MODERATOR'S NOTE: What started two years ago as a small e-mail list
with some 30 members has now grown into an international network with
600+ subscribers from around the world. Just as the numbers of list
members have increased, the focus of interests and the issues of debate
have widened. This is reflected both in the multitude of contributions
by list members as well as in the broadening range of topics covered on
the CCNet.

In addition, the recent introduction of the "Letters to the Moderator"
seems to have further stimulated communication among subscribers.
This is very welcome. However, not all of us are similarly happy about
the direction the CCNet has taken in recent months. This is also true
with regard to the moderator. Given that I am still relatively
unexperienced in moderating such a large scholarly online forum (with
all its inherent debates, controversies and demands), I am just as
uncertain about how best to maintain the scientific quality,
intellectual inspiration and thought-provocing intention of this
network. It would thus appear that, after two years of existence, a
re-assessment of the current CCNet format, its contents and its future
structure is a desideratum. As mentioned some days ago, I intend to
post an electronic questionnaire on these and other issues in due
course. It will be the main aim of this exercise to listen to the
ideas and suggestions of subscribers so that the network can improve to
be highly informative, intellectually stimulating and extremely
research friendly.

Subscribers are therefore kindly asked to wait with their comments,
suggestion and ideas until the questionnaire will be circulated next

Benny J Peiser

P.S. SOME GOOD NEWS: All those of you who feel that there are too many
(or too many irrelevant) "letters" circulated on the CCNet will welcome
a major change which will be introduce as of next week: list members
who only wish to receive CCNet DIGEST can unsubscribe from receiving
"Letters to the Moderator" (see next week's survey for details).


    Sir Arthur C Clarke

(2) JANUARY 0, 2000/2001
    Alan W. Harris <>

    Chris Aikman <>

    David Morrison <>

    David W. Hughes <>

    Christian Gritzner <>

    Bob Kobres <>

    John Michael <>

    Timo Niroma <>


From Sir Arthur C Clarke

Dear Benny,

I know what GRB's really are - part of an on-going vermin extermination

I enjoy skimming through CCNet Letters, but sometimes wish they were

I now receive so much information via email that I've often considered
disconnecting myself - apropos of which, I've just written a short
piece of fiction which I'm about to send my agents.

Keep up the good work!

All best,

                         Sir Arthur
                         27 Jan '99

PS: Did you know what caused the Dark Ages? The Y1K problem.

(2) JANUARY 0, 2000/2001

From Alan W. Harris <>


>"Because the Western calendar starts with Year 1, and not Year 0, the
>21st century and the third millennium do not begin until Jan. 1,
>2001," Clarke said.

Dear Benny,

I hasten to point out that those who choose to overlook the lack of
zero in our year count and celebrate the new millennium in 2000 should,
for consistency, realize that we similarly lack a day zero in our
monthly day count. So they should properly celebrate at the moment of
January 0, 2000, not January 1. That's one day sooner than "new year's
eve" as generally recognized. I think I'll do both, or all three, just
to be sure I don't miss a thing.


Alan Harris


From Chris Aikman <>

As one of the multitude who are growing a bit weary with the debate as
to when the next millennium begins, let me point out the obvious, that
the matter rests entirely on the reference point from which one starts
counting. Just because the Romans had no mathematical concept of zero
and no symbol for it does not mean that zero as a mathematical concept
does not exist. Even though there is no zero year in the common AD/BC
calendrical system, compilers of tables of solar and lunar eclipses
have for a long time used an astronomical calendar where AD dates are
represented as +, 1 BC is the year zero, and 2 BC the year -1, etc.
This allows the time interval between positive and negative years to be
calculated by simple algebraic subtraction. So a calendrical system
with a year zero does exist and is quite respectable, even if not
commonly referred to. For positive dates there is no need to
distinguish it from the common system. The Romans were great
militarists and engineers, but lousy mathematicians. Let us not be
bound eternally by their shortcomings.

                Chris Aikman


From David Morrison <>

You wrote:

The areas of research interest and scientific topics discussed on the
CCNet are still the same as those listed some two years ago:

* The British School of Coherent Catastrophism
* Punctuated Evolution and the Mass Extinctions Debate
* Historical Catastrophism & Civilisation Collapse
* Cosmic Impacts and the Origins of Life
* Assessing the Impact Hazard
* Towards Planetary Defense & a Planetary Civilisation
* The social and cultural Implications of Neo-Catastrophism on
  Science, Philosophy & Religion

I think this is a good list, but in fairness to your readers you should
note that you do not consistently follow your own guidelines. If you
did, you would note be posting items relating to global warming or the
designation of Pluto as a planet or  planetary protection (e.g. biological
back-contamination) or solar wind implantation in meteorites or Mars
exploration strategies or discovery of external planetary systems or
properties of the sun as a star, to name just a few of the topics that have
appeared (some of them multiple times) in the past few months.  I'd vote
for dropping these and keeping with the original purpose of the CCNet!

David Morrison, NASA Ames Research Center


From David W. Hughes <>

Wednesday 27th January, 1999

Dear Benny,

The latest comments about Pluto brought to mind the first chapter of a
wonderful book by Martin Harwit, called Cosmic Discovery: The search,
scope and heritage of astronomy (Harvest Press, 1981, ISBN 0 7108 0089

Harwit talks of an astronomical zoo. Each cage contains a different
kind of celestial animal. So there is one cage for terrestrial planets,
one for jovian planets, one for comets, one for main belt asteroids,
one for 'things in 2:3 resonances with Neptune', one for 'big
satellites of Jovian planets' and so on.  The chapter examines the
whole ethos of astronomical classification.

I am convinced that Pluto should be taken out of the jovian planet

I think we are at a stage in science at which we are not sure what
Pluto is, but have clear opinions about what it is not.

Having taken Pluto out of a planetary cage we are not, however, forced
to make Pluto share a cage with something else.  So it does not have to
join the  'big satellites of Jovian planets', or the 'Kuiper-Edgeworth
belt objects'. Pluto might be unique. May be our best bet is to put it
in a cage all by itself until we have been there, had a good look
and really discovered its characteristics. As it stands, it is just an
unidentified flying object.

All the best,

Dr David  W. Hughes


From Christian Gritzner <>

Dear Benny,

recently I found in the news magazine FOCUS (No. 53, 28. Dez. 1998) the
German cinema Top Ten of 1998, including the two NEO movies of that year:

(Rank 1: Titanic)
Rank 2: Armageddon, 5,281,763 visitors
Rank 6: Deep Impact, 3,080,506 visitors

A lot of people have seen these movies here! It must be similar in
other countries. We should use the chance to bring the NEO topic to the
public and to the decision makers in saying: "Maybe you have seen
Armageddon or Deep Impact, but reality is different!"

Greetings from Potsdam,

Dr.-Ing. Christian Gritzner
EUROSPACE Technische Entwicklungen GmbH
Potsdam Office
Lindenstr. 6
D-14467 Potsdam, Germany
Tel.: +49-331-284-3305 (FAX: -3434)


From Bob Kobres <>

A bit more about the value of ancient observations, as well as other
non-planet associations with the number SEVEN, from Judith Kingston

[Page 92-93]:
Almost all of the astromantic texts which speak of meteors, etc., are
of a type also known as celestial omens. An example of such a text is
the following (Thompson, 1900, 202 obv. lines 5 to 9):

If a shooting star flashes (as bright) as a light or as a torch from
east to west and disappears (on the horizon): the army of the enemy
will be slain in its onslaught.

To those trained in the physical sciences, such a description may seem
hopelessly subjective and unrelated to reality. However, a closer
acquaintance with omen literature will show the reverse to be true.

The basic ideas underlying the collection of omens are that history may
repeat itself, and that the gods are speaking to mankind in one way or
another (Grayson arid Lambert, 1964, 9-10). Therefore, with reference
to the celestial omen cited above, it was apparently observed at one
point in history that a shooting star flashed from east to west and, as
a matter of fact, the enemy troops were slain in battle. These two
events were thus connected and preserved as a message from the gods
that could also be true for the future.

It seems obvious that there was every reason for the Mesoptomians to
observe the world carefully and candidly in this kind of scheme, and
that their efforts to connect cause and effect, indeed, exemplify the
same intellectual process operating in science today. In addition,
since omens were not written to glorify the king, an historical
reliability superior to that of other forms of cuneiform literature can
be expected (Finkelstein, 1963, 463; cf. Biggs, 1967, 117ff.). As it
turns out, the amount of specific information contained in celestial
omens which might contribute to, say, political or economic history, is
miniscule. But the numerous descriptions of celestial phenomena are an
important chapter in the history of science, and my approach in this
paper is that, regardless of how bizarre a description may be, the
omens are treated first of all as descriptions of real events.

It is beyond my capabilities to assess completely the historical
reliability of every text. Nevertheless, the following would seem to
indicate that actual events are described in most cases. The fact that
omens relating to meteors, etc., are few in number, compared to omens
pertaining to the sun, moon, eclipses, fixed stars, etc., compares well
with the realities of nature. Almost all of the phenomena described fit
in very easily with descriptions of similar phenomena throughout

Caution must be exercised, however, in considering lists or pairs of
omens in which one differs from its predecessor only by a word or brief
phrase. While in all probability an actual event was the basis for at
least one omen of such a list, it is likely that the rest of the omens
were the invention of a scribe who was trying to cover all reasonable
possibilities (Oppenheim, 1964, 211). Some obvious examples of these
less-than-historical omens are not difficult to recognize in the
following Sections, see especially pages 102 to 106.

Omen literature in general was subjected to collection and
systematization, beginning sometime in the second millennium B.C. The
systematization of these collections "represents high scholarly
achievement" (Oppenheim, 1964, 210). Many of the celestial omens
dealing with meteors, etc., occur scattered in various omen
collections. The majority are from a huge collection of ca. 7,000
omens, called Enuma Anu Enlil. This is translated as, "When Anu and
Enlil," and refers to the opening phrase of the collection. A small
number of celestial omens occur in texts known as namburbu texts, which
describe magical procedures for avoiding potential evil, in particular,
the evil indicated by an ominous sign. Other texts concerning meteors,
etc., occur in letters to kings from court astromancers (8th and 7th
centuries B.C.), in commentaries, prayers, omens from dreams, and other
miscellaneous categories.

Since most of the meteor texts are omens, they exhibit the
characteristic structure of omens, which consists of two distinct
halves. The first half is the protasis or "case,"  the second half is
the apodosis or "consequence." This structure can be seen clearly in
the omen quoted above. There is almost never a "logical" connection
between the protasis and apodosis (Oppenheim, 1962, 284). In addition,
there is rarely any context for an omen, i.e., there is not necessarily
any connection with preceding or following omens. Therefore the useful
material, from the point of view of meteoritics, consists of isolated
sentences and phrases. Since many of the tablets are broken at the
point of the apodosis, it is of some slight comfort to reflect that the
information that is lacking was perhaps not of great moment.

[Page 106-107]

The texts which deal with meteor showers and comets are not very
lengthy. In a scribe's collection of prodigies which predicted the
downfall of the dynasty of Agade, it is remarked that "many stars were
falling from the sky" (CAD K 48b). A broken omen text says, "If the
stars (in) their fall are many [     ]" (von Soden, 1959+, 657 sub
miqtu). A possible reference to meteors falling  repeatedly  occurs  in
a text translated below, p. 121 (Virolleaud, 1905+; Supp. 2, 65 line
6). Two lines from another section of Enuma Anu Enlil (Virolleaud,
1905+, Adad 17), where the context mentions stars, possibly refer to a
meteor shower from a bolide:

33. [If Adad thunders and seven (stars) fall: that means, they burst
into flames, (no apodosis given).
38. [If . . . seven of them fall down: bad weather will destroy the

Other lines in this section look interesting, but are broken and
difficult to translate. The fact that a number of stars are mentioned
may indicate that originally a meteor shower was observed. The repeated
use of the exact number, seven, is open to additional interpretation,
however. There is another text which has been translated as referring
to a shower of shooting stars (Thompson, 1906, 10,18), but this
interpretation is called into question by a more recent translation of
a similar text (cf. Landsberger, 1934, 161, and CAD K 46b). An Assyrian
medical text deals with a disease of the eyes in which the eyes seem to
be full of all kinds of things. The incantation commands these things
collectively to "rain down like (shooting) stars!" (CAD Z 42b), meaning
perhaps to leave the eyes.

A comet seems to be clearly mentioned in this text (CAD S 75a):

if a star which has a beak in front (and) a tail in back is seen and
illuminates(?) the sky like a meteor (sallummu), (variant) like the
glow of the stars (me-sih MUL.MES), (explanation) sallummu = glow of a

This text is an astromantic commentary designed to explain more about
sallummu than to elaborate on the comet. Nevertheless, the reference to
a ''beak in front" seems to differentiate the comet from a bolide,
which, as we have seen, can also have a tail. A photograph of a modern
version of a "beak" can be found in Middlehurst and Kuiper (1963, Plate
4 following page 602). In another cuneiform text (CAD Z 102a) the same
phrase describing the beak and tail of a comet is found twice, but with
little else in the way of context. I cannot evaluate the remarks by
Weidner' (1923/24, 205) about additional references to comets.

It is probable that the word BIBBU sometimes refers to comets. See the
discussion in Section VI.

BTW: I've made Kugler's "Sibyllinischer Sternkampf und Phaethon in
Naturgeschichtlicher Beleuchtung" available in .PDF file form at:

Also, if you haven't noticed, I've reformatted the CCC-archive so all
files are now in a separate directory (bobk/ccc) and are daily (so
smaller). Each will be named: cc[month][day][year].html--for example:
The menu is still at:


Bob Kobres


From John Michael <>

Dear Benny,

In LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR (22. Jan. 1999) Steve Zoraster asked
whether the figures (geoglyphs) drawn on the Nazca Plain in Peru
might have any relationship to cosmic impacts?

The figures seem to be representations on the ground of the
constellations as seen and symbolised by their ancient builders. A
survey done by an American astronomer, Dr Phylis Pitluger (if that is
the correct spelling) showed that the 'Spider' geoglyph not only
represented the constellation of Orion, but that the straight lines
that pass through and next to the drawing mark the shifting of the
stars of Orion due to the precession of the equinoxes.

Given the proliferation of geoglyphs on the Nazca Plain that
symbolised to their builders the various constellations as seen from
those latitudes, and the even greater number of straight lines and
trapeziod drawings that cut through them, they would possibly provide
fruitful research opportunities for those looking for evidence of
observation of meteor streams associated with cosmic impacts in South
America during those times.

As part of our 'geoglyphs project' I have put some aerial photographs
of the 'Spider of Orion' and other geoglyphs on the Nazca Plain at:

Hope this is helpful,

Sefydliad Morien Institute


From Timo Niroma <>

Dear Benny,

Re. Duncan Steel's "Marking Time". Finland was part of Sweden, when it
began to use the Gregorian calendar in 1753. After the war in 1808-09
Finland was taken from Sweden and enclosed in the Russian Empire with
great autonomy. Finland retained its Gregorian calendar throughout the
whole autonomy from 1809 until its independence in 1917 (and of course
after that).

There is absolutely no problem with the calendar in Finland after 1753.

Timo Niroma

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