The home planet and race of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. The Vulcans are noted for an almost religious faith in logic, along with lifespans about twice that of humans and limited telepathic abilities. They have green blood, as their blood contains copper instead of iron. They have pointy ears, and can cross-breed with humans.

Of the ten planets of our solar system Vulcan is (or was...) the nearest to the sun. Okay, so maybe there are only nine planets, but Vulcan should have been there. It was discovered by the same tried and true method that was used to find Neptune: Mathematics.

The facts: Uranus doesn't follow the path it should according to Newtonian Physics. Nor does Mercury.

The solution: Both of these facts could be explained by simply adding on two more planets; Neptune and Vulcan. The gravity of these 'new' planets would explain the abnormalities in the orbits of Uranus and Mercury.

After a time, it was discovered that Vulcan doesn't exist quite as much as it should. Mercury's orbit is actually a 'straight path' -- thru bent space. The gravity of the sun is so strong that it warps the space around it, making Mercury seem to wobble in its orbit. Newton had no idea... but Einstein's theory of gravity has cleared things up. So Vulcan has been made redundant, and has been discarded as a mathematical construct.

Occasionally a 'ghost planet' is seen in close orbit around the sun, but this is apparently due more to humans and their imaginations than any actual rocks in space. The last sighting of Vulcan was in the early 70s. Current belief is that Vulcan really and truly doesn't exist.


However, there is another planet Vulcan. In the Star Trek universe, it is the planet on which the Vulcan Race lives. It was discovered/invented by Gene Roddenberry, and it resides in a completely different star system from Earth and Sol. Both the planet and the race of Vulcan are famous primarily because of Spock, and important character in the Star Trek universe.

Many people would hold that this planet Vulcan is also imaginary.

But! Scientists have recently found a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani. This is the star that some Star Trek fans claim that the Vulcan's home planet orbits around. It is most likely not an M class planet, and therefor not the *ahem* real Vulcan. It is also worth noting that Gene Roddenberry himself believes that the Vulcan race actually comes from 40 Eridani, not Epsilon Eridani. But, it does really exist, so we'll cut it some slack.



There is also a town in Alberta, Canada called Vulcan (Vulcan is also the name of the county). It is most notable for its small (9.4488 Meters long) Constitution Class Starship (Vulcan Starship FX6-1995-A). Despite the starship, it was named after the Greek god, not the Star Trek character/race/planet.




Thanks to locke baron for catching a factual error, and Space.Com for providing some important facts in the first place.

Vulcan is the hypothetical closest planet to the sun. It has been "discovered" several times in the last 150 years, but each time it has been disproven.

Vulcan was first speculated in 1859 when when an an amatuer astronomer spotted the "planet" orbiting the sun. The astronomer (Lescarbault), reported this "planet" to Urbain Le Verrier (a French mathematician and astronomer), who named the planet "Vulcan". This first incarnation of Vulcan was said to be orbiting at an inclination of 5.3 to 7.3 degrees with a longitude of 183 degrees, and was said to have taken 270 minutes to traverse the visible disc of the sun. Le Verrier took this data and computed that Vulcan was a planet having 1/17th of the mass of Mercury, with and orbital period of 19 days 7 hours at a mean distance of .1427 au from the sun.

In early 1860 Le Verrier and J.C. Adams postulated that the orbital variations of Mercury could be explained by an intra-mercurial planet or asteroid belt. He had already successfully predicted Neptunes position with this same theory, so the astronomy world was eager to see if Vulcan really did exist. Le Verrier's Vulcan from the previous year was not large enough to account for Mercurys orbital variation, but the scientific community speculated that it was one of several planets, or possibly an asteroid belt. Unfortunately these "planets" would only be able to be observed during a total eclipse, or when they passed in front of the sun.

In the following months several astronomers "discovered" a total of 24 "objects" orbiting the sun in two distinct orbits. One belt with an orbital period of 38 days, and another with a period of 26 days. Most of these objects were observed by Professor Wolf at the Sunspot Data Center in Zurich, but several other astronomers backed up his claims.

In the years following many astronomers played "hide and go seek" with Vulcan. Nothing was observed during the total eclipse of 1860. Then a "round spot" was found in 1875 that seemed to be a part of Wolf's group of objects. This "dot" was photographed from two different locations in Europe. During the solar eclipse of 1878 observers saw not one but two "small planets", but neither of these "planets" had any relation to all the previous Vulcans that had been observed.

Then no one saw Vulcan ever again. It was searched for during every eclipse for the next 40 years, but it was never again observed. The General Theory of Relativity later explained Mercury's orbital variations without need for any inner planets. But it was never explained what all those astronomers were looking at before, comets, asteroids, and stars have all been used as explanations. Modern theory suggests that Vulcan may have been an asteroid or series of asteroids that were not in any sort of regular orbit (and were not even inside of Mercury's orbit at all).

Today the whole idea of Vulcan has been shelved. The last time anyone seriously considered the idea of an intra-mercurial planet was in 1971 when several objects were observed close to the sun during an eclipse. These were later thought to have been faint comets that were falling into the sun.

The Avro Vulcan was a British military aircraft built by the Manchester-based company of A.V. Roe. Designed and test-flown in the early 1950's, the Vulcan was a delta-winged, long-range bomber powered by four Rolls-Royce jet engines that had a five-man crew, a range of 1500 nautical miles, an operating ceiling of 50,000 ft. and a payload of 10,000 lbs.

The Vulcan had its test flight on August 31st, 1952 and the first production plane flew in 1955.

The aircraft satisfied the RAF's prime objective in the 1950's: Having the capability to deliver nuclear bombs to distant targets, thereby keeping Britain in the exclusive club of 'nuclear powers'. The high operating ceiling and distinctive, anti-flash, all-white paint scheme both hinted at the Vulcan's nuclear role. Later models reverted to a more typical camouflage scheme when the aircraft's nuclear 'baton' was passed on to the Royal Navy's submarine-based Polaris missile in 1969. After this, the Vulcan adopted more low-level flying roles with conventional, (i.e. non-nuclear), weaponry.

One interesting piece of trivia is that Vulcans were used by Rolls-Royce as the testbed for engine development for the world's most famous delta-winged aircraft: Concorde.

The last RAF Vulcan squadron was disbanded in 1984. In nearly 40 years of service, the Vulcan bomber saw action just once, during the Falklands War, when they flew over 8,000 miles from Ascension Island to the Falklands - at the time, the longest bombing sorties in the history of warfare.


Sources:
http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/mongsoft/vulclink.htm
http://www.xl426.com/vhisavro.htm
In the SF world of Classic Star Trek, the Vulcans are an alien race which, surprisingly, is capable of interbreeding with humans despite vastly different biologies. The Classic Star Trek character Spock is a hybrid with this race -- half-Human and half-Vulcan.

Vulcans are known for their devotion to Logic as the guiding principle behind all moral and personal decisions, a philosophy similar to Zen Buddhism in its denial of emotions but different in that Vulcan philosophy prizes social duty whereas Buddhism views social duty as one of the worldly temptations which must be transcended to achieve detachment and the state of being known as nirvana. Vulcans are also mystics, as their telepathy provides them with verifiable scientific evidence of the soul.

Vulcan blood systems apparently use hemocyanin instead of hemoglobin. Hemocyanin is copper-based instead of iron-based like hemoglobin and found only among mollusks and arthropods on Earth. However, whereas hemocyanin is blue not red, Vulcan copper-based blood is green.

In Star Trek, the Vulcans fill the SF/fantasy niche of the elder brother race.

Vulcan is the largest cast metal* statue in the world. It is located on Red Mountain in Birmingham, Al. Some notable features include the fact that it is bare assed, the giant rocket pop which it raises over the city for all to see, and the fact that it isn't there right now.

As for the bare assed thing, one can only guess why, but Vulcan is positioned such that it moons the city of Homewood, a large suburb directly south of Birmingham. Homewood (according to local legend anyhow) unsuccessfully sued to have Vulcan face the other way. Frontal areas are covered by his work apron.

For indeed, Vulcan has been at work, with his anvil hammer beside him and raising a spearhead to the sun to inspect. Only, in the early 80's, the city put giant neon lights on the spearhead. If the lights are green, it means that there have been no deaths in traffic accidents in Birmingham that day; if the lights are red, it means people did die. With the lights attached, it looks like a rocket pop, but with only one flavor instead of three. During Operation Desert Storm, all the lights were changed to yellow, to go along with the yellow ribbon thing. Certain less creative people think the spearhead plus lights looks like a dildo.

The problem with giant iron statues with giant arms hanging over residential areas of the city (and supported on the interior by iron) is that iron rusts. Recently, it was determined that the interior supports were weakened to the point that there was a significant risk of the arms falling off and crushing homes. So now the whole statue is disassembled and being refurbished.


I did a cursory search for information and found out some of the following:

Vulcan was created for the 1904 St. Louis World Fair (Subject of Take me to Saint Louis). Vulcan was chosen as the subject matter because of the correlation to Birmingham's steel industry, at the height of its boom at the turn of the 20th century. He measures 56 feet tall, and weighs in at over 120,000 pounds. The funding for this undertaking was provided mainly by the Kiwanis, not by the city. After the world fair, he was supposed to be given a park, but various civic groups objected to his bare ass, and only the state fairgounds would take him in.

In the state fairgrounds Vulcan was used primarily as a meeting place and a form of advertisement. At different times his spearhead was replaced with a pickle jar and a Coca-Cola bottle, and his bare ass had a pair of Liberty Blue Jeans painted on.

Sooner or later (ca 1936), his thumb fell off, and that set in motion the repairs that ultimately ended with him having his own park on top of Red Mountain.


* I was incorrect when previously I stated it was the largest wholly iron statue in the world, although it may well be. Right now it's in pieces in a warehouse, so it doesn't really count anyway, does it?

All the factual information is taken from the web address www.bham.net/vulcan/ with the notable exception that the repairs are underway now, and the article on bham.net was written before that.

- Robert Goddam

A Roman deity, possessing a priest and a festival called the Vulcanalia, which took place on 23 August. He was said to have been introduced to Rome by Titus Tatius, but there was a tradition which attributes the construction of his first shrine to Romulus, from the spoils of war taken from an enemy. During the festival of Vulcan, little fish and often other animals were sometimes thrown into the fire. These offerings were supposed to represent human lives and they were offered to Vulcan in order to preserve lives. He does not have any specific legend attached to him and has been identified with Hephaestus. However, Vulcan was sometimes said to be the father of Cacus, or of Caeculus, or even of the mythical king Servius Tullius (more usually considered to be the son of the household god of Lar).

Below the Parthenon in Athens, there is a large open area, which once housed shrines and temples to every conceivable diety in the ancient world. This is the area to which the Apostle Paul referred while speaking on the Areopagus in Acts 17, when he said "Men of Athens, my own eyes tell me that you are in all respects an extremely religious people. For as I made my way here and looked at your shrines I noticed one altar on which were inscribed the words, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." Today, most of these shrines and temples are destroyed, but the Athenian temple to Vulcan still stands.

{E2 DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY}

Table of Sources:
- Varro, De Ling. Lat. 5, 74; 83ff.; 6, 20
- Macrob. Sat. 1, 12, 18
- Pliny, NH 16, 236; 36, 204
- Plutarch, Romulous 24, 5
- Virgil, Aen. 7, 679; 8, 190ff.
- Paul. ex. Fest. p. 38M.
- Ovid, Fasti 6, 637
- H. J. Rose, Journal of Roman Studies 1933, p. 46ff.

Vul"can (?), n. [L. Vulcanus, Volcanus: cf. Skr. ulka a firebrand, meteor. Cf. Volcano.] Rom. Myth.

The god of fire, who presided over the working of metals; -- answering to the Greek Hephaestus.

 

© Webster 1913.

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