PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 37/2001 - 7 March 2001: MIR SCARE SPECIAL
-----------------------------------------------


"Forget the danger of heavy-weight debris raining down from space
when Russia sends the Mir orbiter to a watery grave this month -- the
real threat could be mutant fungi, a researcher said Tuesday. Yuri
Karash, an expert on the Russian space programme, said there was a
possibility that micro-organisms, which have spent the last 15 years
mutating in isolation aboard Mir, could present a threat if they survived
the fall to Earth."
--Reuters, 6 March 2001


"The bacteria living aboard Russia's space station Mir will cause no
harm after the station is sunk in the Pacific Ocean, Cosmonaut Boris
Morukov, Doctor of Sciences in Medicine, said at a Thursday news
conference in Moscow. "The very fact that no cosmonaut was ill during the
long stays at the station during its fourteen years in space is sufficient
evidence of that," Morukov said.
--Interfax, 12 October 2000


"One of the designers of the Russian Mir space station says the
danger from debris as the spacecraft plunges to its destruction later
this month has been exaggerated. Leonid Gorshkov, told a news
conference that debris from tens of space rockets and hundreds of
meteorites annually reach Earth without anything terrible happening."
--BBC News Online, 6 March 2001


"With more than 35,000 estimated deaths from earthquakes in the
first two months of 2001, it may seem like the earth is more restless
than usual. Not so, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's
National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colo. "While it's
true that more people have died from earthquakes during the first two months
of this year than in the last two years put together, the average
number of earthquakes per month has stayed about the same," said NEIC
chief scientist, Waverly Person. "Overall, earthquake activity isn't on
the rise," said Person. "We're simply able to locate more lower
magnitude earthquakes due to advances in the technology, and when a deadly
quake occurs, those images of death and destruction come right into our
living rooms on the evening news."
--National Earthquake Information Center, 5 March 2001


(1) HIGHLY INFECTIOUS DISEASE: MIR SCARE SPREADS AROUND THE GLOBE
    Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

(2) ANOTHER MIR SCARE: "MUTANT BACTERIA NEXT THREAT FROM RUSSIA'S MIR"
    The Moscow Times, 6 March 2001

(3) BACTERIA ABOARD MIR SPACE STATION HARMLESS
    SpaceDaily, 12 October 2000

(4) DANGER FROM MIR 'EXAGGERATED'
    BBC News Online, 6 March 2001

(5) MIR DEMISE CAUSES INTERNATIONAL HIGH ANXIETY
    CNN, 6 March 2001 

(6) MIR DEORBIT DATES MOVED BACK; EVENT INSURED TO THE TUNE OF $200 MILLION
    Space.com, 6 March 2001

(7) RUSSIA TAKING OUT INSURANCE ON MIR
    CNN, 6 March 2001

(8) AUSTRALIA READY FOR MIR DESCENT
    CNN 5 March 2001

(9) MIR SPACE STATION DEORBIT
    U.S. Department of State, 2 March 2001

(10) AUSSIES, KIWIS TAKE MIR DEORBIT IN STRIDE
     Sace.com, 20 February 2001

(11) NEO & IMPACT TALKS AT NATIONAL PHYSICS CONGRESS 2001
     Physics Congress 2001

(12) NO MORE EARTHQUAKES THAN USUAL, BUT 2001 SO FAR IS DEADLY
     Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(13) COMETARY IMPACTS AND IRIDIUM ANOMALIES
     David W. Hughes <D.Hughes@sheffield.ac.uk>

(14) IMPACT CONNECTION OF THE P-T EXTINCTION - A VIABLE WORKING HYPOTHESIS
PENDING FURTHER TESTS
     Andrew Glikson <geospec@webone.com.au>

(15) OUR COSMIC DATE WITH DESTINY
     Worth Crouch <doagain@jps.net>

=============
(1) HIGHLY INFECTIOUS DISEASE: MIR SCARE SPREADS AROUND THE GLOBE

From Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

First Japan was concern, then Australia, then New Zealand. Now the MIR scare
has even spread to parts of Europe. The closer we get to the final deorbit
of the MIR station, the bigger the headlines, the weireder the scares. But
let us not ridicule the media hype. After all, much of the scare stories are
based on alarmist statements made by space 'experts'. So how serious is the
risk of space debris hitting populated areas and thus put human lives and
property in danger?

In the case of MIR, there is, understandably, a general concern because the
deorbit of previous space stations and satellites often resulted in space
debris hitting land. In 1991 Mir's predecessor Salyut 7 plunged into the
Andes Mountains. And in 1978 wreckage from a Soviet military satellite
crashed into the Canadian Arctic. The United States fared little better in
1979 when its long abandoned Sky Lab rained debris over western Australia.
Nevertheless, it is important to stress that all of these previous deorbits
were largely uncontrolled. This time, however, the deorbit of MIR will be
controlled, thus reducing the likelyhood of debris hitting land. So far, so
good.

But yesterday, Yuri Karash, "an expert on the Russian space programme,"
announced a new and more alarming threat posed by the MIR deorbit. According
to Mr Karsh there is "a possibility that micro-organisms, which have spent
the last 15 years mutating in isolation aboard Mir, could present a threat
if they survived the fall to Earth." Not surprisingly, Reuters hyped up this
story and stressed: "Forget the danger of heavy-weight debris raining down
from space when Russia sends the Mir orbiter to a watery grave this month --
the real threat could be mutant fungi, a researcher said Tuesday."

Within hours, the latest MIR scare had spread to all corners of the globe.
But what are the facts behind this scare? During 20 years of research,
Russian scientists have discovered some 250 species of microorganisms which
live inside manned spacecraft, including fungi and bacteria. More than 100
species of fungi alone were found onboard Mir during its 14 years in space.
And yet,  none of Mir crew members has ever got any infectious disease in
space. The very fact that no MIR cosmonaut ever got an infectious desease
during their long stays in the MIR station is sufficient evidence to suggest
that these fungi and bacteria are not a serious risk.

Monitoring and assessing how the MIR deorbit will be handled by the agencies
and authorities responsible will, perhaps, provide us with some valuable
lessons for our own concern, the public handling and communication of the
NEO impact hazard. So stay tuned....

Benny J Peiser

=======
(2) ANOTHER MIR SCARE: "MUTANT BACTERIA NEXT THREAT FROM RUSSIA'S MIR"

From The Moscow Times, 6 March 2001
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2001/03/06/163.html

Mutant Bacteria Next Threat From Russia's Mir

Reuters. Forget the danger of heavy-weight debris raining down from space
when Russia sends the Mir orbiter to a watery grave this month -- the real
threat could be mutant fungi, a researcher said Tuesday.

Yuri Karash, an expert on the Russian space programme, said there was a
possibility that micro-organisms, which have spent the last 15 years
mutating in isolation aboard Mir, could present a threat if they survived
the fall to Earth.

"I wouldn't overstate it...but a realistic problem exists," Karash told a
news conference.

Karash, who has undergone cosmonaut training and is an aerospace advisor,
said his conclusions were based on research carried out by Russia's
Institute of Medical and Biological Problems.

Researchers have said that the fungi could be especially virulent if mixed
with earth varieties that attack metal, glass and plastic.

Western health officials have in the past expressed concerns about
micro-organisms that could be brought back to earth after a Russian
microbiologist 13 years ago discovered the first of many aggressive forms of
fungi inhabiting Mir.

Russian space officials have played down the threat, but visitors to the
orbiter have found numerous types of fungi behind control panels, in
air-conditioning units and on dozens of other surfaces.

Though surprisingly destructive, they give off corrosive agents like acetic
acid and release toxins into the air.

Copyright 2001, Reuters

===========
(3) BACTERIA ABOARD MIR SPACE STATION HARMLESS

From SpaceDaily, 12 October 2000
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mir-00zza.html

Moscow (Interfax) Oct. 12, 2000

The bacteria living aboard Russia's space station Mir will cause no harm
after the station is sunk in the Pacific Ocean, Cosmonaut Boris Morukov,
Doctor of Sciences in Medicine, said at a Thursday news conference in
Moscow.

"The very fact that no cosmonaut was ill during the long stays at the
station during its fourteen years in space is sufficient evidence of that,"
Morukov said.

In space, bacteria could pose a greater danger to materials than people,
because they can destroy super-hard metal alloys, electric contacts and
various polymers, he said.

The experience of battling bacteria on board Mir will be exceedingly useful
for the International Space Station, Morukov said. No other country has
gained such a volume of observation of fungi and bacteria in conditions of
zero gravity and space, he said.

Bacteria similar to that which developed on Mir can already be observed in
the 'Zarya' cargo unit of the International Space Station, which has been in
space for nearly two years, Morukov said. He flew to the ISS as a crew
member of the Atlantis space shuttle from September 8 to 20.

Copyright 2000 Interfax. All

==========
(4) DANGER FROM MIR 'EXAGGERATED'

From BBC News Online, 6 March 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1205000/1205300.stm

One of the designers of the Russian Mir space station says the danger from
debris as the spacecraft plunges to its destruction later this month has
been exaggerated.

Leonid Gorshkov, told a news conference that debris from tens of space
rockets and hundreds of meteorites annually reach Earth without anything
terrible happening.

When the fifteen-year-old redundant station is guided back to Earth, most of
it is expected to burn-up in the atmosphere before remaining fragments --
possibly as many as fifteen-hundred with a combined weight of about
twenty-five tons -- crash into the South Pacific.

Copyright 2001, BBC

========
(5) MIR DEMISE CAUSES INTERNATIONAL HIGH ANXIETY

From CNN, 6 March 2001 
http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/03/06/mir.worries/index.html

By Richard Stenger
CNN.com Writer

(CNN) -- An unlikely member has joined the club of nations voicing concern
that a doomed Russian space station could rain down deadly debris within
their borders, one in the heart of Europe.

When Moscow sends the space station Mir on a suicidal plunge into the
atmosphere later this month, the aging orbiting outpost should break up and
send tons of debris into the southwest Pacific Ocean.

But nations near the flight path like Australia and Japan have expressed
concern that Mir could slightly stray during its descent, placing their
populations at risk.

Now Germany is worried about the possibility that Mir could drift even
further off course. An interior ministry document stated that errant debris
could land on parts of Germany and neighbor countries in southwestern
Europe, according to the German newspaper Bild.

If space authorities tracking Mir become aware of any potential danger,
emergency radio announcements would advise citizens to stay indoors, the
document said, according to Bild.

The Russian space agency, pushing back Mir's demise by a week or so, said
Tuesday that the spacecraft would probably meet its fiery end between March
18 and March 20.

Most of the 130-ton station should burn up in the atmosphere. But one- third
of it could survive, including pieces as large as a small car, and smack
into the Earth as fast as 0.6 mile (1 km) a second, authorities said.

More than 1,000 fragments are expected to splash down into the watery target
between Chile and Australia. But minor fluctuations in the atmospheric
conditions could significantly change the course of the falling pieces, as
could slight mistakes in calculating the debris trail.

Australian authorities will monitor the spacecraft's demise. Japanese
experts will be present in the Russian control room that brings down Mir.

The United States will keep an eye on the spacecraft too, but with no
specific emergency plan designed for Mir.

"We have a direct line to the U.S. Space Command, the people tracking
satellites. If it looks like a piece is going to fall in the United States,
either continental or one of our territories, like American Samoa, we are
the interface between state and local officials. We would use the emergency
alert system of the United States," said Mark Wolfson, spokesman for the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Russian and U.S. authorities maintain the risks are rather remote. They
place the odds at somewhere between one in 1,000 to one in 5,000 that a
mishap could occur.

"They've been in space a lot longer than we have. We have a lot of
confidence that they can do that (deorbit Mir safely)," said Maj. Perry
Nouis, spokesperson for the U.S. Space Command, which monitors orbiting
satellites. The military organization will be sharing its data with Russian
space controllers guiding Mir's descent.

Moscow has experienced trouble retiring space stations or satellites in the
past. In 1991 Mir's predecessor Salyut 7 plunged into the Andes Mountains.
And in 1978 wreckage from a Soviet military satellite crashed into the
Canadian Arctic. The United States fared little better in 1979 when its long
abandoned Sky Lab rained debris over western Australia.

This final flight should be different. "Those were not controlled. This will
be a controlled deorbit," Nouis said.

2001 Cable News Network. All Right

=========
(6) MIR DEORBIT DATES MOVED BACK; EVENT INSURED TO THE TUNE OF $200 MILLION

From Space.com, 6 March 2001
http://www.space.com/news/spacestation/mir_insurance_010306.html

By Interfax
posted: 11:09 am ET
06 March 2001    

MOSCOW. March 6 (Interfax) - The final order for deorbiting the Mir space
station and sinking it in the planned section of the South Pacific will be
given between March 17 and 20, one of the station's makers Leonid Gorshkov
told a Tuesday news conference in Moscow.

Responsibility to third parties for possible damages related to the
deorbiting of the station will be insured for about $200 million, spokesman
for the head of the Russian Aerospace Agency Sergei Gorbunov has told
Interfax.

He said the matter will be settled within the next two days. Three companies
- Megaruss, AVIKOS and the Industrial Insurance Company - are regarded as
the general insurers of risks.

In the first half of March Mir will reach the critical altitude of 250
kilometers, after which Mission Control will start planning the trajectory
of its descent. The 137-tonne station will enter dense layers of the
atmosphere above the Pacific north of New Zealand and will start to crumble.
According to expert estimates, most of the fragments should melt down and
burn.

The unburned fragments - of which there may be up to 1,500- are expected to
weigh some 20-25 tonnes. The fragments should fall in the southern part of
the Pacific between Australia and South America over a 6,000 kilometer long
and 200 kilometer wide area.

Copyright 2001, Interfax

============
(7) RUSSIA TAKING OUT INSURANCE ON MIR
 
From CNN, 6 March 2001
http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/03/06/mir.russia.ap/index.html

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Russia's Mir space station will most likely be
brought down into the Pacific Ocean around March 18-20, and the Russian
Aerospace Agency will insure it against any damage the crash could cause,
officials said Tuesday.

After repeated delays, the agency promised to guide the ailing 15-year-old
station down later this month, but has not named an exact date.

Agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said Tuesday that space officials are now
waiting for the station to naturally drift down to an orbit about 250
kilometers (155 miles) from Earth instead of using up precious fuel to speed
up the descent.

"We don't want to spend extra fuel to lower its orbit," Gorbunov said during
an Internet news conference. He said space officials want to save as much
fuel as possible to make sure that they can properly control Mir's de-orbit.


After Mir reaches the 250-kilometer orbit by the end of this week, space
officials will take a series of steps to prepare for the moment when a
Progress cargo ship docked with the station will fire its engines and send
the 130-metric ton (143-ton) station hurtling down to a remote stretch of
the South Pacific.

The earliest date of Mir's dumping is March 13, but the "most likely dates
are between March 18 and March 20" or possibly later, Gorbunov said.

The station is currently circling about 257 kilometers (154 miles) above the
Earth, and the speed of its descent depends on solar activity that expands
the atmosphere and creates friction between Mir and thin gasses high above
the Earth.

The long history of Mir's glitches, including a fire, a near-disastrous
collision with a cargo ship and a long string of computer breakdowns and
power outages, has fed fears that it could spin out of control and rain its
debris on populated areas.

Japan has been especially concerned, because Mir is expected to pass over
its territory on its final, low orbit. "We have grown tired of repeating
that there was no danger for Japan," Gorbunov said.

One of Mir's designers, Leonid Gorshkov, also sought Tuesday to play down
public fears. "Debris from dozens of booster rockets and hundreds of
meteorites annually reach Earth and nothing terrible happens," Gorshkov said
at a separate news conference.

Most of Mir will burn up when it enters the atmosphere, but some 1,500
fragments with a total weight of up to 25 metric tons (27.5 tons) are
expected to survive the fiery re-entry and fall over an ocean area between
Australia and Chile.

Despite all the official optimism, Gorbunov said that the space agency is
negotiating with three Russian insurance companies to insure against
possible damage connected with Mir's descent. An agreement to be signed
shortly would envisage an insurance premium of $200 million.

"The insurance is just another attempt to assuage fears," Gorbunov said.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

============
(8) AUSTRALIA READY FOR MIR DESCENT

From CNN 5 March 2001
http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/03/05/mir.australia.reut/index.html

CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) -- There's really only a tiny chance Russian
space station Mir will crash into Australia this month instead of the
designated space-junk graveyard in the South Pacific, Australian officials
said on Monday.

But Emergency Management Australia (EMA) said it was ready for a one in a
5,000 chance that something could go wrong with Russia's operation to dump
Mir into the remote Pacific and wreckage the size of a small car could hit
Australia.

"Due to the variable nature of the atmosphere and the shape of Mir, its
performance (on re-entry) is unpredictable," EMA director general David
Templeman said.

"Some large parts, up to about 700 kg (1,543 pounds) the size of a small car
-- may survive," he said.

Fifteen-year-old Mir, once the crown jewel of the Soviet space program, is
being decommissioned and disposed of in a one-hour controlled splashdown by
Russia between March 10 and 15.

If all goes according to plan, the space station will drop into a remote
area of the South Pacific some 5,000 km (3,000 miles) east of Australia
between New Zealand and Chile.

The stretch of ocean has become known as the space-junk "graveyard," said
Australian officials, as it was frequently used by Russian space officials
looking for a wide, safe target to dump unwanted satellites.

Two-thirds of the aging and accident prone 130-tonne space station should
burn up in the controlled descent, but Templeman said debris will travel as
fast as one km (0.6 mile) a second.

He said Australia's emergency management team has prepared contingency plans
with state and local governments around the country to deal with any debris
threat and will issue regular media updates on the Mir situation.

Copyright 2001 Reuters. All rights reserved.

============
(9) MIR SPACE STATION DEORBIT

From the U.S. Department of State, 2 March 2001
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/index.cfm?docid=1035

MEDIA NOTE
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 2, 2001

Mir Space Station Deorbit

The Government of the Russian Federation has announced its plan to safely
deorbit the Mir space station so it reenters the atmosphere over an
uninhabited area of the South Pacific Ocean. The United States Government
has agreed, within its capabilities, to provide Russia with tracking and
trajectory data, as well as scientific data on atmospheric conditions,
including solar activity, during the period of the deorbit, now scheduled
for mid-March. The Government of the Russian Federation, through its Russian
Aviation and Space Agency (RosAviaKosmos), has also asked the European Space
Agency to contribute tracking and trajectory data to support the safe
deorbit of Mir.

The U.S. Government, which constantly monitors thousands of objects orbiting
earth with its limited worldwide array of radars and optical telescopes,
will help track Mir's descent. It will share its tracking and trajectory
data with the Russian Government to complement and expand Russia's own data.
The United States and Russia have agreed to employ existing lines of
communications between NASA and RosAviaKosmos to conduct routine data
exchange during the deorbit period.

The Government of the Russian Federation has stated that it remains solely
responsible for the deorbit of the Mir Space Station. The Russian Government
has repeatedly stated its commitment to a controlled and safe deorbit of the
space station.

RosAviaKosmos and Mission Control Moscow have established a website to offer
daily updates on Mir's descent: www.mcc.rsa.ru/deorbit/www/MIR/mir_main.htm
[text in Russian]. The official RosAviaKosmos website is:
www.rosaviakosmos.ru [text in English and Russian].  Also, for questions
about the deorbit plan, RosAviaKosmos' Press Secretary is available in
Moscow at (7) (095) 975-4586 or (7) (095) 975-4458.

For general questions on the background of the Mir Space Station, NASA
Public Affairs can be reached at (202) 358-1638. For matters related to the
observation and tracking of Mir, Department of Defense Public Affairs may be
reached at (703) 693-6858 and U.S. Space Command Public Affairs is available
at (719) 554-3525.

Released on March 2, 2001

==========
(10) AUSSIES, KIWIS TAKE MIR DEORBIT IN STRIDE

From Sace.com, 20 February 2001
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/missions/mir_australia_010220.html

By Stewart Taggart
Special to SPACE.com

SYDNEY, Australia -- When Russia's wobbly Mir hits Earth, ideally it will
crash as a line of fireballs in the south Pacific's "space junk graveyard,"
sinking with little fanfare to the bottom of the sea.

But if the geriatric station veers off course during its final atmospheric
cremation, Australia and New Zealand could be two recipients of Mir's
metallic bones. At this point, both countries are taking the risk in stride.

"Provided that the Russians maintain some control over the reentry, the
likelihood of the final orbit being over New Zealand or Australia is low,"
says Patrick Helm, chairman of New Zealand's ad hoc Satellite Reentry
Committee.

"Any slippage would have to be several complete orbits to pose a problem
this far to the west," he said.

In New Zealand, the Satellite Reentry Committee operates at the prime
ministerial and cabinet level. In Australia, Emergency Management Australia,
the lead agency for natural disasters, is handling preparations.

There's little either country can do right now but watch and wait. While
Russian officials put the risk of Mir veering off course and hitting land at
around 3 percent, it's a risk worth keeping tabs on.

"For the Mir splashdown, the Russians seem well prepared and are keeping the
international community well informed," Helm said. "Our diplomatic
representatives in Moscow are being briefed, along with those of other
countries."

Australia also seems reassured by what it hears.

"From the information provided thus far, the risk of anything falling on
Australia is very minimal," said Brian Flanagan, spokesman for Emergency
Management Australia.

Thus far, Mir's return to Earth isn't generating panic. Most denizens of the
antipodes these days seem more worried about skin damage from the late
summer sun than space junk from the heavens. Perhaps that's because both
Australia and New Zealand have been hit before by space junk - and everybody
survived.

In 1972, New Zealand was hit by the mysterious "Ashburton Balls," named
after the South Island hamlet where four 30-pound (14-kilogram),
Cyrillic-lettered titanium gas canisters fell onto local farmland. The
canisters were believed to be Soviet, possibly from some space probe
intended for Venus.

Space law required that the space junk be returned to its national owner,
but the Soviets denied knowledge or ownership of the balls. That left the
farmer upon whose property the balls fell as the lucky owner, said Graeme
Beere, a retired adviser to New Zealand's Defense Ministry who helped
conduct the investigation.

In 1979, Australia was hit by America's Skylab, which fell largely over
parts of remote Western Australia, albeit with a few chunks hitting suburban
Perth. That event caused a manic rush by souvenir hunters. One collected
$10,000 from the San Francisco Examiner after becoming the first person to
deliver a piece of the space station to the newspaper's San Francisco
newsroom.

While neither the Ashburton Balls nor Skylab caused any injuries on Earth,
Mir could be a different story. At 135 tons, it's twice as big as Skylab.

At present, the plan is for Mir to pass over the Pacific Ocean from
northwest to southeast, beginning to combust from atmospheric friction as it
passes over the equator somewhere east of New Guinea at roughly 50 miles (80
kilometers) in altitude.

Mir will then break up as it falls, strewing roughly 40 tons of
fire-resistant leftover debris in a line of empty south Pacific ocean from
northwest to southeast in which the next potential landfall in its flight
line would be Tierra del Fuego.

The Southern Hemisphere ocean between New Zealand and Chile has to be among
the loneliest places on Earth. There are few islands, little boat traffic
and not much aviation. In short, it's an ideal place to drop something big,
awkward and hard to control - from space.

For its part, New Zealand realizes it's at the end of the world - making its
neighborhood a logical one to bring down a beast like Mir.

"To a large extent, there isn't a lot we can do about it," Helm said. "In
the past, we've simply alerted civil defense and police, and then we issue
instructions on procedures on what to do if something is found."

Happily, Mir doesn't appear to have any dangerous materials aboard, Helm
said.

That's unlike in January 1978, when the Russian nuclear-powered satellite
Cosmos 954 crashed over northern Canada, spraying radioactive material over
the region and causing an expensive cleanup hindered significantly by a
mistrustful Soviet Union wary of releasing many details about the craft.

Copyright 2001, Space.com

===========
(11) NEO & IMPACT TALKS AT NATIONAL PHYSICS CONGRESS 2001

From the National Physics Congress 2001
http://physics.iop.org/IOP/Congress/2001/lecture.html.

Monday, 19 March 2001

Since asteroids were discovered early in the 19th century we have come to
understand the impact hazard they present. Now, for the first time the
knowledge and technology have been developed that can prevent future impact
catastrophes.

Benny Peiser (LJMU): Preventing Armageddon: The Physics of Spaceguard

Lembit Opik (MP): The Politics of Asteroid Impacts

Tuesday, 20 Match

Lord Sainsbury (Minister for Science): Performance and Challenges of UK
Physics

Monica Grady (Natural History Museum): Moon Rocks and Meteorites

The Earth is constantly bombarded by extraterrestrial material, from the
tiniest of dust grains to enormous crater-forming bodies. Meteorites have
long been objects of wonder and interest. Monica Grady (Natural History
Museum) will highlight some of the many different types, from those that are
related to comets and contain stardust, to diamonds produced in the
out-flowing wind of ancient stars.

============
(12) NO MORE EARTHQUAKES THAN USUAL, BUT 2001 SO FAR IS DEADLY

From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Mail Stop 150
345 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Contact:
Pat Jorgenson
Phone: 650-329-4011

Release: March 5, 2001

No More Earthquakes Than Usual, But 2001 So Far Is Deadly

With more than 35,000 estimated deaths from earthquakes in the first two
months of 2001, it may seem like the earth is more restless than usual. Not
so, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's National
Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colo.

"While it's true that more people have died from earthquakes during the
first two months of this year than in the last two years put together, the
average number of earthquakes per month has stayed about the same," said
NEIC chief scientist, Waverly Person. "Overall, earthquake activity
isn't on the rise," said Person. "We're simply able to locate more lower
magnitude earthquakes due to advances in the technology, and when a deadly
quake occurs, those images of death and destruction come right into our
living rooms on the evening news."

In January 2000, there were six "significant" earthquakes that were
responsible for seven deaths. Significant earthquakes are defined by NEIC as
"earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.5 or larger, or ones that caused
fatalities, injuries or substantial damage." In January 2001 there were also
six significant earthquakes, but the combined death toll from the January 13
earthquake in El Salvador and the January 26 quake in southern India is
estimated at 30,000 to 40,000.

In February 2000 there were five significant earthquakes, with one death,
whereas in February 2001 there were three significant quakes, with 325
deaths. The highest magnitude of any quake in February 2001 was the 6.8
temblor that struck the Seattle area, February 28, but no deaths were
directly attributed to the earthquake, and damage, though extensive, was far
less than it would have been in many cities of the world.

"Dense urban populations coupled with weak building structures near the
epicenters are responsible for most of the fatalities, in any year," Person
said. "The annual, long-term average is 10,000 deaths worldwide, but that
figure varies greatly, from year to year. In 2000, for example, there were
only about 225 people killed in earthquakes, whereas, fatalities totaled
8,928 in 1998, and 2,907 in 1997. The deadliest year of the 20th century was
1976, when at least 255,000 people, and perhaps more than 600,000, were
killed after one quake rocked Tianjin (formerly Tangshan), China."

Person said a typical year for earthquakes consists of 18 major temblors
(magnitude 7.0 to 7.9) and one great quake (8.0 or higher). During the first
two months of 2001, there were seven earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.0 or
higher, and two others with magnitudes of 6.8. The highest magnitude of any
quake in February 2001 was the magnitude 7.3 in Southern Sumatra.

The greatest number of earthquake-related deaths this year has been in
India, where at least 30,000 have been confirmed dead, from the 7.7, January
26, earthquake, with the death toll estimated to go as high as 50,000. The
death toll from the January 13, 7.6 quake in El Salvador, plus several
aftershocks, is estimated at around 1,170. Many of the El Salvadorans were
killed when earthquake-triggered landslides crushed their homes.

The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each
year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small
magnitudes. The USGS now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about
20,000 a year, with an average of 20 earthquakes per day in California.
Real-time information about earthquakes can be found at
http://quake.wr.usgs.gov

Since 1973, the USGS has provided up-to-date earthquake information to
emergency response and mitigation teams, government agencies, universities,
private companies, scientists and the general public. This information
includes determinations of the locations and severity of seismic events in
the United States and throughout the world, including the rapid analysis of
significant earthquakes on a 24-hour basis. Seismologists around the world
use this information to increase their understanding of earthquakes and to
better evaluate earthquake hazards. As the nation's largest water, earth and
biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in
cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide
reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners,
and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS
scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters,
contribute to the sound conservation, economic and physical development of
the nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by
monitoring water, biological, energy and mineral resources.

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(13) COMETARY IMPACTS AND IRIDIUM ANOMALIES

From David W. Hughes <D.Hughes@sheffield.ac.uk>

Dear Benny,

Andrew Gliksons writes, yesterday, 'nor will cometary impacts result in
strong iridium anomalies.' 

How does he know? What is his evidence? Who told him? What does he think
cometary dust is made of? How does he think the general compositions of
cometary dust differs from that of the composition of asteroids?

Typically about 30 % of the mass of a comet is in the form of dust. I have
no idea how much iridium they contain. But neither has Andrew.

Keep up the good work.

All the best

David

D W HUGHES
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

================
(14) IMPACT CONNECTION OF THE P-T EXTINCTION - A VIABLE WORKING HYPOTHESIS
PENDING FURTHER TESTS

From Andrew Glikson <geospec@webone.com.au>

Dear Benny,

Further to the question of the origin of the P-T. mass extinction (CCNet
05-03-01, 06-03-01), the following observations pertain:

1. Phil Bland (CCNet 06-03-01) states "most estimates of the rate of
production of craters >40 km on the Earth suggest that we should see at
least one crater of this size, and possibly more, within the 6-10 million
years that seem to be the error on the age estimates for the Araguinha
structure ...".  This assumes a temporally uniform rate of large impacts,
which is difficult to reconcile with the episodic clustering of large impact
structures (Dc>40 km) around periods of mass extinctions. Examples are the
late Devonian (Woodleigh 120 km; Siljan 53 km; Charlevoix 54 km; Alamo ~100
km); Late Triassic (Manicouagan 100 km; Puchezh Katunski 80 km; Saint Martin
40 km); End-Jurassic (Morokweng 200 km; Mjolnir 40 km); K-T boundary
(Chicxulub 180-300 km); Late Eocene-Oligocene (Popigai 100 km; Chesapeake 85
km). In fact only few impacts >40 km-large are known that do not occur
within isotopic age dating error from a mass extinction, excluding
Precambrian impacts (Sudbury, Vredefort) whose effects on bacterial habitats
remain unknown. Are these overlaps purely coincidental?

2. Iain Gilmour refers to the debate regarding the coincidence or otherwise
of shocked quartz at Mt Crean, southern Victoria Land, Antarctica (Rettalack
et al., 1998) with the P-T boundary extinction. Evidence for the position of
the latter is furnished by marked negative 12C/13C isotopes excursions
(Krull et al., 2000, NZ J. Geol. Geophys., 34, 21-32; Krull & Retallack,
2000, GSA Bull., 112, 1459-1472). Strong C isotopic excursions accompany
mass extinctions (the so-called "graveyard shift") along the
Frasnian-Fammenian boundary (late Devonian) (Wang et al., 1994, GSA sp. pap.
293, 111-120; Wang et al., 1996, Geology 34, 187-191) and other
impact/extinction boundaries - signifying an increase in organic
accumulation and the kill factor.

3. Gilmour (CCNet, 06-03-01) titles his note "evidence for the P/T
extinction remains unconvincing", stating "However, this (the K-T) is one
boundary and one mass extinction. The evidence for an impact having caused a
second mass extinction must be subjected to the same degree scrutiny and
must be just as convincing." It is not clear who is Gilmour arguing against,
as far as I am aware no serious scientist has suggested that "convincing"
evidence exists in this regard. On the other hand, the use of the K-T
boundary extinction as a strict yardstick for other extinctions is
unwarranted for the following reasons:

A. The identification of mass extinctions is related to the nature and
complexity of the effected palaeo-habitats. For example, while the reality
of the K-T extinction is demonstrated by the spectacular disappearance of
dinosaurs, ammonites and many plankton and land plant species, the
definition of the late Devonian extinctions depends to a large extent on the
study of conodont markers and rugose corals. Due to the differential
habitability of genera, impacts would have a variable effect on extinction
rates at different stages of terrestrial history - clearly the highest ones
being those of continental fauna and flora.

B. The cumulative effects of clustered impacts on bio-habitats - such as in
the late Devonian - may have resulted in gradual or protracted extinctions.
An impact connection may be difficult to prove where oceanic and/or cometary
impacts occurred, due to weak PDF and Ir anomalies associated with such
events.

Referring to Gilmour's "philosophical note" - little help is provided by
pontificating as to what is "convincing or "unconvincing" models.  What is
needed are guidelines for further tests, allowing falsification or
confirmation of current working hypotheses. Every major scientific
breakthrough has been, at some stage, deemed "unlikely" or "unproven", and
even today there are those who dispute the evidence for plate tectonics,
impact origin of astroblemes, or the impact connection of the K-T extinction
...

Further tests of a P-T impact connection are justified by (1) the occurrence
of large meteoritic crater (Araguinha - 40 km) and shocked quartz fragments
in P-T boundary sediments; (2) the short duration of this extinction; (3)
marked negative isotopic carbon excursions, similar to other
impact/extinction boundaries; (4) the possibility of impact-triggering of
the Norilsk plateau basalts. In view of the low levels of shocked quartz in
sediments and weak Ir anomalies, the possibility of an oceanic cometary
impact remains. The jury is still out.

Sincerely

Andrew Glikson
Research School of Earth Science
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200
07-03-2001

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I should point out that yesterday's title of Iain
Gilmour's comment was actually written by myself. Contrary to Andrew's third
complaint, however, it clearly summarises Iain's main objection: "evidence
for the P/T *impact* remains unconvincing." After assessing the arguments -
pro and con -, it seems pretty obvious to me that the evidence presented so
far for a giant impact event at the P/T boundary remains hypothetical. This
is particularly true for the question as to whether or not fullerenes should
be considered an unambiguous impact signal. There's nothing wrong with
speculating about a P/T impact. But as long as more compelling evidence will
emerge as a result of further research, the theory remains hypothetical, and
even unconvincing to the rigorous sceptic.

BJP

===============
(15) OUR COSMIC DATE WITH DESTINY

From Worth Crouch <doagain@jps.net>

Dear Dr. Peiser:

I read your 5 March 2001 CLIMATE SCARES & CLIMATE CHANGES edition with great
interest. However, I projected the thesis of most of the articles toward the
predictability of collisions between comets/asteroids and the Earth. Like
predicting cosmic collisions, predicting climate change and even forecasting
the weather is fraught with greater than expected obstacles.

I was especially intrigued by the article A HIGH-STICKING 100-YEAR FORECAST
from the World Climate Report 5 March 2001. A point of great interest to me
was, "But let's face reality. No one really knows what global temperatures
were 1,000 years ago. We can barely agree on what they are now, when people
are taking thousands of observations across the planet on a daily basis.
Quite honestly, it's unlikely that we will ever know what the global
temperature was in the 11th century to any degree of useful scientific
accuracy."

With respect to comet/asteroid Earth collisions I have always taken the
position that attempting to predict the frequency or severity of a collision
using a historical model is not accurate at this time. During the 1950's,
when I was a schoolboy, students were taught that cosmic collisions were
things of Earth's origin, since there was no current evidence of them.
Fortunately Dr. Shoemaker taught us otherwise and increasing evidence is
unfolding indicating many comet/asteroid Earth collisions occurred before
and after life started evolving on this planet. It has been determined that
catastrophic collisions have been responsible for mass extinctions, and
smaller sights of other than catastrophic collisions are being discovered
almost yearly. Therefore, if someone used the data of the 1950's it would be
concluded that the Earth would be free of catastrophic collisions as well as
Tunguska type collisions, because the origin of the Tunguska event was
undetermined. We now know that the data and scientific understanding of
collisions between the Earth and cosmic bodies was flawed in the 1950's;
consequently the predictability of a collision is not zero.

However, predictability is little better today. Although the scientific
community generally understands the catastrophic collision 65 million years
age that extinguished Tyrannosaurs, and now knows that Tunguska was a
collision not even 100 years ago, people still don't have a clue as to the
number and severity of collisions since mankind emerged from the trees.
Without more data let's face reality. No one really knows how many global
collisions there were in even the last million years. We can barely agree on
the few that have been discovered now, when people are looking for evidence
on the planet on a daily basis. Quite honestly, it's unlikely that we will
ever know what the global number of significant cosmic impacts were to any
degree of useful scientific accuracy.

I recently had a dialogue through CCNet on this subject of collision
probability with the noted Professor Vadim A. Simonenko of Russian's Nuclear
Industry. Initially he felt secure in predicting that the Earth could expect
an asteroid or comet collision every 100,000 years, but later he concluded,
"I agree totally that we should regard the possible space impacts like
probable occasional events now. For global-scale bodies (of 1 km and more)
we hope to develop deterministic approach ten years later having
accomplished Spacewatch and similar observational program. However, for
local and regional-scale bodies we should develop the defense taking into
account the occasional nature of threat discovery (on final stage of
approach to the Earth)."

The Earth faces a catastrophic fixed date with an asteroid or comet and the
date is unpredictable. This knowledge is the important message that must be
made clear to citizens and the political community so a search and defense
can be mounted against our cosmic date with destiny. When politicians are
told that the Earth could be bombarded once every 100,000 years or even
every 1000 years with a Tunguska type asteroid, it is outside their sphere
of understanding and care. However, if the truth were known and politicians
and their citizens also understood an asteroid/comet Earth collision was a
probable occasional event, that could wipe out civilization, or render a
great portion of the planet to wasteland, then more interest might be given
to Spacewatch and a space defense.

Statistics and probabilities are important, but they must be based on
accurate reliable data, proper analysis, and rational speculation. I
remember being told that one unit of American Army Bomber Crews during World
War Two were informed that they had a definite probability of surviving a
mission over Germany. Each time they took off on a new mission they were
told they had exactly the same probability of surviving the mission as was
their previous missions probability. Finally during October of 1943, when
striking ball-bearing plants in Schweinfurt, nearly 25 percent of the
American Bomber crews were killed. Those killed included the remainder of
the airmen that had survived all the previous missions.

Halito (Good Day),

Worth F. Crouch
(Talako) Choctaw Society of Astrobiologists
 

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