PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 53/2001 - 5 April 2001
----------------------------

 
"Duncan Steel, a physicist at Salford University, believes that he
has found a way for these chemicals to reach the Earth safely. As comets
approach the Sun, they spawn vast amounts of dust and meteoroids.
Astronomers usually assume that these meteoroids, which burn up as
shooting stars or meteors in the atmosphere, are made of rock or metal. With
Christopher McKay of the Nasa-Ames Research Centre in California, Mr Steel
has shown that many may contain heavy organic compounds similar to tar.
They would burn up at a lower temperature and a far higher altitude than
lumps of rock or metal, releasing organic chemicals into the
atmosphere, and they would take decades to float down to the surface and
into oceans."
--David Derbyshire, The Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2001


"To me the most striking aspect about all this work presented here
is how little we still know about the distribution and composition of
organic molecules in outer space. The scientific community has really just
barely scratched surface. There are going to be many compounds identified
in next few years that should give us better insights. It's really the new
frontier."
--Peggy O'Day, Arizona State University, 5 April 2001


"An unspecified glitch temporarily knocked out America Online's
Instant Messenger service Tuesday afternoon, keeping some users out of
their buddy lists and unable to use the communication tool. An AOL
spokesman declined to say how many accounts had been affected and also
declined to elaborate on the problem beyond describing it as an "equipment
glitch." A source at the company, however, speculated that unusual solar
flare activity could have caused the disruption. Scientists recorded some
of the most intense solar flare activity in the sun's 11-year cycle
Monday and report that the activity can affect radio transmitters and, in
rare cases, ground equipment."
--George A. Chidi, IDG.Net, 4 April 2001



(1) METEORITE 'SEEDS' CLUE TO ORIGINS OF LIFE ON EARTH
    The Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2001

(2) LIFE COULD HAVE COME FROM SPACE
    United Press International, 5 April 2001

(3) LOST.. ASTEROID THAT IS HEADING FOR EARTH
    The Mirror, 5 April 2001

(4) MARS FEATURES NOT ANCIENT OCEAN SHORELINES
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(5) BAAMS MEETING NOTICE
    Neil Bone <bafb4@central.susx.ac.uk>

(6) DID SOLAR FLARE KNOCK OUT AOL INTERNET SERVICE?
    IDG.Net, 4 April 2001

(7) EM EFFECTS CAUSED BY IMPACTS OF LARGE METEOROIDS
    S. Fred Singer <singer@sepp.org>

(8) ANTIPODES: OPPOSIING VIEWS
    Henry Zee <hzee@nyc.rr.com

(9) TUNGUSKA EVENT
    Mr. X <fortean@resologist.net>

============
(1) METEORITE 'SEEDS' CLUE TO ORIGINS OF LIFE ON EARTH

From The Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2001
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=004712090541739&rtmo=VkFF51Vx&atmo=rrrrrrrq&pg=/et/01/4/5/wcom05.html

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
 
SMALL tarry meteorites from comets "seeded" the Earth with the building
blocks of life billions of years ago, according to a new study.
 
Meteorites may have brought the building blocks of life to Earth

British researchers working with Nasa say they have evidence that organic
chemicals from space rained upon the lifeless Earth, providing the
ingredients for the first simple organisms. Many scientists think that
comets began to deposit water and carbon molecules on the Earth four billion
years ago.

Comets are made mostly of ice and are relatively rich sources of organic
chemicals. Water can survive a fiery descent into the Earth's atmosphere and
explosive impact with the surface, but organic chemicals are far more
fragile.

Duncan Steel, a physicist at Salford University, believes that he has found
a way for these chemicals to reach the Earth safely. As comets approach the
Sun, they spawn vast amounts of dust and meteoroids.

Astronomers usually assume that these meteoroids, which burn up as shooting
stars or meteors in the atmosphere, are made of rock or metal. With
Christopher McKay of the Nasa-Ames Research Centre in California, Mr Steel
has shown that many may contain heavy organic compounds similar to tar.

Mr Steel, who presented his findings at the National Astronomical Meeting in
Cambridge yesterday, said these tarry lumps would survive being heated by
the Sun as they floated through the inner solar system.

They would burn up at a lower temperature and a far higher altitude than
lumps of rock or metal, releasing organic chemicals into the atmosphere, and
they would take decades to float down to the surface and into oceans.

Using radar he has shown that tarry meteoroids are continually entering the
atmosphere. He said: "These organic chemicals have been raining down on the
atmosphere for billions of years. Each year the Earth accumulates 40,000
tons of material from space."

All the essential amino acids needed for life have been identified in
meteorites, he said. If comets and meteorites played a role in life on
Earth, then it raises the prospect that life could be fairly common
throughout the universe.

Copyright 2001, The Daily Telegraph
 
=============
(2) LIFE COULD HAVE COME FROM SPACE

From United Press International, 5 April 2001
http://www.vny.com/cf/News/upidetail.cfm?QID=174432

Scientists: Life could have come from space
By KELLY HEARN, UPI Technology Writer

SAN DIEGO, April 5 (UPI) -- Leading astrophysicists and chemists presented
research, to varying degrees, bolsters the theory that life came to Earth
from outside the solar system.  They presented their findings Wednesday at
the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

"In our mind there is a line, however direct, connecting molecules in the
interstellar medium 4 or 5 billion years ago and the delivery of organic
compounds from space," said Max P. Bernstein of the astrochemistry group at
SETI International in Moffet Field, Calif. "The theory helps to alleviate
the difficulty of making organic compounds on Earth."

SETI or the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligences a non-profit
corporation of researchers who study forms of life in the universe.

The so-called exogenous delivery theory challenges an earlier one that
lighting caused a primordial soup of gases in the Earth's earliest
atmosphere to form amino acids and other compounds that evolved into higher
life.

Two scientists at the University of Chicago -- Stanley L. Miller and Harold
C. Urey -- birthed that theory in the 1950s when they ran an electric
current through a mixture of gases believed to have been present in
prebiotic Earth. The current simulated lighting and caused parts of the
mixture to form amino acids, which build proteins and are the basis of life.

Today researchers focus on determining the amount of space-born chemicals
formed 4 to 5 billion years ago, how they changed during volatile journey to
Earth and what they did once they arrived.

"Studies show that organic chemistry in the universe has mostly formed in
dense clouds and then later become incorporated into the formation of
planetary systems, comets and asteroids," said Jean E. Chiar of NASA Ames
Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

She uses infrared detectors to see fluxes in infrared waves caused by dust
between the Earth and the waves' source in space. Organic compounds absorb
infrared energy, causing such fluxes.

Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund of the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands
reported that she had subjected amino acids to ultraviolet photolysis
(decomposition by radiant energy) in the laboratory and found they hold up
poorly, decreasing the chance they could survive some areas in space with
high levels of ultraviolet rays.

But Ehrenfreund has noted in a written summary of her work that amino acids
could form in a number of ways, including chemical alterations in certain
meteorites, photochemical reactions in dust grains and gas reactions in
interstellar clouds.

Vladimir Basiuk of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico
City presented evidence countering claims that the white-hot entry into the
Earth's atmosphere would have kill most organic compounds hitching a ride
with meteorites.

In laboratory experiments, Basiuk subjected a range of compounds to
temperatures up to 1000 degrees Celsius and found that even at 500 to 600
degrees Celsius some survive.

"This strongly favors the hypothesis that extraterrestrial delivery could
have been an efficient way of supplying simple biomolecules to the primitive
Earth in amounts sufficient for the emergence of life," he wrote in a
summary of his work.

Extending those findings, a researcher from the University of Tokyo, Dr.
Seiji Sugita, reported experiments showing that just-arrived carbon embedded
in a meteorite undergoes chemical reactions with the Earth's ambient
atmosphere, creating sizable amounts of organic material from which life
could evolve.

"To me the most striking aspect about all this work presented here is how
little we still know about the distribution and composition of organic
molecules in outer space," Peggy O'Day, professor of geological sciences at
Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. told United Press International. "The
scientific community has really just barely scratched surface. There are
going to many compounds identified in next few years that should give us
better insights. It's really the new frontier."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

==========
(3) LOST.. ASTEROID THAT IS HEADING FOR EARTH

From The Mirror, 5 April 2001
http://www.ic24.net/mgn/THE_MIRROR/NEWS/P21S1.html

Space rock may destroy England

SCIENTISTS have lost track of an asteroid that could wipe out most of
England. The half-mile long rock was discovered three years ago, labelled
1998 OX4 and classed as having the potential to hit earth with cataclysmic
effects in the next 30 years.

Astronomers observed it for 10 days but they failed to track its orbit and
it has since vanished.

It is far bigger than a 70-yard-long asteroid that exploded over Siberia in
1904 with enough force to devastate London from Marble Arch to the M25.

Dr Duncan Steel, of the University of Salford, said: "If this asteroid hit
London, much of England would cease to exist. "If it hit San Francisco,
California would be destroyed."

Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid 6.5 miles long hit the planet with
an impact of more than 100 megatons and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Scientists say there is a chance of a collision with an asteroid three miles
across or more every 10 to 30 million years.

Missing 1998 OX4 is one of 300 asteroids with orbits that cross or come
close to the earth.

Huge advances in technology mean more and more are being discovered every
year.

But the National Astronomy conference in Cambridge will be told this week
that OX4 is a worry.

Nasa predicts that an asteroid collision with earth similar to the one that
killed the dinosaurs would destroy most of the world's food crops for a
year, wipe out more than a quarter of the population and create a global
climate similar to a nuclear winter.

A Nasa spokesman said: "None of the asteroids or comets discovered so far is
on a collision course with earth.

"However, we can't speak for those that are not yet discovered.

"In principle, one of those could hit any time, but statistically the
chances are very small."

MAGNETIC gases from a massive explosion on the sun this week cased a radio
blackout across half the earth.

The explosion was one of the largest recorded and equivalent to a blast of a
billion megatons of TNT. 
 
Copyright 2001, MGN, Ltd

MODERATOR'S NOTE: As reported in Tuesday's CCNet
http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc040301.html) new observations of the
'lost' asteroid 1998 OX4 have actually eliminated a number of impact
possibilities that initially existed for the next 20 years, i.e. through to
2023. However, there are still some possibilities that OX4 could,
theoretically, collide with the Earth in 2038, 2044 and 2046 (see
http://newton.dm.unipi.it/cgi-bin/neodys/neoibo?objects:1998OX4;risk). These
are the other dates mentioned in Appendix B of the NEO Task Force Report
(see:
http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk/neo_report.cfm?Mode=Synopsis&ID=11#B3).
The Task Force Report correctly points out that the probability of the
object hitting the Earth is remote (i.e. thought to be about 1 in
2,000,000). As with similar 'virtual impact' possibilities in the past,
further orbital information about the object should most likely eliminate
these dates too. BJP

=========
(4) MARS FEATURES NOT ANCIENT OCEAN SHORELINES

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

News Services
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Contact Information:
Paul Withers, 520-621-1507, withers@lpl.arizona.edu

Apr 4, 2001

Scientists Discover That Features on Northern Plains of Mars Are Tectonic
Ridges, Not Ancient Ocean Shorelines

By Lori Stiles

What scientists suspect might be ancient ocean shorelines on the northern
plains of Mars is actually a network of tectonic ridges related to dramatic
martian volcanism, a University of Arizona planetary sciences graduate
student and a collaborating post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology report in the April 5 issue of Nature.

Their new findings don't rule out the possibility that an ancient ocean once
did cover the northern half of Mars. However, what previously has been
reported to be ancient shorelines apparently are not. The discovery of the
network of ridges "opens a new tectonic window into Mars," the authors say.

Paul Withers of the UA and Gregory A. Neumann of MIT analyzed dazzlingly
precise new views of Mars' topography from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter
(MOLA). The instrument continues an extended mission in orbit around Mars on
the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. MOLA transmits infrared laser pulses
towards the surface of Mars, and the measurements are used to create
topographic maps accurate to within a meter of elevation. Viking era
topographic maps of Mars were accurate only to about a kilometer.

Withers worked last summer through a graduate student program with members
of the MOLA science team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He and
Neumann analyzed ridges that cover the enigmatic northern plains of Mars.
The region is the flattest known surface in the solar system, and a leading
theory is that an ocean created such extraordinary smoothness.

Authors of a December 1999 article in Science identified candidate
shorelines of the possible ancient ocean based on the new MOLA maps. The
topographical profile shows a succession of flat terraces along a linear
slope in one case, and in another case a series of slopes in the right
relation to be shorelines.

Withers and Neuman specifically re-examined two leading candidate
paleoshoreline groups, one group near the Utopia impact basin and the other
on the opposite side of the proposed ocean near the Alba Patera volcano.

The details of the ridges near the Utopia basin don't look like
paleocoastline, Withers said in an interview. "The morphologies are
inconsistent with formation by shoreline processes. There are the flat
terraces, but the ridges are on what would be the oceanward side. That's
difficult to explain if you have an ocean coming in, flattening things
smooth over the terrace and then receding again.

He and Neumann conclude that the ridges record a history of enormous
tectonic stress and strain that forced the martian crust to form
10-mile-high volcanoes.

"Most ridges appear to be related to obvious stress centres, such as the
volcanic Tharsis Rise, the Utopia impact basin and the Alba Patera volcano,"
they report in Nature. The direction and shapes of these ridges indicate
that they have a tectonic origin.

The network of ridges is the only tectonic feature in the region.

"In future work, we hope that studying these ridges will reveal how the huge
martian volcanoes formed, what the martian crust and lithosphere were like
at the time, and what the northern plains of Mars are like today beneath
their blanketing surface layer of martian dust."

Related Links

* http://ltpwww.gsfc.nasa.gov/tharsis/mola.html
* http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~withers/
* http://www.nature.com

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at
http://uanews.opi.arizona.edu/cgi-bin/WebObjects/UANews.woa/wa/SRStoryDetails?ArticleID=3439 ]

==========
(5) BAAMS MEETING NOTICE

From Neil Bone <bafb4@central.susx.ac.uk>

Further to advice from BAA Head Ofice, the notice for the meeting on
Saturday should now read as follows:

BAA Meteor Section Meeting Saturday 2001 April 7

John Stripe Lecture Theatre, King Alfred's College, Winchester 1415-1730

The meeting is being held as an integral part of the BAA's Winchester
residential weekend, but is, of course, open to day-visitors. Participants
arriving on the day should register at the BAA desk at the lecture theatre
(for administrative purposes only!); there is a 5 charge for admission, to
cover hall-hire costs and tea. Those requiring meals and/or accommodation
should do so via the BAA Office: Tel. 020 7734 4145.

The meeting will offer the chance to review the recent strong Leonid
returns, and also look ahead to some interesting activity which we can hope
to observe under relatively moonless conditions in the year ahead As the
first meeting of the Section in the south of England for some time, we hope
that this event will be attended by a few new faces, too.

Programme as at 2001 April 4:

1415: Welcome/opening remarks.
1420-1450: The 1999 Leonids from Sinai - Nigel Evans
1450-1500: A brief VS diversion - Roger Pickard
1500-1530: Video Observations of Meteors - Andrew Elliott

TEA 1530-1600

1600-1610: Video of the 2000 Leonids from Andalucia - Steve Evans
1610-1640: Analysis of the 2000 Leonids - Dr John Mason
1640-1710: Radio Observations of Meteors - Nick Quinn
1710-Close: Prospects for the coming year - Neil Bone

Neil Bone, Director, BAA Meteor Section, 'The Harepath', Mile End Lane,
Apuldram, Chichester, PO20 7DZ. Tel. (01243) 782679
Home e-mail: neil@bone2.freeserve.co.uk

===========
(6) DID SOLAR FLARE KNOCK OUT AOL INTERNET SERVICE?

From IDG.Net, 4 April 2001
http://www.idg.net/crd_idgsearch_2.html?url=http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/01/04/03/010403hnimknock.xml?p=br&s=10

By George A. Chidi

AN UNSPECIFIED GLITCH temporarily knocked out America Online's Instant
Messenger service Tuesday afternoon, keeping some users out of their buddy
lists and unable to use the communication tool.

An AOL spokesman declined to say how many accounts had been affected and
also declined to elaborate on the problem beyond describing it as an
"equipment glitch." He said the problem was unrelated to a switch failure on
March 27 that also brought down AOL Instant Messenger for a short while. In
that instance, AOL IM users with older versions of the free software
continued to have problems for days afterward.

A source at the company, however, speculated that unusual solar flare
activity could have caused the disruption. Scientists recorded some of the
most intense solar flare activity in the sun's 11-year cycle Monday and
report that the activity can affect radio transmitters and, in rare cases,
ground equipment.


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

(7) EM EFFECTS CAUSED BY IMPACTS OF LARGE METEOROIDS

From S. Fred Singer <singer@sepp.org>

Dear Benny

Just a minor comment that may be relevant to the suggestion that an impact
disrupted the magnetosphere (through ionospheric heating or some other
mechanism).

There is a way to put a limit on this interesting idea. High-energy protons
(> 100 Mev) trapped in the inner radiation belt have lifetimes measured in
millennia to a million years. Any recent disruption would severely depress
the currently measured flux, which is in good accord with
the neutron-albedo theory.

Of course, disruption of the outer belt (which connects to the auroral zone)
-- as discussed by Nemtchinov-- is still a real possibility.

Best wishes

Fred

S. Fred Singer, President
Science & Environmental Policy Project
http://www.sepp.org

=========
(8) ANTIPODES: OPPOSIING VIEWS

From Henry Zee <hzee@nyc.rr.com

Dear Dr. Peiser,

In his rejoinder to "Flat Earth," Mr. Giorgini takes me to task for an
ellipsis in quoting St. Augustine, yet he too quotes selectively from the
relevant passage. Nor does he address the main point of my criticism, which
asserted St. Augustine exalted the authority of Scripture and belittled
"scientific conjecture."
 
For anyone interested in these matters, I'll save them a trip to the
bookshelf. Here is the passage (in full, and at length):

9. Whether we are to believe in the Antipodes

"But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men
on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets
to us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, that is on no ground
credible. And, indeed, it is not affirmed that this has been learned by
historical knowledge, but by scientific conjecture, on the ground that the
earth is suspended within  the concavity of the sky, and that it has as
much room on the one side of it as on the other: hence they say that
the part which is beneath must also be inhabited. But they do not remark
that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that
the world is of a round or spherical form, yet it does not follow that the
other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does
it immediately follow that it is peopled. For Scripture, which proves
the truth of its historical statements  by the accomplishment of its
prophecies, gives no false information; and it is too absurd to say
that some men might have taken ship and traversed the whole wide ocean,
and crossed from this side of the world to the other, and that thus even the
inhabitants of that distant region are descended from that one first man.
Wherefore let us seek  if we can find the city of God that sojourns
on earth among those human races who are catalogued as having been
divided into seventy-two nations and as many languages. For it continued
down to the deluge and the ark, and is proved to have existed still among
the sons of Noah  by their blessings, and chiefly in the eldest son
Shem; for Japheth received his blessing, that he should dwell in the
tents of Shem."
 
Clearly St. Augustine is a formidable thinker, yet his disparagement of
"supposed or scientifically demonstrated" ideas cannot be denied. At this
point in the discussion with Mr. Giorgini, I suppose it would be foolish to
admit that I sort of like St. Augustine. I find his mind attractive, and his
spiritual aspirations compelling. However, efforts to cast him as
pro-science are disingenuous. He wrote at the end of the Greco-Roman era,
when the development of science faltered after nearly a millennium of
remarkable progress. St. Augustine's influence is implicated in the eclipse
of Greco-Roman science.

========
(9) TUNGUSKA EVENT

From Mr. X <fortean@resologist.net>

Dear Mr. Peiser,

In my examination of the Tunguska event, ("Adgy?" INFO Journal, #13), my
principal objection to the "black hole" theory was that the authors, in
NATURE, speculated that a similar event would have been observed in the
South Atlantic Ocean, where they thought the "black hole" would have
emerged from the Earth's interior after entering it at Tunguska. However,
according to the microbarographic records, (which are illustrated in
Scientific American), only indicated one event at Tunguska. If a "black
hole" entered the Earth at Tunguska, there is no evidence that it ever
escaped the earth's interior. Unfortunately, NATURE did not think the
subject worth publishing my letter in 1974; but, fortunately, the
International Fortean Organization did publish my article, despite the
perception of a limited interest in the Tunguska event.

Sincerely,

Mr. X

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