all organic substances contain oxygen, while petroleum is largely hydrocarbons, compounds of carbon and hydrogen only. Chemists have been unable to decide how the oxygen was eliminated. Some thought that deep-down bacteria did it (TIME, Dec. 17, 1945), but others politely said no.

Newest theory: blame radioactivity. Many rocks are slightly radioactive, shooting thin trickles of gamma rays through themselves...

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