CCNet 32/2002 - 7 March 2002

"A new 1.06-meter telescope dedicated to follow-up astrometry of
Near Earth Objects (NEOs) has been put into operation at the Klet
Observatory in the Czech Republic. Using the 1.06-m KLENOT Telescope we
hope to increase our understanding of the population of small bodies of
the solar system and help to identify and mitigate possible asteroid and
comet hazard in a close cooperation with colleagues all over the
--Jana Ticha, Klet Observatory, 7 March 2002

"It seems that the time has come for us to urge NASA Headquarters
and Marshall Space Flight Center to stop the pro-Nazi propaganda, the
Smithsonian Institution to discontinue its yearly von Braun Lecture,
and ourselves to remember and honor the political-prisoner pioneers of
our international space programs."
--Tom Gehrels, 7 March 2002

Jana Ticha < >

Ron Baalke < >

Ron Baalke < >

Harvey Leifert < >

The Baltimore Sun, 4 March 2002

(6) The von Braun Brothers
Tom Gehrels < >

Alan W. Harris < >

(8) WHAT IF?
Andy Nimmo < >

Drake A. Mitchell < >

New Scientist, 6 March 2002


>From Jana Ticha <>

A new 1.06-meter telescope dedicated to follow-up astrometry of Near Earth
Objects (NEOs) has been put into operation at the Klet Observatory in the
Czech Republic.

The number of newly discovered Near Earth Objects (NEOs) has extremely
increased in recent years due to large surveys LINEAR, Spacewatch, NEAT,
LONEOS and CSS. This discovery process has to be followed by follow-up
observations to obtain a sufficient number of precise astrometric data
needed for an accurate orbit determination of these bodies and for judgement
of their possible hazard for Earth.

Some of the newly discovered NEOs are observable by small backyard
telescopes, but many other bodies are faint and fast-moving or get fainter
during months and years after discovery and thus need observing time on 1-m
class or larger professional telescopes. Considering these critical points
of NEA astrometry mentioned above, we have decided to extend the Klet NEO
programme to fainter objects using a new 1.06-meter reflector equipped with
a new and more efficient CCD camera.

The KLENOT project is a project of the KLET observatory Near earth and other
unusual objects observations team (and Telescope), concentrating
particularly on fainter objects, up to a limiting magnitude of m=22.0. The
KLENOT telescope is being constructed using a 1.06-m primary mirror and a
primary focus corrector to obtain a plane field of view approximately 0.5 x
0.5 degrees. This telescope is equipped with a CCD camera Photometrics
Series 300 equipped with a chip SITe 003B 1024x1024 pixels, pixel size 24
microns. The KLENOT team consists of Jana Ticha, Milos Tichy and Michal
Kocer. All the observing time will belong to our project.

The main goals of the KLENOT project are confirmations of newly discovered
fainter NEOs, recoveries of NEOs in the second convenient opposition,
follow-up astrometry of poorly observed fainter NEOs including so called
virtual impactors and analysis of possible cometary features of newly
discovered small bodies of the solar system.

The idea of the KLENOT project has issued from the long-term Klet NEO
Follow-up Astrometric Programme pursued with 0.57-m reflector since 1994
(the IAU Code 046).

Building of the KLENOT Telescope was started in 1997. The first light was
obtained in November 2001. The first asteroid image was seen in February

The first NEO astrometry listed in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular with
1.06-m KLENOT Telescope was obtained by Jana Ticha and Milos Tichy on 2002
March 4. A new NEO candidate discovered by Palomar Mountain/NEAT was
observed and measured, positions subsequently submitted and accepted by the
IAU Minor Planet Center. The KLENOT telescope has been assigned IAU
Observatory Code 246. The positions and orbit of the Earth-approaching
(Amor) asteroid 2002 EC were listed in the MPEC 2002-E11.

Using the 1.06-m KLENOT Telescope we hope to increase our understanding of
the population of small bodies of the solar system and help to identify and
mitigate possible asteroid and comet hazard in a close cooperation with
colleagues all over the world.

The KLENOT Telescope is managed by the Klet Observatory, Czech Republic. It
was built by the Klet Observatory with support from the Regional Government
Office of the Czech Republic in Ceske Budejovice, the Grant Agency of the
Czech Republic and the Planetary Society.

Additional information on the KLENOT project is available at

Jana Ticha
(the director of the Klet Observatory and KLENOT P.I.)


>From Ron Baalke < >

Canadian farmer finds big meteorite
March 5, 2002

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -- A retired Canadian farmer has accidentally
discovered the second largest meteorite ever found in Canada, researchers
said Tuesday.

That 8.2 kilogram (18 pound) souvenir became a astronomical coup after Wood
brought his booty into a rock identification clinic at a nearby rural store
last summer.

Researchers said the meteorite was well weathered, with most of its fusion
crust worn off, revealing an interior that showed cracks from the shattering
of its parent asteroid.

Full story here:


>From Ron Baalke < >


Bill Haduch , 732/932-7084, extension 633

February 27, 2002

A refined approach to measuring time offers clues to Earth's beginnings

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Researchers using refined techniques to
study minerals from meteorites now believe it took about 20 million years
for the Earth to coalesce from the materials already gathered around our sun
as the solar system. Recent estimates had pegged the
interval closer to 50 million years.

Brigitte Zanda-Hewins, an adjunct member of the graduate faculty at Rutgers
department of geological sciences and associate professor at the mineralogy
laboratory of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, is among a
group of researchers publishing its findings in
the international journal "Science," on Mar. 1.

The group studied radioactive forms of the elements niobium and zirconium
found in samples of meteorites. Because meteorites are the oldest objects of
our solar system available for study, scientists use their components as a
kind of "radioactive chronometer" to help estimate time intervals separating
events during the formation of the solar system, including the formation of
the Earth.

While recent attempts to use the niobium-zirconium "chronometer" had
produced the 50-million-year estimate, Zanda-Hewins said the new
20-million-year figure is the result of performing mineral
separations in the samples for the first time, and using extreme precautions
to maintain the purity of the samples. Researchers used special processing
equipment, anti-contamination air flow and filters, magnetic separation
devices and a wide range of chemical separation techniques to avoid any
interference by foreign materials.

"We designed an extremely careful approach to separate the minerals and
isolate the right ones," she said. The method is described in the article
entitled "Niobium-Zirconium Chronometry and Early Solar System Development."

Zanda-Hewins' co-authors are Maria Schönbächler, Mark Rehkämper, Alex N.
Halliday and Der-Chuen Lee of ETH Zurich Institute of Isotope Geology and
Mineral Resources; Bodo Hattendorf and Detlef Günther of ETH Zurich
Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry; and Michèle Bourot-Denise of the Muséum
National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Besides her work at Rutgers, Zanda-Hewins is well-known as a Paris-based
geologist who helps coordinate distribution of meteorite samples for
scientific study around the world. She is the author of the 2001 book
"Meteorites: Their Impact on Science and History."


>From Harvey Leifert < >

American Geophysical Union/Bell Laboratories/New Jersey
Institute of Technology Joint Release

6 March 2002
AGU Release No. 02-08
For Immediate Release

AGU Contact: Harvey Leifert
(202) 777-7507

Bell Labs Contact: Saswato Das
(908) 582-4824

NJIT Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
(973) 596-3436

Solar Radio Bursts Can Disrupt Wireless Cell
Communications Several Times per Year

WASHINGTON - Bursts of energy from the Sun on microwave radio frequencies
can disrupt wireless cell communications several times a year, according to
scientists who have studied records
covering 40 years of such bursts. Solar bursts are most likely to occur
around solar maximum, the most active portion of the Sun's 11 year cycle.
One such maximum was recently passed, but
significant bursts may occur for several more years, according to Louis J.
Lanzerotti of Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, one
of the researchers. The study not only examines the effect on current
systems, but also looks at higher frequencies where future systems will
operate, says Dale E. Gary, associate professor of physics at New Jersey
Institute of Technology (NJIT), Newark, and principal investigator of the

A good understanding of how solar bursts affect cellular communications will
help in the design of future generations of wireless systems, the
researchers say. Their report is published March 7 and appears in the
March-April issue of the journal, Radio Science, published by the American
Geophysical Union.

The study was possible only because of an archive of data on solar radio
bursts that has been assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) from observations made
around the world by the U.S. Air Force and other entities and that is now
maintained by the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) of NOAA in
Boulder, Colorado. The first detections of solar radio bursts (at much lower
frequencies) were made inadvertently in 1942 by some of the earliest radars
deployed during World War II. After the war, solar radio studies became a
recognized field of astronomical research, and the Air Force was active in
collecting data, since the bursts continued to affect radar.

Because cellular communication has greatly expanded in recent years, the
researchers looked back at the last four decades (1960-1999) of NGDC data in
the context of noise levels found in
wireless communication systems. This data interval covered slightly more
than four solar cycles, including the solar maximum in 1989-1991 which
occurred before cellular communications
became ubiquitous around the world. The researchers note that the number and
location of collection points varied over time, and the instruments used to
measure solar radio bursts have improved significantly since the early
years. They do not believe that these variations affect the main results of
their study.

Radio wave energy received from the Sun is measured in solar flux units
(SFU), with one SFU equaling 10^-22 [1/10 followed by 22 zeros] watts per
square meter of receptor area per hertz. During a burst, the energy received
may be as high as 100,000 SFU, with the energy also depending upon the
frequency measured. In the study, the scientists at Bell Laboratories,
together with Gary of NJIT, sought to determine how often bursts of at least
1,000 SFU have occurred over the years, this being the level that can
potentially disrupt cell communications by covering conversation with noise
or causing calls to be dropped.

Counting the number of solar bursts was difficult, since the same event may
have been recorded by several monitoring stations, often on different
frequencies, and separate events may also have
occurred close in time to one another. The researchers' analysis suggested
that on 12 minutes was the minimum interval between what they would regard
as separate solar bursts, and they limited
their study to the frequency range of 1-20 gigahertz (Ghz). Most present-day
cell phone transmitters currently operate in the band from 900 megahertz
(MHz) to around 3 GHz.

The analysis of the data by the research team, which also included Dr. Bala
Balachandran and Dr. David Thomson, then of Bell Labs, revealed that solar
radio bursts of 1,000 SFU can occur on 10-20 days per year, on average, with
higher rates and stronger bursts during solar maximum periods and lower,
weaker ones during solar minimum periods. The effect of bursts on wireless
communications is dependent upon the orientation of cell antennas, with
those pointing east-west more susceptible mornings and evenings than at
noon. Therefore, any given cell site might be affected by solar radio bursts
only every 40-80 days, or several times per year on average. But any single
burst could affect a large service area, since number of cell sites are
likely to be pointed in the direction of the Sun when an event occurs.
Furthermore, the impacts on service, in terms of increased noise levels and
call disruptions, would be expected to be more frequent during the years of
maximum solar activity.

The study was supported in part by Lucent Technologies and in part by the
Space Weather Program of the National Science Foundation at the New Jersey
Institute of Technology.

Notes for journalists:

The paper, Balachandran Bala, Louis J. Lanzerotti, Dale E. Gary, David J.
Thompson, "Noise in Wireless Systems Produced by Solar Radio Bursts," will
be published in Radio Science, Volume.
37, number 2 (March-April 2002). Citation is to the online version:
10.1029/2001RS002481, 2002. This press release and the paper to which it
refers are not embargoed.

Journalists (only) may receive a copy of the paper on request to Emily Crum
at < >. Specify whether you prefer to receive it as a PDF file
by email or as a fax. Please include your name, name of publication, phone,
fax, and email address.

Contact information for the authors:
Bala Balachandran, (917) 214-2446,
Louis J. Lanzerotti, (908) 582-2279,
Dale E. Gary, (973)642-7878,
David J. Thomson,


>From The Baltimore Sun, 4 March 2002

By Frank D. Roylance

Unless Congress acts this year to restore funding cut by the Bush
administration, scientists say, they might lose their last opportunity for
the next 200 years to study Pluto - the only planet in the solar system not
yet visited by a spacecraft from Earth.

At risk is the $488 million New Horizons mission, now in the design stage at
the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel and
planned for launch in January 2006.

The Bush administration canceled funding for exploration of the outer
planets in NASA's proposed 2003 budget, saying the projects had grown too
costly. The cuts mean there's no money for the APL to start building its
Pluto probe in the fall.

NASA officials said there might be a new round of competition for a Pluto
mission, but that would mean a delay of at least two years. If the launch
doesn't occur by 2006, scientists warn, they would lose the opportunity to
study Pluto's atmosphere.

"Let us hope the last word has not been said on this mission," said
Stamatios M. Krimigis, the head of the APL's space department.

It hasn't. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, is chairwoman of
the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration's budget. A longtime booster for the Maryland
institutions engaged in space exploration, she resuscitated the APL Pluto
mission after it was canceled last year by securing the $30 million needed
for this year's design work.

"I am going to fight to restore the funding for Pluto this year so we can
make a 2006 launch, and get the best science for the scientists and the best
value for the taxpayer," Mikulski said. "Delaying the mission will just
increase the cost and decrease the science."

$173 million to Md. groups

>From the mission's $488 million price tag, the APL would get $170 million
over 20 years to design, build and operate the spacecraft. The Goddard Space
Flight Center in Greenbelt would get about $3 million to build and operate
its infrared camera.

Icy Pluto would be the last of the nine planets to be visited by a
spacecraft from Earth. It is 3 billion miles from Earth - about a 10-year
journey, though the APL's mission designers said last week that they had
found a way to do it in nine.

They're in a rush because by 2020, scientist believe, Pluto's tenuous
atmosphere will have frozen and snowed onto the surface as the planet's
eccentric orbit carries it still farther from the sun. It won't warm up
enough to study for 200 years.

The Bush administration has proposed increased funding for space science at
NASA. But it is reshuffling the cards in a way that could delay - or scuttle
- the APL's launch plans.

Under the agency's new administrator, Sean O'Keefe, NASA canceled funding
for missions to Pluto and to Europa - a moon of Jupiter believed to have
oceans that could harbor life - calling them too costly.

Instead, the space agency is launching a drive to develop nuclear propulsion
for spacecraft, which could significantly cut travel time to other planets.

NASA also has created a new class of missions for the outer planets, called
New Frontiers. It is modeled after the successful Discovery series of
low-cost, competitively bid missions, but cost-capped at $650 million -about
twice Discovery's limits.

That's plenty of cash for the APL voyage to Pluto. But even if the APL won a
competition for New Frontiers money, said Jay Bergstralh, associate NASA
director for solar system exploration, "they probably would not meet a 2006
or 2007 launching date." There's not enough money in NASA's 2003 New
Frontiers budget to start construction.

Scientists say Pluto can't wait. "Taking a year out would be suicide for the
mission," said S. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,
Colo., who heads the APL project. "I think our supporters in the public and
in Congress would see it as an attempt to actually kill it."

Editors of the respected science journal Nature argued lastweek for APL's
New Horizons mission as "the best way to reach the last uncharted planet." A
craft with nuclear propulsion might get there in five years, they said, but
it would take years to develop and test, and would cost more.

The road to Pluto always has been bumpy. The first Pluto mission, designed
by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was scrapped in 2000
after its costs climbed past $1.5 billion.

NASA solicited new, less costly proposals, but budget tightening last spring
halted the process.

Mikulski steps in

When Democrats took control of the Senate in June, Mikulski secured the $30
million to restart the competition and keep the Pluto mission alive for
another year. In November, NASA chose APL's concept, and design work began.

Krimigis said a detailed design will be completed by the end of the summer.

He said he was puzzled by the administration's argument that plans to visit
Pluto had grown too expensive. The APL's winning proposal last year cut the
cost to less than half that of the scrapped JPL mission. "NASA knows that,
and everyone knows that," he said.

Bergstralh said the APL's Pluto mission nevertheless will have to compete
for further funding. It also must fit in with a set of space science goals
and priorities for the next 10 years, to be set by planetary scientists in a
National Academy of Sciences report due in the spring.

"Supposing that the academy says Pluto is a top priority, then I don't see
any reason why [the APL] couldn't propose something like that," Bergstralh

Krimigis said the APL's Pluto mission fits the New Frontiers model well and
ought to be funded as is.

Stern said the Pluto mission should not have to compete again for funding.
"The timing is just too critical to horse around for a year," he said.
Besides, a new competition would allow the APL's rivals to capitalize
unfairly on its ideas, which are now public.

Stern argues that the APL's Pluto mission should be grandfathered into the
New Frontiers program and funded for construction without further delay. "I
think there's a number of ways this can be done from a budgeteer's
standpoint," he said.

And he's confident that Congress and NASA will find a way to do it. "I don't
lose sleep over it," he said. "This mission's very publicly popular. I have
a hard time believing this isn't going to happen."

Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun


(6) The von Braun Brothers

>From Tom Gehrels < >

Dear Benny,

I have been asked to comment on
which appears to be the official NASA biography of Wernher von Braun,
issued, and updated on 21 June 2000, by the Marshall Space Flight Center.

It does not even mention the years when Wernher and his brother Magnus
played leading roles at DORA, where the V-2 rockets were built at the
expense in torturous death of 20,000 men, who mostly were political
prisoners, the finest individuals of Europe.

The neglect seems inexcusable also because the case of the von Brauns is one
of the most intriguing in the history of science, with a moral for all of
us, not to get carried away by our fascinations, that still is valid today.
I documented all of this at the request of the editors of NATURE in their
Volume 372, 511, 1994, "Of Truth and Consequences." Since that time, I have
received notarized statements from DORA inmates that Wernher slapped them,
and that he was involved in the hangings (slowly choking them to death). And
many interesting details, such as how every morning Wernher and a woman
would have to side-step gingerly by the hanging victims and a pile of the
night's harvest of other dead in order to get to their daily work inside the

It seems that the time has come for us to urge NASA Headquarters and
Marshall Space Flight Center to stop the pro-Nazi propaganda, the
Smithsonian Institution to discontinue its yearly von Braun Lecture, and
ourselves to remember and honor the political-prisoner pioneers of our
international space programs.

Tom Gehrels


>From Alan W. Harris < >

Dear Benny,

Since it seems to have made such a splash in CCNet, let me clarify a point
in the newspaper report of my talk in Fayetteville:

The last sentence of the article was a garbled misunderstanding of a
standard closing I use when giving "killer asteroid" public lectures. I
simply pointed out that the risk of death associated with traveling to
Fayetteville (once) to give the lecture was about 1:200,000, to be compared
with various other risks I mentioned in the talk.

Alan Harris
Senior Research Scientist
MS 183-501 Phone: 818-354-6741
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Fax: 818-354-0966
Pasadena, CA 91109 email:

(8) WHAT IF?

>From Andy Nimmo < >

Dear Dr Peiser,

Re Mark Kidger's piece, what if 2002 EA is around 130-m in diameter, and had
as he said, been discovered by Raffael Ferrando in the way that happened,
but instead of missing us by millions of kms it was found to be dead on
target for London, New York or Tokyo, and we had the same notice of when it
would arrive as we have had?

What effect would a 130 m object have if it landed on one of the major
cities? Given the shortness of the notice, what, if anything, could
governments do to minimize casualties? Is there anything they should be
doing now, that was maybe missed in the Task Force Report, to ensure maximum
survival later, should such an event really happen?

Perhaps we need to continue to make more noise about this kind of thing if
we really want governments to act?

Best wishes, Andy Nimmo.


>From Drake A. Mitchell < >

The NEO hazard that threatens our world appears to be worse than the
Titanic's emergency on 11 out of 13 points of comparison.

Some readers may be surprised to discover that the legendary original
thinker, R. Buckminster Fuller, attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served
during WWI, given that environmentalists seem to comprise the largest single
constituency within his worldwide readership. These environmentalists may be
equally surprised to learn that the third form of pure carbon - the
Carbon-60 and higher molecules named "fullerenes" and "buckyballs" in his
honor, discovered in the laboratory in 1985 and the object of the 1996 Nobel
Prize for Chemistry - has been found in the Murchison meteorite, the
Sudbury, Ontario impact crater, and the infamous KT boundary layer. Not only
do these buckyballs contain extraterrestrial isotopes, but higher fullerenes
were first discovered in nature in 1999 in a sample of the
4.6-billion-year-old Allende meteorite that crashed into Mexico in 1969 [1].

Fascinating coincidences aside, Professor Fuller pioneered such concepts as
synergy and design science. Wired News called his "Synergetics" "one of the
most extraordinary books of the century" [2]. His phrase "Spaceship Earth"
appeared in the title of his classic 1963 manual [3], translated into German
in 1998 [4]. The phrase dates further back, however, to his 1951 lecture at
the University of Michigan [5]. His work continues to inspire such areas as
science, engineering, mathematics, architecture, sustainable economic
development, and education [6].

This essay presents a simple yet novel analysis of the Near-Earth Object
hazard confronting "Spaceship Earth." It aims to do so objectively, in fair
and useful detail, comparing the present NEO hazard situation in 2002 to the
ocean iceberg hazard that sank the R.M.S. Titanic on its ill-fated voyage in
1912. The basis for the comparison is that both scenarios feature a
low-probability, high-consequence natural hazard. Low-probability,
high-consequence hazards present serious problems in rational threat
perception at the levels of both individual cognition and group psychology
[7]. The ship-and-impactor analogy provides a useful context for
visualization. The analysis in this essay offers a baker's dozen of
strategic and tactical points of comparison. It renders a stark verdict: the
risk profile of modern civilization appears to be substantially worse than
that of the Titanic.

Point of Comparison #1: Number of Lifeboats Available. The 880-foot Titanic
left Southampton, England on 10 April, 1912 with ~2,227 passengers and crew
bound for New York [8]. Upon sinking on April 15th, less than three hours
after colliding with an iceberg, 705 survivors were aboard 20 lifeboats,
which could have safely accomodated only 1,200. ~1,522 (68%) needlessly
perished, largely due to shipbuilder-influenced regulations that required
lifeboats for only 962 [9]. In contrast, at the present time modern
civilization on Spaceship Earth has no "lifeboats". Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #2: Number of Safe Harbours or Ports of Call Available.
The Titanic deployed its lifeboats about 350 miles (531 km) southeast of
Newfoundland, Canada. At the present time, potential survivors of a large
impact event on Spaceship Earth would have no alternate external support
infrastructure available, e.g. colonies on the Moon, Mars, NEOs themselves,
etc. Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #3: Number of Other Parties Available for Warning or
S.O.S. Six different ships sent eight iceberg warnings to the Titanic, some
of which were not even reported to the bridge. One nearby ship missed the
S.O.S. The Cunard liner Carpathia rescued the survivors soon after. Current
efforts like SETI offer a mere sliver of possibility. Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #4: Control and Manoeuvrability. Had the Titanic's
bridge and crew received the warnings with a different mindset, the
collision speed of 20.5 knots could have been substantially reduced, if not
averted altogether. Applications have indeed been published for the
engineering of orbit modifications for Spaceship Earth, but the cure might
not be fast enough or better than either alternate defencive strategies, or
the impact itself [10]. Grim humour has circulated the possibility of
nudging Spaceship Earth, partially or completely, out of the way of an
incoming NEO with a sufficient number of h-bomb detonations over a
"suitable" territory, but this option apparently remains unquantified and
problematic. Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #5: Threat, Location and Directionality. The Titanic
only had to be concerned with slow-moving icebergs dead-ahead, distributed
in the plane of the ocean's surface, capable of breaching a single hull with
low transverse bulkheads. Smaller icebergs known as "growlers" would
frequently screech along howling hulls. Spaceship Earth's NEO hazard
consists of hypervelocity asteroids and comets, with densities ranging from
that of ice all the way to solid iron. The vast majority of these approach
undetected from all around the ecliptic plane, many with large
inclinations. NEOs larger than a poorly understood threshold are capable of
disrupting, reducing or effectively ending the existing world order through
a long list of global effects that can last for months, years, decades and
longer. Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #6: Visibility. The Titanic had adequate observational
freedom, albeit with binoculars missing. Spaceship Earth is presently using
inadequate, limited weather-dependent ground-based optical telescopes that
are practically useless during the day - rendering it mostly blind to port,
partially blind to starboard, near-sighted, night-blind, and cross-eyed.
Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #7: "Weather." April marks the beginning of the North
Atlantic's spring iceberg peak. Worse, the Titanic's crossing apparently
occured during a cyclical peak in the number and extent of icebergs. This
peak correlates with the 11-year solar cycle of sunspots, which can result
in significant climatic variations e.g. wind patterns, colder sea
temperatures, and stronger storms [11]. Periodicities in the NEO flux have
been posited, e.g. comet showers, and trails of dust and large object
fragments similar to annual meteor showers, but remain uncertain. Advantage:
To be determined.

Point of Comparison #8: Warning and Response Times. Had the Titanic been
equipped with less than twice the number of lifeboats, it probably would
have had enough time to avoid most fatalities, despite inadequate deployment
drills. Even with proposed scenarios for evacuations, shelters, "lifeboats"
or defences, the same cannot be said for Spaceship Earth at the present
time, which constitutes a readiness emergency. The roughly 10% of "global
killer" near-Earth asteroids that are expected to remain undetected by the
end of the decade are the most challenging ones to find, and the fraction of
the NEO threat from low-warning long-period comets remains considerably
uncertain, with published estimates ranging from 10% to over 50%. Advantage:

Point of Comparison #9: Maximum Casualties Being Risked. The Titanic's
2,227, compared to up to 100% of the human species at the present time, and
possibly large fractions of large numbers of other species as well.
Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #10: Risk to Survivor Quality of Life. One devastating
ocean voyage calamity, compared to possibly the worst disaster in recorded
history, if not an historical regression or outright historical hiatus.
Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #11: Leadership's Command and Focus. The Titanic's
captain, officers, crew, engineers and ownership were focused on commercial
efficiency with complacent confidence. There is tentative evidence that they
may also have been contending with an out-of-control fire in boiler room 6,
with an ongoing cover-up and deliberate maximum speed to New York [13].
Today's dictators and elected officials make groping attempts to manage a
fantastically complex morass of armed conflicts, epidemics, famine, poverty,
globalization and a "clash of civilizations" that finally erupted into a
global war on terrorism with a tri-focal "axis of evil." Advantage: Titanic.

Point of Comparison #12: Cultural Attitudes and Awareness. Victorian-era
hubris regarding the invulnerability of ships like the Titanic [9], compared
to the growing global awareness in a new internet-enabled millennium of the
accumulating evidence of civilization's vulnerability.
Advantage: Spaceship Earth.

Point of Comparison #13: Acceptance of the Hazard. On 11 April 1912, SS
Niagara struck two icebergs within about 10 miles of where the Titanic met
its fate, cutting it in two places below the waterline. Going back to 1900,
at least 45 collisions with icebergs are recorded resulting in 8 sinkings.
>From 1899 to 1850, at least 315 resulted in 53 sinkings. From 1849 to 1686,
at least 59 resulted in 21 sinkings [12]. Thus with at least 82 vessels
sinking from 419 collisions with icebergs prior to the Titanic's voyage, it
is hard to argue against the wide acceptance of the iceberg hazard. Evidence
of negligence in the mishap was still being investigated in the 1990's [13].
In contrast, evidence of the NEO hazard has proven much more difficult to
collect and present. Even with a decade of quasi-concerted effort and over
100 terrestrial impact craters identified, a program to internationally
recognize, study, and if necessary protect these sites and the many more
remaining to be found, e.g. through UNESCO's 1972 World Heritage Convention
[14], is yet to be formally proposed or implemented. Advantage: Titanic.

Thus the NEO hazard that threatens our world appears to be worse than the
Titanic's emergency on 11 out of 13 points of comparison. For brevity, these
13 points actually consolidate 19 points of comparison, on which scale the
count comes to 16.

Critics of this analysis may object that it does not include the relative
probabilities of the hazards, which themselves are subject to uncertainty.
However, the unimpeachable basis for this analysis is that both scenarios
comprise low-probability, high-consequence hazards that benefit from
rational threat perception, a notoriously challenging standard. Thus the
actual relative probabilities, while important, are inconsequential to this
particular analysis: both low-probability scenarios present the same
perceptual challenges to human decision-makers. Thus this point-by-point
comparison is entirely justified, apparently dramatically so, although it is
not exhaustive e.g. further effort could weight the comparative risks, and
other methodologies may apply; your mileage may vary [15].

The fact is that when the NEO hazard is compared in detail to the Titanic
catastrophe, an actual historical event which has tenaciously gripped the
public imagination for nearly a century, it is compellingly apparent that we
are exposed to a risk that is worse in many more dimensions. Though
sobering, the comparison also provides instructive and prescriptive force
and utility. This meets a critical need, as recognizing and communicating
urgency has been a most problematic aspect of NEO hazard management. Urgency
is a fundamental attribute of management, and this analysis
provides a substantial basis for communicating the urgency of the NEO hazard
far and wide.

Critical communication challenges remain. For example, the public has not
yet been provided with adequate assessments of the known collection of
man-made and natural global hazards (including biohazards and non-negligible
risks from cosmic-ray jets, supernovae, and small stray black holes).
Therefore, it remains difficult for the public and their elected
representatives to gauge the relative urgency of the NEO hazard, especially
when it comes to comparing appropriate funding levels for these hazards with
other societal problems. Making the case for urgency assists such efforts,
and subsequent work will focus on lessons learned from crash development
programs and the implications for the economics of the NEO hazard.

What more can be said in the current context? First, the events that
unfolded upon the Titanic in a mere three hours may provide a model for
anticipating developments worldwide that would proceed over the weeks and
months after an NEO impact event with global effects.

Second, Prof. Fuller's design science approach uses such principles as
exploring nature's design strategies, planetary planning, and working with
nature. Arguably this would have made Prof. Fuller a supporter of the
planetary defence strategy of "cosmic billiards", whereby a suitable
smaller NEO is deflected to create an additional crater on a hazardous
larger NEO. This strategy would require a much more aggressive program to
inventory the huge NEO population at a much smaller minimum size, which
would also reduce the risk of smaller much more frequent impacts and
increase the opportunities for space-based resource development [16]. Of
course it must be kept in mind that every strategy has limits, in this case
dependencies on orbital, compositional, and structural factors in both
deflector and target. Problems deriving from such dependencies can only be
responsibly resolved through simulation and testing far in advance of an
actual contingency.

Third, Prof. Fuller might have supported the tax on international currency
trading proposed by Nobel-laureate economist James Tobin, which might
generate $100B's annually [17] and may be a further way for the financial
and political community to regain the public's trust after the Enron
meltdown. Of course, planetary defence would still have to compete with the
likes of global warming, the $40B/yr war on global poverty [18], $50B+ for
the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository recently approved by the Bush
Administation [19], and a potential $300B+ in the event of a single serious
nuclear reactor accident, terrorist-created or not [20].

Fourth, since basic risk management principles advocate portfolio
diversification, and we have seen that all humanity is at substantial risk
in the single basket of Spaceship Earth, it is also incumbent on today's
generations to kick open the space frontier and humbly try to establish
self-sufficient colonies nearby for the safety and benefit of all future
generations. A human NEO mission is the least expensive "next giant leap"
for mankind beyond Earth, enabling the goals already mentioned as well as
raising the world's gaze to a nobler vision of the future [21]. Although
behind schedule, if China does send taikonauts beyond Earth-orbit [22] then
a manned near-Earth asteroid rendezvous and sample return is an obvious
prestige mission with an important science bonanza for the world.

Two other Nobel laureates deserve mention in the present context. Harry
Kroto, 1996 Nobel laureate in Chemistry, co-discoverer of C60
Buckminsterfullerene, is working with the Vega Science Trust on a new
prime-time TV program dedicated to science called Science Night, and
another program called Science Forum, "a broadcast of well-informed
constructive debate on science related issues" [23]. Other potential allies
include Murray Gell-Mann, 1969 Nobel laureate in Physics, a cofounder of the
transdisciplinary Sante Fe Institute [24] who has been especially outspoken
on the public responsibilities of the scientific community, and his equally
zealous colleague Sir Robert May [25].

The Titanic was not doomed, although it did push its luck too far. All our
futures could be snatched away at a moment's notice, but we have a decent
fighting chance if we don't squander our most precious resource: time. In a
1980 quote, three years before his death, R. Buckminster Fuller stated:
"Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race
right up to the final moment." We can only agree more.

Leonardo, Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and
Technology vol. 31, No. 4 (August 1998) contains an article entitled
"Education Automation on Spaceship Earth: Buckminster Fuller's
Vision----More Relevant than Ever" by Allegra Fuller Snyder with Victoria
Vesna. Leonardo is published by The MIT Press.
[7] James S. Knox, Jr., Lt Col, USAF, "Planetary Defense: Legacy for a
Certain Future" Chapter 2, pages 21-27. Quotes from
Chauncey Starr and Chris Whipple, "Risks of Risk Decisions," Science 208,
no. 4448 (6 June 1980): 1116-1117.
[10] Korycansky, Laughlin, and Adams. "Astronomical Engineering: A Strategy
for Modifiying Planetary Orbits." Astrophysics and Space Science 275 (4):
349-366, March 2001.
[12] Brian T. Hill, Natural Resources Council Canada, Institute for Marine
[15] Although this analysis may be an unconventional exercise in lateral
thought, this is known as thinking "outside of the box." The "politically
correct" are invited to jump into a deep, cold lake:).


>From New Scientist, 6 March 2002

Some people have a special gift for predicting the twists and turns of
chaotic systems like the weather and perhaps even financial markets,
according to an Australian psychologist.

Richard Heath, who has now moved to the UK's University of Sunderland tried
to identify people who can do this by showing volunteers a list of eight
numbers and asking them to predict the next four. The volunteers were told
that the numbers were maximum temperatures for the previous eight days. In
fact the numbers were computer-generated: some sets were part of a chaotic
series while the rest were random.

Random sequences are by their nature unpredictable, whereas chaotic
sequences follow specific rules. Despite this, chaotic sequences are very
hard to predict in practice because of the "butterfly effect" - even an
unmeasurably small change in initial conditions can have a dramatic impact
on their future state.

Nonetheless, Heath found that a quarter of the people he tested could
predict the temperature for at least the next two days if the sequence was
chaotic, rather than random, even though there is no obvious pattern to the

"The $64,000 question is what is going on in their heads," says Heath. He is
now planning studies to find out whether the skill is related to specific
personality types, or to aspects of intelligence such as mathematical

No cheating

David Gilden, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, doubts
that people can detect the next step in any sequence that lacks a
perceptible pattern. "It's a strong claim, to assert that the skill only
exists implicitly," he says.

But others are convinced that Heath is onto something. "It's sound. The
effect looks real," says artificial intelligence expert Jeff Pressing of the
University of Melbourne.

He and others point to a crucial difference between this and previous
studies claiming to show that people can identify the patterns in chaotic
systems: Heath distinguished between the effects of chaos and other
characteristics of the sequences that might help people make correct

In particular, Heath was able to exclude the possibility that the people
making successful predictions were doing so by looking only at the last few
numbers. In other words, they were not able to cheat by assuming that "the
weather tomorrow is likely to be the same as the weather today".

If the finding does stand up, testing for sensitivity to chaos might help
financial institutions identify people who would do well as financial
traders. "Some guys can't communicate what they are doing, but they make
millions," says Pressing. "They have some sort of intuition. My guess is
that they are sensitive to subtle non-linear structures like chaos."

Journal reference: Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences (vol 6, p 37)

Copyright 2002, New Scientist

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