CCNet 21/2003 - 24 February 2003
"For Newton, there would be no Apocalypse now. His prophetic
chronologies confirm this apocalyptic quiescence toward the present.
Although reluctant to set dates, when he did the Millennium was put
off to no sooner than the twentieth century. This was in direct contrast
to then common views that the end would occur in the eighteenth century. In
one manuscript he set the end 'in the year of Lord [sic] 2060', adding: "I
mention this period not to assert it, but only to shew that there is
little reason to expect it earlier, & thereby to put a stop to the
rash conjectures of Interpreters who are frequently assigning the time of
the end, & thereby bringing the sacred Prophecies into discredit as often as
their conjectures do not come to pass. It is not for us to know the times
& seasons wch God hath put in his own breast." Not only did Newton place
the end well beyond his own lifetime, but as he grew older he pushed
the date back further yet."
--Stephen D Snobelen, Newton as Heretic
(1) ASTRIUM COMPLETES ISHTAR MISSION STUDY
NEO Information Centre, 20 February 2003
(2) A FEW THOUGHTS ON MASS EXTINCTIONS
Ron Baalke <email@example.com>
(3) COVERING-UP ASTEROIDS?
NEO Information Centre, 17 February 2003
(4) NEWTON SET 2060 FOR END OF THE WORLD
The Daily Telegraph, 22 February 2003
(5) NEWTON, COMETS AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Sara Schechner <schechn@FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
(6) NEWTON AS HERETIC
Stephen D Snobelen
(7) ERROR IN BBC NEWS ON GIANT IMPACT THEORY
Robin Canup <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(8) RE: IMPACT MEGA-TSUNAMI IN ARGENTINA
Peter Schultz <Peter_Schultz@Brown.edu>
(9) ANARCHY? MOST LIKELY NOT
Pavel Chichikov <email@example.com>
(10) DOOMSDAY AND LOOTING
A J MIMS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(11) THE STUART EVENT
James Warren Ashley <email@example.com>
(13) AND FINALLY: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW CONSPIRACY-THEORISTS TICK, READ THIS
GuluFuture, 23 February 2003
(1) ASTRIUM COMPLETES ISHTAR MISSION STUDY
>From NEO Information Centre, 20 February 2003
The mission, known as ISHTAR (Internal Structure High-resolution Tomography
by Asteroid Rendezvous), could provide vital information needed to develop
strategies to protect the Earth from asteroid threat. Mission scientists
believe the relatively lightweight 420kg satellite will be able to provide
answers to key questions about these mysterious objects that have a long
history of interaction with planet Earth.
The ISHTAR satellite will be the first to probe the interior of an asteroid
whilst also studying surface properties like depth of regolith, surface
geology and spin. Paolo D'Arrigo, Space Science Mission Engineer at Astrium
told the NEO Information Centre, "We are excited about ISHTAR because it is
the first NEO mission concept to not only visit 2 asteroids, but to look
inside using radar technology."
The mission is designed to characterise all the physical parameters of an
asteroid that are key to assessing its impact hazard and develop strategies
for deflecting or destroying it. "Understanding the interior make-up of Near
Earth Asteroids is an essential first step in any future strategy to
mitigate the danger to Earth", said Paolo. "Depending on whether an asteroid
is solid rock or loose rubble, you could make the situation worse if you
used the wrong technique."
(2) A FEW THOUGHTS ON MASS EXTINCTIONS
>From Ron Baalke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Featured Question: A few thoughts on Mass Extinctions
By Madalyn Edwards and Daniella Scalice
NASA Astrobiology Institute
February 19, 2003
Q: Kindly give me an overview of extinction:
(1) Why do extinctions happen?
Extinction is a frightening concept at first glance. Why do life forms that
are vibrant and thriving one minute end up on the cutting room floor the
next? How can magnificent creatures such as dinosaurs be cast as extras
while the common cyanobacteria continue to receive top billing? In truth why
extinction occurs varies greatly. A species may become extinct because the
environment that supports its ecological niche is no longer able to sustain
a rapidly growing population. Or a new predator may stumble upon a juicy
find and wipe out an entire species in one fell swoop.
On a larger scale, numerous species have found themselves on the wrong end
of a bad weather front. Climatic changes have initiated many extinction
events since life first evolved on Earth. Ice ages (glaciation events),
volcanic eruptions, and changes in sea level appear to be the most common
culprits. Since species often selectively adapt to particular environments,
even subtle changes can leave many struggling to survive. Overall this is a
natural process that aligns nicely with the theory of evolution; as one
species faces its last scene another gets ready for its close up.
(2) Examples of mass extinctions? (3) What became extinct?
Officially there have been five big mass extinction events over the past 540
million years. What is often not mentioned is that up to five other mass
extinctions occurred between 650-500 million years ago. These little
publicized events mainly involved microorganisms, and marine animals and
plants. They each took place before the Cambrian Explosion (between 543 and
years ago) during which time life forms on Earth exploded into previously
unseen levels of diversity. These smaller Pre-Cambrian extinctions were
potentially less detrimental than the five main Post-Cambrian events because
there were relatively fewer species on the planet to become extinct.
The Earth has not seen the same type of diversification of life forms since
the Cambrian Explosion, so the percentage of species lost with these five
main extinction events is quite stunning. Between 75-95% of all species were
lost with each extinction event. The ecological niche most commonly affected
by these mass extinctions involved sea dwelling creatures. Slight changes in
temperature, oxygen level, or the sea level itself can and has greatly
affected marine life.
(4) Advantages and disadvantages of extinction?
It is probably quite doubtful that expiring species find any comfort in the
fact there may actually be an advantage to their demise. The general
advantage to an extinction event is that other species are allowed to
proliferate due to the loss of a food source competitor or even a predator.
Case in point: we humans did not start our evolutionary pathway until many
of the large mammals that had dominated the lands became extinct. The
disadvantage to extinction is of course that once a species makes its exit,
there can be no encore performance. In today's world, species that have yet
to be discovered are being lost and their roles in the ecosystem can not be
replaced by just any bit player. The part they played was written for them
and them only. The cost of losing these characters may take years to
(5) Big questions still to be answered on extinction?
The phenomenon of mass extinctions sets the stage for many questions that
have yet to be answered with complete certainty. One big question is whether
there is a cyclical pattern to mass extinction events. Within the fossil
record - an incomplete script at best - there appears to be
a pattern that suggests mass extinction events occur every 26-30 million
years. This pattern is thought to be related to celestial objects such as
comets and meteors which have long been known to travel distinct paths on
very dependable timetables. This could imply that there have been possibly
up to 23 mass extinction events since life first evolved on Earth!
(6) The future about extinction - what might happen - when might it happen -
why might it happen?
Presently, the certain mystery of future mass extinction events has yet to
be solved. Is extinction a predictable phenomenon, or are we at the mercy of
a random catastrophe which will burst onto the scene unannounced and carry
us away with our neighboring species? How
capable are we humans of truly creating a mass extinction, let alone
We are indeed all subject to the uncertainty of cause and effect - will our
candle be snuffed out before we discover how to guard our flame
indefinitely, or will an ill fated breeze extinguish the light of life on
This beautiful blue stage we call home often offers more questions than
(3) COVERING-UP ASTEROIDS?
>From NEO Information Centre, 17 February 2003
Astronomers involved in Near Earth Objects searches are responding to a
suggestion that potentially hazardous asteroids should be kept secret from
the public. The suggestion was made by Dr Geoffrey Sommer, of the Rand
Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and a scientific advisor to the
U.S. Government, who said that in his opinion, secrecy might be the best
option if scientists were ever to discover that a giant asteroid was on
course to collide with Earth. Dr Sommer told the American Association for
the Advancement of Science that "If you can't do anything about a warning,
then there is no point in issuing a warning at all."
Scientists across the world, however, say they are mystified by Dr Sommer's
statements. Dr Alan Fitzsimmons, a leading UK NEO astronomer at Queen's
University, Belfast, and advisor to the NEO Information Centre said
"Observation results are automatically placed on public websites for all to
see and as new observations come in, public websites are automatically
updated every 24 hours for all known NEOs. Governments have no direct
control over this process. Hence they have no possibility of controlling the
Whilst there certainly are scenarios where a potentially hazardous object
would be difficult to deflect, current scientific opinion suggests that
mitigation of an impact hazard is within the capability of current
technology. In fact elements of both NASA and European Space Agency (ESA)
missions have been designed specifically to test techniques that could be
used to avert impacts.
Astronomers point out that if an asteroid or comet is ever found that has a
high probability of colliding with the Earth that the discovery is likely to
be years, if not many tens of years before any predicted collision. Even if
governments wanted to keep a discovery a secret, it would not be secret for
long. "It would be like trying to keep the existence of the Moon secret"
said Dr Matthew Genge, a meteorite scientist at Imperial College, London,
"it is in the sky for everyone to see, sooner or later, and probably sooner,
someone would notice it. No one country has a monopoly on NEO observations."
(4) NEWTON SET 2060 FOR END OF THE WORLD
>From The Daily Telegraph, 22 February 2003
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Sir Isaac Newton, Britain's greatest scientist, predicted the date of the
end of the world - and it is only 57 years away.
His theories about Armageddon have been unearthed by academics from
little-known handwritten manuscripts in a library in Jerusalem.
The thousands of pages show Newton's attempts to decode the Bible, which he
believed contained God's secret laws for the universe.
Newton, who was also a theologian and alchemist, predicted that the Second
Coming of Christ would follow plagues and war and would precede a 1,000-year
reign by the saints on earth - of which he would be one.
The most definitive date he set for the apocalypse, which he scribbled on a
scrap of paper, was 2060.
Newton's fascination with the end of the world, which has been researched by
a Canadian academic, Stephen Snobelen, is to be explored in a documentary,
Newton: The Dark Heretic, on BBC2 next Saturday.
"What has been coming out over the past 10 years is what an apocalyptic
thinker Newton was," Malcolm Neaum, the producer, said.
"He spent something like 50 years and wrote 4,500 pages trying to predict
when the end of the world was coming. But until now it was not known that he
ever wrote down a final figure. He was very reluctant to do so."
Thousands of Newton's papers, which had lain in a trunk in the house of the
Earl of Portsmouth for 250 years, were sold by Sotheby's in the late 1930s.
John Maynard Keynes, the economist, bought many of the texts on alchemy and
theology. But much of the material went to an eccentric collector, Abraham
Yahuda, and was stored in the Hebrew National Library. It was among these
documents that the date was found.
Copyright 2003, The Daily Telegraph
MODERATOR'S NOTE: Malcolm Neaum (the BBC's documentary producer) seems
genuinely surprised about Isaac Newton's religious views. Yet, what is
astonishing about the latest research into Newton's ideas is not that he was
an apocalyptic thinker. We knew that for some time. As a matter of fact,
almost every scholar in 17th century Britain - and the general public as
such - held such views. Just as global warming is today's scientific
hobby-horse of environmental doom-mongers, back then comets and incessant
predictions of celestial catastrophe were considered hard evidence of
mankind's moral aberration and disobedience which were to bring heavenly
vengance and environmental doom upon the sinners themselves. In my view,
something much more interesting comes out of the latest historical research:
An analysis of Newton's 'apocalyptic' manuscripts seem to show that he was
in fact determined to debunk the widely held beliefs about imminent cometary
disaster and the predictions that doomsday were close at hand (see
Snobelen's paper below). His obsessive calculations and the subsequent
pushing back of the apocalypse to the 21st and later to the 23rd and 24th
centuries appear to be aimed at political radicals and cultural pessimists
who prophecised that the world was rapidly going downhill as a result of
what we nowadays might call 'anthropogenic' misbehaviour. Not surprisingly,
Newton's battle against the apocalyptics of his days often reminds me of our
own struggle against doom-merchants of our time. Benny Peiser (for
reference, see also last item below).
(5) NEWTON, COMETS AND THE END OF THE WORLD
>From Sara Schechner <schechn@FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
[posted on HASTRO-L@LISTSERV.WVU.EDU]
While it would not surprise me to find Newton considering possible dates for
the end of the world in the theological manuscripts preserved at Hebrew
University, I would not put more value on them than on Newton's musings
about comets bringing the world to an end. Indeed, I think that Newton had
stronger and longer-held beliefs on comets and the Apocalypse. He had
suspicions about the date of the End being as early as 2255, but was careful
not to publish this.
Newton believed that the sun-grazing comet of 1680 had a period of 575
years. He further believed that this comet on one of its returns would fall
into the sun. While this would have the positive effect of refueling the
sun, the stoked fire would flare up and scorch the earth. This event would
be the Final Conflagration.
In 1725, Newton confided to his nephew Conduitt that "he could not say when
this comet would drop into the sun; it might perhaps have five or six
revolutions more first; but whenever it did, it would so much increase the
heat of the sun, that this earth would be burnt, and no animals in it could
live." That would make the time of the End equal to 1680 + 575x, where x is
an integer. When Conduitt asked Newton why he did not publish this, Newton
responded that he did not deal in conjectures, and he thought he had said
enough about comets in the Principia for people to know his meaning.
Newton also considered the catastrophic effects of a comet colliding with
the earth, and of worlds falling on one another. Edmond Halley and William
Whiston, who were both Newtonians, went more public with versions of these
theories in the 1690s and thereafter.
So, to return to the documentary, I don't know anything about the date of
2060 in Newton's writings or the reports of his contemporaries. 2255 would
be a likelier early date for a Newtonian.
Sara Schechner, Ph.D.
David P. Wheatland Curator
Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Harvard University, Science Center B-6
1 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138
(6) NEWTON AS HERETIC
>From Stephen D Snobelen
Isaac Newton, heretic : the strategies of a Nicodemite
By STEPHEN D. SNOBELEN
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the
Jews: the same came to Jesus by night"
--John 3: 1-2
"A lady asked the famous Lord Shaftesbury what religion he was of.
He answered the religion of wise men. She asked, what was that? He
answered, wise men never tell."
--Diary of Viscount Percival (1730), i, 113
Isaac Newton was a heretic. But like Nicodemus, the secret disciple of
Jesus, he never made a public declaration of his private faith - which the
orthodox would have deemed extremely radical. He hid his faith so well that
scholars are still unravelling his personal beliefs." His one-time follower
William Whiston attributed his policy of silence to simple, human fear and
there must be some truth in this. Every day as a public figure (Lucasian
Professor, Warden - then Master - of the Mint, President of the Royal
Society) and as the figurehead of British natural philosophy, Newton must
have felt the tension of outwardly conforming to the Anglican Church, while
inwardly denying much of its faith and practice. He was restricted by heresy
laws, religious tests and the formidable opposition of public opinion.
Heretics were seen as religiously subversive, socially dangerous and even
morally debased. Moreover, the positions he enjoyed were dependent on public
manifestations of religious and social orderliness. Sir Isaac had a lot to
lose. Yet he knew the scriptural injunctions against hiding one's light
under a bushel. Newton the believer was thus faced with the need to develop
a modus vivendi whereby he could work within legal and social structures,
while fullfilling the command to shine in a dark world. This paper recovers
and assesses his strategies for reconciling these conflicting dynamics and,
in so doing, will shed light on both the nature of Newton's faith and his
agenda for natural philosophy.
As this study attempts to reconstruct Newton's private and public religious
worlds, it has been necessary to do three things. First, I have demanded
more of Newton's manuscripts by expanding the range of theological issues
normally considered and recontextualizing his beliefs against the backdrop
of contemporary radical theologies. I also show that the religious ideals
expressed in his manuscripts often match his actions. Second, I have made
cautious use of the surviving oral tradition, personal written accounts and
evidence of rumour-mongering. Much of this material is used here for the
first time and its value in fleshing out Newton's religious crises and
entanglements will become apparent below. Finally, I have employed a
sociology of heresy as an explanatory tool for Newton's actions. Taken
together, these dynamics help reveal why Newton in public diåered so much
from Newton in private. While the vicissitudes of time and the nature of
such dealings have rendered Newton's heretical private life obscure and
largely invisible, the evidence presented in this paper will allow us to
draw back the curtain a little further on the heterodox conversaziones,
clandestine networks, private manuscripts, coded writing and orthodox
simulation that comprised the strategies of a Nicodemite.
While Whiston was incredulous as to why someone with Newton's knowledge of
the true faith would not announce it to the world, recent historians have
held it unsurprising that Newton should keep quiet in an intolerant age. At
the same time, both Whiston and Newton's biographers agree that the latter's
reluctance to preach openly was the result of fear and concern for his
position in society. While I do outline the restrictions placed on him, I
want to argue that neither of these responses to Newton's dilemma - nor the
common explanation of it - are adequate. It is not enough to conclude that
Newton held his tongue and did so because he was a heretic living in an age
of orthodoxy. While this period was still relatively intolerant, and
although Newton had ample reason to be anxious about exposure, freedom was
increasing and a growing number of dissenters were crafting ways of speaking
out with decreasingly severe repercussions. So too Newton who, I will show,
did not keep his heresy to himself.
This paper will also attempt to counter two misleading constructions: the
portrayal of Newton as a proto-deist on the one hand, and the mollification
of his heresy on the other. I will show that these conØicting approaches
have deep roots that can be traced back to Newton's lifetime and are formed
by the ignorance or suppression of elements of the evidence. The first
interpretation has been presented most recently by Richard Westfall, but its
central features are not new. Part of the problem with this approach is that
Newton has too often been characterized by how his ideas were later used and
adapted by the Enlightenment. Viewed through Voltaire's lens, Newton looks a
lot like a philosophe. But if Newton was an Enlightenment man, he was also a
fundamentalist, as those of this disposition have also represented the great
man as one of their own. The second strategy was first motivated by a desire
to save the British saint from the stain of unorthodoxy in an age when such
propaganda was of great moment. It is epitomized early on by William
Stukeley who, responding to assertions that Newton was a heretic, stated
that `the Church of England intirely claims him as her son, in faith and in
practice '.& It may be possible to excuse Stukeley, who was never given
direct access to Newton's heresy. After viewing the incriminating
manuscripts in the mid-nineteenth century, however, David Brewster chose to
disbelieve his eyes and argue that in fact Newton was a Trinitarian - only
of a different sort.' This trend has lost support of late with the
availability of Newton's theological papers. Nevertheless, Thomas PÆzenmaier
has recently attempted to resurrect Brewster's case.
An important element of my task will be to go beyond these common misreadings,
bowdlerizations and hopeful constructions. Because the evidence is
compelling and since it helps explain Newton's desire to conceal his
beliefs, I want to move in a third direction. Newton was in fact a greater
heretic than previously thought, yet by no means a deist, freethinker or
anti-scripturalist. Doctrinal and liturgical heresy do not necessarily go
hand in hand with these other radicalisms. Here it is important that we
extricate ourselves from the still pervasive rhetoric of the orthodox past.
Dissenters saw their own ideas as true and positively corrective of orthodox
error, not as deviant or subversive.) At the same time, they also
consciously stood apart from those they saw as unbelievers. This process,
therefore, will involve defining Newton's ` theological middle'. That is to
say, Newton was a heretic - but only to the orthodox; he was a theological
dissident ± but he was also a devoted believer. To him, the majority were
astray and only he and the faithful remnant class held to the original
truth. In order to make sense of Newton's faith and actions we must enter
this alternative world. We cannot understand Newton's middle unless we move
beyond the contemporary orthodox commonplace that antitrinitarianism was a
slippery slope to unbelief. A half century is a long time to cling to a
'THE WISE WILL UNDERSTAND': NEWTON, PROPHECY AND THE SECOND REFORMATION
Newton's theological papers reveal that he both desired a further
reformation and thought it providentially inevitable. Yet, although he had
power to influence, he never made any open attempts at reform. According to
Haynes, it was fear of persecution and pressures from orthodoxy that stilled
Newton's tongue, weakened his zeal and prevented him from leading this
return to primitive Christianity. Yet we have just seen how Newton's remnant
theology and distaste of disputes would have limited his evangelization.
Another limitation derives from his interpretation of prophecy. A firm believer in biblical
prophecy, Newton read history with Daniel and Revelation at his side and
with them forecast the end of the age. However, while his antitrinitarian
reading of prophecy had implications for the present, including the
contemporary Church, he did not commentate apocalyptically on events of his
own day. Past history was profoundly shaped by the Most High, the future
would be charged with providential signs, but the present is devoid of
prophetic activity. For Newton, there would be no Apocalypse now. His
prophetic chronologies confirm this apocalyptic quiescence toward the
present. Although reluctant to set dates, when he did the Millennium was put
of to no sooner than the twentieth century. This was in direct contrast to
then common views that the end would occur in the eighteenth century. In one
manuscript he set the end ` in the year of Lord [sic] 2060',
"I mention this period not to assert it, but only to shew that there is
little reason to expect it earlier, & thereby to put a stop to the rash
conjectures of Interpreters who are frequently assigning the time of the
end, & thereby bringing the sacred Prophecies into discredit as often as
their conjectures do not come to pass. It is not for us to know the times &
seasons wch God hath put in his own breast."
Not only did Newton place the end well beyond his own lifetime, but as he
grew older he pushed the date back further yet. He shifted the date for the
onset of the 1260-year apostasy from 607 in the 1670s, to increasingly later
dates that suggested the end would come in the twenty-third or twenty-fourth
The apostasy was prophetically ordained to last for 1260 years, a period of
history he believed would be `of all times the most wicked'. Newton believed
the preaching of the everlasting Gospel to every nation and `ye
establishment of true religion would occur only at or after the fall of
Babylon. In its broadest sense, the apostasy was to last from the time of
the Apostles until the Second Coming of Christ. In what Protestant exegetes
would have viewed as a shocking decentring of the Reformation, he wrote that
the `purity of religion ' had `ever since decreased' from the Apostle's
time, and would continue to `decrease more & more to ye end' and that
because `the Gentiles have corrupted themselves we may expect that God in
due time will make a new reformation'. Indeed, Whiston relates that Newton
had `a very sagacious Conjecture' that the apostasy `must be put a stop to,
and broken to Pieces by the prevalence of Infidelity, for some time, before
Primitive Christianity could be restored '. Only after this ` greatest decay
of religion' would there be `an universal preaching of the Gospel'. In case
there could be any doubt as to the timing of this great event, Newton went on to aærm that ` this is
not yet fulfilled ; there has been nothing done in ye world like it, & therefore it is to
come'.*& No contemporary effort at reformation could pre-empt this plan any
more than one could Æght against God. Furthermore, the message would fall on
deaf ears. A long period of corruption lay ahead.
Frustrated that Newton had not lent his great name to the cause of Primitive
Christianity, after Newton's death Whiston dropped a bombshell. He surmised
that Newton's prophetic notion of `a long future corrupt State of the
Church' might be a discouragement to Newton's `making publick efforts for
the Restoration of Primitive Christianity ', just as Whiston's own
`Expectation of the near approach of the Conclusion of the corrupt State ',
and by consequence the time when Primitive Christianity was to be restored,
greatly encouraged him ` to labour for its Restoration'. For Newton the
growth of infidelity made open evangelization temporarily futile. Although
anxiety over the possibility of exposure must have been a factor, what
Whiston and Haynes interpreted straightforwardly as fear and want of zeal
was a more complicated stance. It was not lack of faith ; it was a strategy
based on belief. Newton did not expect the imminent return of Christ.
Instead, he sequestered himself and lived through the dark and evil days in
virtual silence. He waited while God waited, and the continuing infidelity
of his age was a sign that the end was not nigh. It was not a time for
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
(7) ERROR IN BBC NEWS ON GIANT IMPACT THEORY
>From Robin Canup <email@example.com>
RE: 'DOUBLE WHAMMY', The BBC News Online, 19 February 2003
I have contacted the BBC about this error already, but I see that they have
not yet fixed it. The giant impact theory is not *by* me -- it was proposed
by Cameron, Hartmann, Ward & Davis back in 1975. There was supposed to be a
word "discussed" or "described" in front off "by US Astrophysicist Robin
Canup" in this quote. If you could correct this (I do not want Bill
Hartmann or Al Cameron to be upset over this), I would greatly appreciate
(8) RE: IMPACT MEGA-TSUNAMI IN ARGENTINA
>From Peter Schultz <Peter_Schultz@Brown.edu>
It's appropriate for me to elaborate on Max Rocca's contribution about a
possible impact mega-tsunami in Argentina.
There is a large group of scientists from Argentina, the US, and Austria,
who have been studying this particular sequence through an NSF and CONICET
grants over the last several years. As much as we would like this to be a
tsunami deposit related to the impact glasses that we are studying there,
the geology is completely inconsistent with such an event. The glasses were
deposited in a paleosol layer prior to a typical marine transgression in
response to orbital forcing. This resulted in natural mixing of marine and
fresh water micro-fossils due to the development of coastal dunes and
lagunal environments created during this well known transgression. Our
conclusion is based on both detailed geological studies (pedogenesis,
lithostratigraphy and the paleomagnetic record).
While tsunami deposits may exist along the Argentine coast, there is no
compelling evidence to support the suggestion at this locality. We are
actively continuing to search, however. A publication describing these
materials and the sequence is forthcoming and may be of interest.
Pete H. Schultz,
Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University,
(9) ANARCHY? MOST LIKELY NOT
>From Pavel Chichikov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Re Nick Sault's grim expectations that anarchy would result from an
announcement of impact soon: the track record is entirely different, for
instance after the nuclear attacks on two Japanese cities, the fire raids on
German ones, during the German siege of Leningrad, the 9-11 attack, et. al.
Include possible future global climate change catastrophes in that list.
While there is some looting and other indiscipline, most people just don't
lose their grip in the way Mr. Sault suggests.
At any rate, most of us *would* like to know, and the chances of maintaining
the secret are probably nil anyway.
(10) DOOMSDAY AND LOOTING
>From A J MIMS <email@example.com>
Nick Sault in CCNet 20/2003 - 21 February 2003- disclosed his reasoning on
keeping the masses ignorant of pending doom and included his opinion that
looting of food stores [and other] would occur.
If death to all is certain then what the heck does it matter if some steal
food? And, the greater crime would be to not distribute food to all so they
could die with a full belly! Also, what is
this nonsense that the lower class workers might not show up for work for
the last few days? Nonsense and more!
A few might make peace at varios levels. A few might [despite all] survive
if forewarned. A few might archive knowledge on Earth or the moon or
elsewhere so the next sentient beings to happen
by could benefit or at least be amused. And it seems that a few might want
to die with a smug smile and the knowledge that only they knew what hit
A J Mims
(11) THE STUART EVENT
>From James Warren Ashley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Greetings Benny Peiser:
Respecting the Stuart impact feature on the moon: Actually, I'm inclined to
speculate that since the event (if event it was) was witnessed and
documented, we may be underestimating the true collision rate somewhat.
Certainly without the photograph, this event would be relegated to the
Transient Lunar Phenomenon bin at best. One wonders how many of the supposed
"volcanic eruptions," purported in such past TLP observations might actually
have been impact events.
James W. Ashley
Associate Director / Meteoriticist
Minor Planet Research, Inc.
P.O. Box 17131
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(12) AND FINALLY: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW CONSPIRACY-THEORISTS TICK, READ THIS
>From GuluFuture, 23 February 2003
Comet Side-Effects May Hit Earth Soon
COMET BOARD ZAPPED AFTER NASA CAUGHT FAKING IMAGES
7 Photos Missing in NASA Web Imagery.
Massive Solar Flare STRIKES COMET.
Comet now on Earth Trajectory?
Solar Wind Data Confirm Event!
Ridge Issues Ominous "Get Food" Warning.
Comet Discussion Board Zapped After
Members Caught NASA Faking Images [more]
LATEST TIPS RECEIVED:
TIP: I have been going through the last SOHO photo's which very obviously
stopped updating its live feed as of 11.5 hours ago. If you look at the last
phto they have before they shut down the feed (the time stamp is 23:42) you
will note the swirl below the sun... That object is NOT eminating from the
Sun...I repeat, it is NOT from the sun (their is not trail linking it to the
sun no matter how faint) ... That object is evidently what is left of THE
COMET ITSELF! (you can see the comet as a round dark object) and then the
TIP: A massive solar flare has been up now for approximatly 12 hours
non-stop!. This is being seen in abnormal heat conditions in some places as
well as the sun being reported as 'brighter than usual'. If you take this
information with what has been uncovered of the SOHO photo's being tampered
with, then the conclusion becomes very obvious!. The comet has SPLIT when it
was hit by the large solar flare at its passing...half the comet has passed
away from the sun (orbit now unkown and erratic since size has changed),
while the other has been sucked into the sun causing the massive solar
erruption and combustion that we are still seeing till this minute!
MASSIVE SOLAR ERUPTIONS have accompanied the close solar flyby of the comet
NEAT Tuesday. One coronal mass ejection plume at 05:00 hours 18 Feb.
--Tuesday morning, extended at least 5 million miles from the surface of the
sun toward the comet, Other coronal discharges were observed extending in
excess of 12 million miles.
In the early hours of Thursday morning around 6:30am the comet discussion
board inexplicably went offline about thirty minutes after participants
discovered that NASA had been faking webimages of the comet's passage past
the sun on the morning of the 18th February. .....
BAD WEATHER EXCUSE - IN ADVANCE
A total of 7 hours of data from early Tuesday had been missing from the
hourly photographs released by the SOHO project monitoring the comet's
Live web imaging experienced interruptions of data by NASA --which in
advance was already implausibly citing "weather problems" in the Wash. DC
area as the reason. Also, the Goddard space facility displayed a Code RED --
stated to be as a result of weather problems, and which instructed
non-emergency staff not to attend Tuesday 18th through Wednesday 19th
However the Rt 295, freeway which goes by the NSA and Goddard facilities was
clear Wednesday. Indeed, locals informed GuluFuture.com that the freeway is
invariably kept open because of the importance of the facilities it serves.
In any event, it was 50F in the area Wednesday 19th, and snow had stopped.
Also a US military website following the comet's flyby did not provide new
images from 11:30pm EST Tuesday until late Wednesday afternoon. The images
normally update several times an hour. At one point the website showed
pictures from FEB 12th, 2003 in their 5 minute live update.
Given all this, the current image data has highly dubious credibility. The
severity of the solar reactions could have torn the comet apart and even
without this, the coronal mass ejection could cause significant weather,
geomagnetic, and seismic effects on Earth.
One side-effect of the interaction with the sun may be that the orbit of the
comet has been tightened. Orbit calculations had indicated it would be
directly overhead [image] around Nov. 28, 2003, but if alternative theories
about comet composition are correct, then the close flyby could have altered
the trajectory disastrously. [ Try 3D orbit calcualtor ]
Even if the comet were to miss (likely) then the possible debris field from
the close approach to the sun could still pose serious dangers. But
electromagnetic and solar wind effects could be felt much earlier.
On Wednesday, an ominous statement by Homeland security chief Tom Ridge,
recommended American citizens to have "3-days supply of food and water as
well as flashlights" in preparation for an "attack."
The Homeland Security site advises:
The new campaign seeks to reduce fears and provide information by providing
individuals specific actions they can take to protect themselves, their
families and their communities in the wake of an attack, or another
emergency situation. Emergency Supply Kit: Start with three days worth of
nonperishable food and water. Remember, even if your community is not
directly affected by an attack, your life and daily routine may be
disrupted. You may need to shelter at home for a couple of days. Roads and
stores may be closed - electricity may be turned off - your water supply
might be interrupted.
Slightly excessive for a terror attack perhaps?
BEST KEPT SECRET
Incredibly, there has been little media advance reporting of this most
spectacular comet passage since Hale-Bopp and virtually no reporting of
these current solar responses or the gaps in web imaging.
However one of the most intriguing aspects of all this, is that only four
days ago, Dr. Geoffrey Sommer, of the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica,
California said that secrecy might be the best option if scientists were
ever to discover that a giant asteroid was on course to collide with Earth.
"Overreaction not just by the public but by policy-makers scurrying around
before the thing actually hits because we can't do anything about it anyway
... to a large extent you are better off not adding to your social costs,"
said Dr Sommer, who is also an adviser on terrorism. That's right, Dr.
Sommer works for the Rand Corporation and is also an adviser on
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THE GREAT IMPACT DEBATE, PART III: THE LARGE AND THE SMALL
>From AstroBiology Magazine, 24 February 2003
Summary: This "Great Debate" series brings together a group of scientists
who are experts on asteroids and comets. Today's debate concerns the search
for near-Earth asteroids, and the damage that small impacts inflict compared
to larger impacts. The participants discuss whether we should invest
additional resources to find the smaller asteroids that may impact the Earth
Clark Chapman - scientist at the Southwest Research Institute's Department
of Space Studies, in Boulder, Colorado. Member of the MSI/NIS
(imaging/spectrometer) team of the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
mission to Eros.
Alan Harris - senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute, an
affiliate of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Benny Peiser - social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University in
the UK. He has written extensively about the influence of NEO impacts on
human and societal evolution.
Joe Veverka - professor of astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New
York. Principal Investigator for NASA's Comet Nucleus Tour (Contour)
Don Yeomans - (debate moderator) - Senior Research Scientist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and manager of NASA's
Near-Earth Object Program Office.
Don Yeomans: During last week's debate, there was some disagreement about
whether the threat of near-Earth objects deserves the media attention it
seems to generate. But I think we all agree that asteroids and comets have
impacted the Earth, and there is strong evidence that the extinction event
that took place some 65 million years ago (the one that wiped out the
dinosaurs) was caused by an impact. As mentioned in our first debate, while
there is no definitive evidence for impacts causing the other major
extinction events in Earth's history, it seems possible that comet or
asteroid impacts at least played a role.
Largely as a result of a Congressional mandate, NASA established a
"Spaceguard" program with a goal of finding 90 percent of all the near-Earth
asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 kilometer in diameter by the end of 2008.
Experts like Al Harris, one of our panel members, have estimated that the
total population of NEAs larger than 1 kilometer is about 1,100. Since then,
telescopic search programs have found about 640 NEAs, so more than half of
the estimate has been found already.
As more and more of these objects are found, the search for the missing ones
gets tougher and tougher. So while we are more than half way toward meeting
the Spaceguard goal in terms of the number of objects, we are not halfway
there in terms of the time it will take to find the goal of 90 percent of
them. Nevertheless, it seems likely that we will have discovered 90 percent
of the NEAs larger than 1 kilometer by sometime not much beyond the 2008
But there are a vast number of NEAs smaller than 1 kilometer in diameter.
There are likely to be more than 300,000 that are about 100 meters long -
larger in diameter than a football field. Because there are many more of
them, they would be expected to hit Earth far more frequently than the
near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 kilometer - once every few thousand years
for the 100 meter asteroids, as opposed to every half million years for the
1 kilometer or greater asteroids.
Why then is NASA concentrating their discovery efforts upon the larger NEAs?
For that matter, why aren't near-Earth comets included in the Spaceguard
Clark Chapman: Despite the fluctuating headlines in often inaccurate media
stories, estimates of the relative risks due to comets and asteroids of
various sizes has changed little in the last decade. Roughly 80 percent of
the impact hazard is due to asteroids between 1 and several kilometers in
diameter. About another 10 percent is due to an asteroid smaller than a
kilometer striking the ocean and causing a tsunami. Roughly another 10
percent is due to comets, and less than 1 percent is due to small asteroids
striking the land. So it is sensible that NASA finally decided, in 1998, to
endorse the Spaceguard Survey goal of emphasizing searches for the NEAs
greater than 1 kilometer (though the survey also finds smaller NEAs and
Alan Harris: In considering the relative importance of large versus small
impacts, one must keep in mind both the nature and the frequency of the
disaster. A large impact from, let's say, an asteroid larger than a mile
(1.6 km) in diameter would be a global catastrophe. It would spoil your day,
your whole life even, no matter where you live or where it hit.
Such an impact would lead to the equivalent of "nuclear winter," causing
agricultural failure worldwide and famine that would undoubtedly lead to a
billion or more deaths - a significant fraction of the world's population.
Events of this magnitude are expected to occur once or twice in a million
Consider the other end of the impact range. The smallest impactor that can
penetrate the atmosphere deep enough to cause any damage on the ground is
not much smaller than the "Tunguska" bolide that flattened a couple thousand
square miles of Siberian forest in 1908. The area flattened is about equal
to the area of the greater Washington DC area, inside the beltway. That
asteroid was estimated to be about 50 to 70 meters in diameter. The nature
of the destruction is pretty much the same as a Hiroshima-style nuclear air
burst, but without the radiation after-effects. It's still not a pretty
picture if it happened in your neighborhood. But before rising up and
screaming "that's intolerable," we must take a careful look at just how
often such a small impact event might be expected in a populated area.
I have analyzed the fatality rate of Tunguska-like small impact events over
the entire surface of the Earth, given the present population distribution.
If you take the fraction of the Earth devastated by the Tunguska impact
(about one-millionth of the world's area) and multiply that by the world's
population, you can conclude that an "average" small impact event kills
about 10,000 people. But the real historical event in Russia may have killed
one person, at most. If it had happened over the sea, it wouldn't have
killed anyone. So even if these small impacts happen every century, really
catastrophic events caused by such impacts are much more rare.
I have estimated that the frequency of Tunguska-type impacts worldwide is
only about once in a thousand years. That's on the edge of implausible since
one happened only a century ago, but I think anything more often than once a
century is inconsistent both with historical records and with observations
of NEAs in space. Assuming that such Tunguska events occur once in a
millennium, a small impactor that hits an area populated enough to kill
1,000 people is expected only once in about 8,000 years. A small impactor
that hits a mid-range population, killing 100,000 people, is expected about
every 40,000 years. And a small impactor that directly hits a major
population center, killing perhaps a million people, has a chance of
occurring only a couple times in a million years.
I don't mean to trivialize the human loss of such disasters. In the case of
a 1,000-death disaster, similar disasters happen almost annually from
floods, earthquakes, and so forth, or at least several times per decade. The
middle example - of 100,000 deaths - is comparable to the loss of life in
some of the greatest natural disasters of the last century. But such an
event caused by a small asteroid is expected to only occur once in 40,000
years - a longer time period than all of recorded history.
Clark Chapman: In facing a hazard, whether as an individual or as collective
society, we want to allocate our limited resources as effectively as
possible. We would wish to address the core problem, and we would want to
work first on what is most easily and cheaply accomplished. NASA's
investment, which represents most of the world's investment, has been very
modest: only a few million dollars a year. But they also leverage
technological investments - for example, using Air Force imaging technology
that was developed for other purposes. In addition, unpaid volunteer efforts
by amateur and overseas astronomers make up part of this investment. It is a
no-brainer that over a decade, the investment of perhaps $10,000 per
expected life saved is a real bargain, especially with the added possibility
of saving all of civilization. Indeed, a much more ambitious program would
be easily justified.
The cost-effectiveness drops as one tries to deal with smaller asteroids or
with comets. Smaller asteroids constitute only about 10 percent of the
hazard, yet detecting them requires new, larger, more expensive telescopes.
Detection of long-period comets may require very expensive, state-of-the-art
telescopes in order to give us sufficient warning time to respond. At some
point, it becomes prohibitively expensive to protect ourselves from every
last near-Earth object (NEO). I don't know where the crossover point is.
Benny Peiser: There seems to be a real paradox with our perception of the
impact hazard. While three-quarters of the overall NEO risk is due to large
asteroids, the most likely impact to occur in the foreseeable future will be
caused by a small asteroid.
According to traditional risk analysis, it simply does not make any sense to
fund a search for smaller NEOs. The cost of such a search is exceedingly
disproportionate to the economic cost caused by small and medium-scale
impacts. In other words, as the price tag for the search goes up, the extent
of the damage you prevent goes down. If we stringently stick to this line of
argumentation, we might just as well stop funding any NEO searches beyond,
say, objects smaller than 200 meters. In a nutshell, this seems to be what
Al and Clark are suggesting.
The logical conclusion of this simplistic cost-benefit analysis is
straightforward: the estimated 100,000 NEOs in the 50 to 200 meter class
should be ignored altogether, because they pose no greater risk than the
other major disasters that we have come to accept.
Now the societal and political problem with such an attitude is that we are
constantly bombarded by smallish NEOs. In contrast to more familiar natural
disasters, impacts are totally random in time, location, and degree, and
therefore are much more petrifying than anything else nature is throwing at
us. The more our astronomical and space technologies advance, the more we
become aware of the considerable number of small impacts that occur each
year in the Earth's atmosphere.
>From time to time, a small object hits the ground with a boom. Nobody knows
when or where this is going to happen, but happen it will. Thus there is the
realistic risk that NASA - and much more so those space agencies that are
inactive regarding NEO searches - will be brought to task for failing to pay
attention to small NEOs. Apart from the monetary, social, and military risk
small impacts pose to our fragile societies, there also potentially seems to
be a political cost for inaction.
Clark Chapman: Maybe society should spend the same resources per life saved
on mitigating small asteroid impacts that we do on airline safety or safety
of nuclear power plants, in which case we need to do much more. Or maybe,
when analyzing the facts, our political leaders will choose instead to give
small asteroids the same priority they give to protecting agricultural
workers and miners from the hazards they face, or the priority given to
protecting susceptible people from the flu - in other words, next to
This is a country where more attention was given (in autumn 2001) to
half-a-dozen deaths due to anthrax than to the more than 30,000 preventable
deaths due to the flu. It is up to the citizens of the world, through their
political processes, to decide how to deal with the impact hazard.
For every impact-produced tsunami that might kill hundreds of thousands or a
million people, there will be hundreds of equally deadly earthquakes,
floods, and other natural disasters. That doesn't mean that we should do
nothing about asteroid tsunamis, but it puts the problem into perspective.
Alan Harris: As Clark says, it's a "no-brainer" to make the case for finding
the majority of asteroids greater than 1 kilometer in diameter. It's more
questionable whether it makes sense economically to find much smaller ones.
But as Clark points out, what societies demand and what policy makers choose
are not always rationally justifiable.
It is no more than coincidence that the maximum risk is from the largest
objects. It could just as well be the other way around. In that case,
discovering the larger asteroids would only modestly reduce risk. The
biggest risk reduction would have to wait for more capable surveys. But
luckily in the case of the impact hazard, the greatest risk happens to
reside in the easiest (largest) bodies to discover. In this case we face a
very rapidly diminishing return.
Joe Veverka: While a survey of objects 1 kilometer in diameter or larger can
be carried out in a moderately short time, I think cataloging objects in the
100-meter category is much more important. First of all, these smaller
objects have about a hundred times greater chance of causing mischief by
interacting with Earth. Also, it is more useful for us to worry about
100-meter objects, since we can imagine potentially effective and affordable
defenses against such impactors. However, when it comes to bodies 1
kilometer in diameter - which on average will be one thousand times more
massive - the idea of diverting them or blowing them up in the foreseeable
future still borders on the fantastic.
Alan Harris: It is only logical to start with the easiest measures, and then
if resources are available, advance on to the more challenging measures. In
this case, find the big objects first and then work down to smaller sizes.
Of course, the present surveys don't just search for large bodies. That's
just a natural consequence of optical surveys that the larger objects are
easier to find. It's like fishing: you catch what you catch. And we
certainly are not "throwing the little ones back." We catalog everything we
Benny Peiser: The Spaceguard search program should and most likely will
evolve gradually. Pragmatically speaking, the goal for the next 15 years
should be to extend the terrestrial searches to smaller objects. This is
more or less in line with the far-sighted proposals made by the UK Task
Force on near-Earth objects. More importantly, we should make every effort
to exploit the decreasing cost of satellites launches in order to establish
the first tier of an effective space-based NEO detection system. This would
guarantee that we could gradually address the potential threat of cometary
impacts, as well.
Part IV of the Great Impact Debate (March 3) is entitled "On a Collision
Course for Earth". The expert panel answers how we could respond to the
threat of an asteroid heading for Earth, and what sort of projects would
best serve future NEO goals.
CCCMENU CCC for 2002
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