CCNet -  002/2000 -  6 January 2000



Mars in false colour on the screen from MOLA
elicits gasps of admiration.
Just imagine how Antoniadi, Lowell, Pickering,
would have felt on seeing this -
what would they not have given!
This blue, then, a planet-girdling ocean, once, maybe,
capped with its own arctic ice,
and in the other hemisphere, this red's a continent,
its cratered plateau four thousand metres up,
with volcanoes three times higher,
and slashing through the red
that unbelievable canyon, miles deep!
Here is a planet with its history
laid out for us to read it - if we can! -
the Late Bombardment's mark on old terrain,
the younger rocks around the giant cones,
the sparse-pocked plain that just might be
the bed of ancient seas, the cap of ice
that proves some atmosphere remains.
My guess is, children still at school this year
will be the first ones of our kind to walk here.

Malcolm Miller 5.1.2000

From Malcolm Miller <>:

[The maps mentioned are global false-color topographic views
of Mars at different orientations from the Mars Orbiter
Laser Altimeter (MOLA). The maps are orthographic
projections that contain over 200,000,000 points and
about 5,000,000 altimetric crossovers. The spatial
resolution is about 15 kilometers at the equator and less
at higher latitudes. The vertical accuracy is less than 5
meters. The first two maps are a "re-do" of the MOLA
cover of Science on May 28, 1999. (Check out the
improvement!) The first features the Hellas impact basin
(in purple, with red annulus of high standing material).
The second features the Tharsis topographic rise (in red
and white). The third figure illustrates the fascinating
subtle textures associated with resurfacing of the
northern hemisphere lowlands in the vicinity of the
Utopia impact basin (at the near-center of the image in
blue). (All images credited to: MOLA Science Team) ]

    Space.Com, 28 December 1999

    Luigi Foschini <>

    Robert Clements <>

    The Guardian, 4 January 2000

    TIME DAILY, 4 January 2000

    Space.Com, 4 January 2000

    MSNBC, 4 January 2000

    A.V. Zaytsev <>

     Michael Paine <>

     Michael Paine <>

     Wall Street Journal - Europe, 23 December, 1999


From Space.Com, 28 December 1999

Yucatan Crater May Harbor Clues to Dinosaur Extinction

This spring, an international team of researchers will drill into
the Chicxulub impact crater in central Mexico to probe for traces
of a mammoth object that struck the Earth 65 million years ago,
possibly killing off the  dinosaurs.

Beginning in March, the team will start sinking test holes in the
portion of the 125-mile (200-kilometer) wide impact crater that
straddles the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Later in the summer,
the drilling could go as far as two miles (three kilometers) -
deeper than any previous expedition has probed into the
saucer-like depression.

The crater, now buried under more than a half a mile (one
kilometer) of limestone deposits, was blasted out by the impact of
either a meteorite (sic!) or comet perhaps 10 miles (16
kilometers) across. Scientists think its size and timing make it
the smoking gun that would explain the extinction of the dinosaurs
- as well as 70 percent of all species living at the end of the
cretaceous period.

"The impact was the equivalent of so many nuclear bombs it’s
incomprehensible," said Virgil "Buck" Sharpton, one of two lead
scientists on the project.

Once extracted, the core samples will give scientists a better
understanding of how the Earth responded to the impact, both
physically and chemically. A second goal will focus on life on
Earth at the time, and how long it took it to recover.

Scientists theorize that the object cast an enormous of amount of
debris into the atmosphere, creating nuclear winter-type
conditions on a global scale and prompting mass extinction.

Indeed, the timing of the Chicxulub crater is thought to coincide
with the boundary between the cretaceous and tertiary periods in
geologic time.

When looking at the physical boundary in the geologic record, a
thin, iridium-rich layer of clay separates the two, according to
research first published in the journal Science by Luis Alvarez
in 1980. The unusually high levels of iridium point to an
extra-terrestrial source, such as an asteroid, for the element.

What is more telling, though, is that the cretaceous layers are
often fossil-rich, while the later tertiary layer is relatively
fossil-poor, seemingly pointing to a massive extinction event. By
studying the core samples, scientists expect to see a blow-by-blow
account of how the biosphere bounced back in the eons following
the impact.

"We want to see how that evolution occurred," said Sharpton, a
professor of geology at the Geophysical Institute of the
University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Chicxulub had been known of since the 1950s, thanks to oil wells
sunk by Pemex, Mexico's national oil company. However, it was not
widely connected to the extinction event until earlier this

Some now think whatever created Chicxulub was the largest object
to strike Earth in the last billion years. Other craters found in
our solar system that have a similar size and structure include
the Mead and Klenova craters on the planet Venus.

Copyright 2000, inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Vienna, 9-12 July 2000

Geozentrum, University of Vienna, Austria


You are cordially invited to participate in the international
conference on Catastrophic Events and Mass Extinctions: Impacts
and Beyond, to be held at the University of Vienna, Austria, from
Sunday, July 9, 2000, to Wednesday, July 12, 2000. The meeting
will start with registration and a welcome party on Sunday, July
9, 2000, at the Geological Survey of Austria, Rasumofskygasse 23,
A-1030 Vienna. Oral and poster sessions will be held Monday to
Wednesday (July 10-12, 2000) at the "Geozentrum" (UZA II) of the
University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna. Detailed
directions to both locations will be included in the final
announcement. In a slight change to the information given in the
first announcement, we are now offering two pre- and two
postconference field trips, to allow participants to join two
different field trips if they so desire (see Field Excursions

Vienna is the capital of the Federal Republic of Austria, a member
of the European Community. With about 2 million people in the
Vienna metropolitan area (out of about 8 million in Austria), it
is one of Europe's most historical and beautiful cities. Palaces,
museums, gardens, coffee shops, wine caverns (the famous
"Heurigen"), and abundant musical events offer entertainment and
relaxation (preferably before and after the conference!). The
weather in July should be pleasant, warm (about 20-30 degrees
Celsius, or 68-85 degrees Fahrenheit), and mostly sunny, but
occasional cold spells and rainy periods are possible. Public
transportation is inexpensive and efficient. Vienna is easily
reachable by airplane, train, or car.

For detailed information on Vienna, including cultural programs,
museums, concerts, public transportation, maps, addresses, and
other links, see the Web page of the Vienna Tourist Board
( For general information on Austria, see the Web
page of the Austrian National Tourist Office

This conference will be the fourth of an informal series of
meetings on mass extinctions and global catastrophes, including
the geological and biological consequences of large-scale impact
events. The first and second of these meetings were held in 1981
(October 19-22) and 1988 (October 20-23) at Snowbird, Utah, and
the third one took place in 1994 (February 9-12) in Houston,
Texas. The first of these meetings dealt mainly with the
then-controversial hypothesis that a large-scale impact event
occurred 65 m.y. ago and was responsible for the end-Cretaceous
mass extinction; the second meeting focused on the evidence (e.g.,
in terms of shock metamorphism) that such a large impact event
happened; and at the third conference the discussion centered on
the Chicxulub impact structure, which had in the meantime been
proposed as the long-sought K/T boundary impact crater.

We are now at a stage where the question should be asked if (and
how) short-term, high-energy events influence biological evolution
on the Earth. Various mass extinctions, of different degrees, mark
some of the geological boundaries. These have been studied in the
past, but only recently has there been a discussion on how short
the timescale of these mass extinctions really was. For example,
recent studies of the most profound extinction event in Earth's
history, at the end of the Permian, indicated a much shorter time
frame for this event than earlier data had suggested, with
significant associated geochemical anomalies. The cause for this
global catastrophe is currently unknown. Other short-term events
(e.g., Proterozoic Snowball Earth, late Devonian,
Triassic-Jurassic, late Eocene) in the stratigraphic record of the
Earth are now receiving unprecedented attention. Thus we feel that
the time has come to summarize and discuss the current state of
knowledge of the character and causes of mass extinctions and
catastrophic events in the history of our planet.

The venue for the scientific sessions will be the new "Geozentrum"
(UZA II) of the University of Vienna at Althanstrasse 14 in
Vienna's 9th district. This building houses all Earth science
institutes of the University of Vienna, as well as a library and
various lecture halls. Oral and poster sessions will be held from
Monday, July 10, to Wednesday, July 12, 2000. Registration will be
available throughout the meeting. No parallel sessions are
planned. Oral sessions will be held from 8.30-12.30 and from
14.00-18.00, with a half-hour coffee break during each session. A
poster session (with refreshments) will be held next to the
lecture hall on Monday afternoon (July 10, 2000). Posters will
remain on display throughout the entire meeting. A public lecture
broadly related to the topic of the meeting is planned.

To maximize interaction among all participants, allow for ample
discussion time, and emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of
this meeting, all contributions will be considered (similar to
previous meetings of this series) for poster presentations. Oral
presentations will consist of 25-minute invited reviews intended
to set the stage for certain topics selected by the international
program committee, and some 5-minute presentations selected by the
program committee from all other contributions. The latter are
intended to supplement review talks on specific topics and provide
either new and important data, viewpoints, arguments, or present a
controversial viewpoint. Discussion time will be scheduled to
amount to approximately 50% of the total time available. Also, to
allow efficient interaction and discussion, attendance will be
limited to 300 participants (the maximum capacity of the lecture

Researchers in scientific disciplines related to any aspect of the
meeting are invited to contribute abstracts for poster
presentation (print-only abstracts will not be considered). As
explained above, the program committee will select some of these
abstracts for five-minute oral presentations. Abstracts may not
exceed TWO pages, including graphics, tables, and references. All
abstracts must include FULL mailing addresses of all authors.
Possible topics include, but are not necessarily limited to, the

* Crises in Earth history
* Proterozoic Snowball Earth
* Late Devonian extinctions
* Permian-Triassic boundary
* Triassic-Jurassic boundary
* Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary
* Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary
* other boundary events
* Environmental consequences of impacts and other short-term,
  high-energy events (e.g., volcanism)
* Mechanisms of mass extinctions: causes and relations
* Atmospheric response to impacts, volcanic eruptions, glaciations
* Connection between impacts and volcanism
* Interpretation of the stratigraphic record:  reading event
  markers, determination of near-extinctions, recognition of a
  hiatus, discussion of "true" blind tests
* Extraterrestrial influences:  near-Earth asteroids, comets,
  companion stars, supernovae, etc.
* Large-scale impact events in Earth history

Abstracts on related topics not listed here are also welcome.
However, contributions should be relevant to the general theme of
the meeting; thus papers dealing with, e.g., details of a
particular impact crater, or local biostratigraphy, may not be
considered. Contributors are also asked to indicate whether they
regard their work as primarily new data, new data with significant
implications, a model or new interpretation of data, or a review.


Deadline for hard-copy submission
FEBRUARY 25, 2000 (5:00 p.m. CST)   

Deadline for electronic submission
MARCH 3, 2000 (5:00 p.m. CST)

More information at


From Luigi Foschini <>

- The movie of the Tunguska99 expedition will be transmitted by
italian television RAI3 (Geo & Geo, 7 January 2000, h. 16 UT).

- Public conference by Giuseppe Longo in Bologna on January 12,
2000, h. 16 UT. Here is an abstract (in italian):

12 GENNAIO 2000
presso il Dipartimento di Chimica - ore 17

Prof. Giuseppe Longo (Dipartimento di Fisica)
"In Tunguska alla ricerca del meteorite scomparso"

Una spedizione scientifica italiana si e' recata in Tunguska
(Siberia Centrale) per raccogliere dati sperimentali sul corpo
cosmico, la cui esplosione (30 giugno 1908) devasto' un'enorme
regione della foresta siberiana abbattendo oltre 80 milioni di
alberi ed emettendo un'energia equivalente a mille bombe di
Hiroshima. Nel seminario saranno illustrati gli scopi, le
difficolta' e i risultati preliminari della spedizione.

More informations:

For the Tunguska99 Press Office:
Luigi Foschini (


From Robert Clements <>

The following pieces also deal with the Brits' Spaceguard
enquiry... The Guardian ( even considered the
news worthy enough to list it in their daily headline mailout.
Don't know whether any/all of them are worth repeating on their
CCNet; but their presence seems worth noting....

All the best,
Robert Clements <>


From The Guardian, 4 January 2000,,118672,00.html
Task force to assess risk of asteroid collision
2,000 near-earth objects 'pose threat that cannot be ignored'
Tim Radford, science editor
Tuesday January 4, 2000

The government has formed a task force to consider the ultimate
hazard: a collision with a large object from outer space.

A team of three named today will consider the probability of a
direct hit by an asteroid - a large lump of stony iron travelling
at perhaps 20 miles a second - of the kind that wiped out the
dinosaurs 65m years ago.

The science minister, Lord Sainsbury, said: "The risk of an
asteroid or comet causing substantial damage is extremely remote.
This is not something that people should lie awake worrying about.
But we cannot ignore the risk, however remote, and a case can be
made for monitoring the situation on an international basis."

The three are Harry Atkinson, who has worked with the European
space agency, the US agency Nasa and the cabinet office, Sir
Crispin Tickell, chancellor of Kent university and a prominent
environmentalist, and David Williams, professor at University
College London. They will consider the problem of what are known
officially as near-earth objects, NEOs. These could be asteroids
or comets, and Nasa scientists calculate that there could be more
than 2,000 over a kilometre across, each one a cosmic traffic
accident in the making. So far only about 10% of these have been

The asteroid problem was originally dubbed the Chicken-Licken
issue, after the hen in the children's story who believed the sky
was falling in. Gradually, as evidence has amassed from earth and
other planets of a story of random but frequent bombardment over
billions of years, governments have begun to take it seriously.
The planet's history has been punctuated by major collisions.

A 10km asteroid smashed into the earth at the end of the
cretaceous era, triggering tsunamis (a series of long, high sea
waves), a nuclear winter, acid rain, global warming and worldwide
forest fires. A 100 metre object crashed into the atmosphere over
Siberia forest in 1908, producing an explosion estimated at 30
megatons and felling 2,000 sq miles of forest.

In 1937 and 1989 large asteroids passed uncomfortably close to
earth. US comet specialists have calculated that although impacts
are rare in human history, a collision with a large enough object
could wipe out all civilisation, or even most of life. Because the
death toll would run to billions, they argued, the risk of such
an event in any one year would be about 1 in 20,000, roughly the
same as for death in an air disaster.

The UN and the International Astronomical Union say governments
should take the matter seriously. Jonathan Tate, founder of the
British pressure group Spaceguard UK, welcomed the government

"The threat from asteroidal or cometary impacts, while being low
probability but very high consequence, exceeds by orders of
magnitude the government's own threshold of risk tolerability," he
said. "Compared with nuclear safety, BSE/CJD, genetically modified
food and so on, the impact threat is in a league of its own."

Dr Atkinson and colleagues will consider what evidence there is
and report to the British national space centre this year. "Any
recommendations we make must be based on good science, and that
will include looking at the risks of things," he said.

"We will look in detail to see what other countries are doing in
terms of ground-based telescopes. We will also look to see what is
going on the ground in the southern hemisphere. We will also be
looking at space-based activities."

A Nasa spacecraft is destined to meet the asteroid Eros this month
and orbit it for at least a year. A mission called Stardust is on
its way to fly close to Comet Wild-2, collect some of its dust and
return in 2006. The Japanese are planning to put a tiny space
rover on asteroid 4660 Nereus and collect some of its rock.

The Europeans are planning to meet a comet and fly with it.

In a recent Hollywood thriller, scientists saved the world by
sending Bruce Willis to blow up a menacing near-earth object.

But Dr Atkinson and colleagues will not be proposing ways of
deflecting or demolishing impending doom. "That would be something
for the longer term. Until one knows something about the
composition of asteroids, to talk about mitigation is perhaps a
bit premature."

Copyright 2000, The Guardian


From TIME DAILY, 4 January 2000,2633,36882,00.html

When Asteroids Attack: Will Killer Rocks Hit the Earth?
Keeping an eye on the sky, Britain appoints a panel of
experts to assess the risk of asteroids hitting Earth

Now that the grim predictions of New Year's nuclear meltdowns and
general chaos have been happily dismissed, it's time for the
global population to move on to our next source of collective
anxiety: Asteroids. And, never a country to be more than one or
two decades behind the curve, the United Kingdom has risen to the
challenge, forming an "expert taskforce" to deal with the threat
of asteroids striking the Earth. The BBC reports


that the British government is assembling a group of  three
scientists who will study the risks of a disastrous asteroid
strike and will also join the international effort to identify
particularly dangerous examples of the so-called "near-Earth
objects." According to TIME science contributor Leon Jaroff, the
British team is a welcome addition to the global community of
asteroid watchers. "The more people we have looking, the better
chance we have of pinpointing any threat," he says. "The threat of
an asteroid hitting the earth is real, and it's happened again and
again in the planet's history."

In the most famous example of rock-on-rock catastrophe, the earth
was slammed 65 million years ago by a massive rock formation which
created an enormous crater in the Yucatan peninsula and probably
caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Everyone recognizes the
devastating effect of the dino-death asteroid, Jaroff points out,
but many people are still hesitant to assign any real significance
to asteroid studies. "The scientists who began looking for
information back in the 1970s were hamstrung by a general lack of
funding. They were greeted in Congress by giggles."

This reaction, while not uncommon, is not realistic given he
history of serious collisions, says Jaroff, and the possibility of
future events. "We now have a catalog of 200-odd asteroids more
than a kilometer across whose trajectories bring them very close
to earth's orbit. A piece of rock that's a kilometer or larger
would have worldwide consequences if it hit the planet."
Specifically, the sky would go dark with ash, plant life would die
and existence would be generally much less enjoyable. And even if
a relatively small asteroid were to make contact with a major
metropolitan area, Jaroff says, the resultant injury would not be
wholly dependent on the rock's size. "An asteroid 300 yards across
would cause immense damage in a large city. The speed at which
these things travel means that if one came to a sudden stop, as in
a collision, the energy of the speed would be converted into
almost inconceivable amounts of heat."

The force of these grim tidings is tempered by the knowledge that
U.S. government agencies have been working alongside the country's
most prestigious research facilities to conjure up ways of dealing
with these hurtling rocks should an asteroid ever establish itself
as a threat. "Once they've identified the asteroid,"  Jaroff says,
"scientists can predict years, even decades ahead of time whether
it will intersect the earth's orbit at a moment when the earth is
there." And should scientists discover such a scenario looming on
the horizon, Jaroff says there are many ways to engage, deflect or
destroy the giant rocks, including the controlled use of nuclear
bombs, whose blasts could nudge the asteroids off their collision
course with Earth. While all this research costs a taxpayers
pretty penny, Jaroff points out the money is really pretty
insignificant, especially when "the alternative is total

This is a case where the public and scientists search for a state
of mind that eschews panic but retains its focus. The chance of a
truly devastating asteroid hitting the earth is "small but real,"
says TIME science writer Jeffrey Kluger. "But let's face it," he
adds, "it's like a big billiard table out there," with rocks and
planets and moons zipping around each other in space. Some folks
may never admit that there is any risk, and reject the need for
taxpayer-funded research: Even after the widespread success of the
summer disaster movies 'Armageddon,' (which Jaroff calls
"ridiculous"), and the "far more realistic" 'Deep Impact,' legions
of non-believers remain. And while Jaroff sometimes finds it
difficult to educate the most die-hard skeptics of the real risk
posed by asteroids, he keeps trying. "I used to tell people that
even if an asteroid were to break into relatively small pieces,
each of those pieces would have the power to destroy
Cleveland. But," he muses, "no one seemed to care."



From Space.Com, 4 January 2000

New Panel's Task: Asteroid Watch!
By Dominic Evans
posted: 09:50 am EST
04 January 2000

Britain turned its gaze from domestic worries toward the distant
corners of the galaxy on Tuesday, launching a task force to assess
the risk of asteroids hitting planet Earth.

On the first working day of the new millennium, Prime Minister
Tony Blair's government unveiled a panel of three wise men to
examine the threat of collision with what it called Near Earth
Objects (NEOs).


Britain launches asteroid task force
Panel to study risk of cosmic collision

LONDON, Jan. 4 - Britain turned its gaze from domestic worries
toward deep space Tuesday, launching a task force to assess the
risk of asteroids hitting planet Earth. On the first working day
of the new millennium, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government
unveiled a panel of three wise men to examine the threat of
collision with near-Earth objects.



From A.V. Zaytsev <>
Thu, 23 Dec 1999 15:20:17 +0300
[forwarded by Duncan Steel <>]

We are enclosing the First Announcement and Call for Papers the
Third International Conference 'SPACE PROTECTION OF THE EARTH -
2000'. "SPE-2000" which will be held in Crimea in Evpatoriya city
on September 11-15, 2000.  

We are hoping this conference will be as fruitful and successful
as the last one and looking forward to your participation.

To ensure the conference's success, we would like to ask your
support in giving this notification the widest possible
distribution. In this regard, if you will send us the names of
prospective attendees, we will be most happy to send them the
announcements and call for papers.

We wish to express our sincere congratulations on Christmas and
New Year and best wishes of further success in your work and of
personal happiness. 

Yours sincerely,

Konstantin SUKHANOV

Attachment Converted:


From Michael Paine <>

Rynn and Davidson is now available in PDF format, along with
several other tsunami papers (part of a 7.6Mb file for Vol 17 No.
2) at

The following is my review of the Rynn and Davidson paper. (see )

Note that a paper by Nott and Bryant PALEOTSUNAMIS ALONG THE
AUSTRALIAN COAST will appear in a future volume of the Science of
Tsunami Hazards, together with my paper ASTEROID IMPACTS: THE

Michael Paine


Australia is not widely recognised as a nation that is seriously
under threat from tsunami. It must be remembered, however, that
historical records have only been kept for 200 years of European
Settlement. In 1994 Australia held its first national workshop on
tsunamis and, soon after, a project looking at the vulnerability of
Australia to tsunami was intitiated by by Jack Rynn (Center for
Earthquake Research Australia) and Jim Davidson (Bureau of
Meteorology Australia). Preliminary results are set out in the

The authors estimated tsunami risk by assessing hazard (the
likelihood of a given shoreline being struck by a major tsunami) and
vulnerability (the effects of such a tsunami on the built and
natural environments and the human population).

Hazard was estimated from historical records, tide gauge records and
similar sources of information. Between 1788 and 1995 a total of 65
tsunami events were identified. Most were minor. There were three
reports of damage, including the tsunami resulting from the 1960
Chilean Earthquake which resulted in "Considerable [damage], from
Brisbane to Eden; most severe at Sydney, Evans Head". Apparently
there were no reports of casualties. Based on this assessment two
coastlines were rated as having a "high" tsunami hazard: the New
South Wales coast near Sydney and the Western Australian coast near
Broome. No attempt was made to quantify the hazard due to the lack
of data.

Vulnerability was estimated from an assessment of built environment,
including residential communities and industries along the coast,
and natural environment such as significant coastal geography. The
East Coast of Australia between Wollongong (just south of Sydney)
and Cooktown (Far North Queensland) was found to be highly
vulnerable to tsunami.

The coastline between Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle (the three
major population centres of New South Wales) therefore has both a
high hazard and a high vulnerability to tsunami. It is rated as
having the highest tsunami risk in Australia.

Further research is needed to quantify the risk and to develop
mitigation measures (discussed in the paper). It is evident that the
Sydney coastline would make a logical starting point for any
detailed study of tsunami risk.

[In the following paragraph estimates of intervals between events
are my own and are tentative] Four potential sources of tsunami are
described: earthquakes, undersea volcanoes, submarine landslides and
asteroid/comet impacts. Earthquakes from anywhere in or around the
Pacific and Indian Oceans are a potential threat, as are submarine
volcanoes in Indonesia and Polynesia - based on the historical
records presented by the authors, damaging tsunami (say 1 or 2 m
run-up height) from these sources can be expected over intervals of
several decades. Submarine landslides are a speculative source of
tsunami in the Tasman Sea (East Coast of Australia) - research by Ted
Bryant suggests an interval between devastating  tsunami events (say
a run-up height 10m or more) along the NSW South Coast of several
hundred years and it is possible that submarine landslides are a
source of these events (note that Rynn and Davidson advise caution
when interpreting such pre-historic events). Tsunami from asteroid
impacts into the South Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans "cannot
be discounted". Fortunately such events are thought to be very rare.
My own rough estimates of the asteroid tsunami risk suggest that the
average interval between events sufficient to cause a damaging 2
metre tsunami somewhere along the coastline of Australia is around
100,000 years (assuming a typical tsunami run-up factor of 5). A
much more devastating 10m tsunami probably has an average interval
of around one million years but it should be noted that impacts do
not run like clockwork - there is mounting evidence that the Earth
is subjected to a barrage of impacts from time to time. This may
have occurred in the case of the tsunami events reported by Nott and
Bryant since asteroid/comet impacts are a likely source of giant
tsunami. (see
for references)


From Michael Paine < >

Dear Benny,

New Scientist has an article about the risk to astronauts involved
with the International Space Station:

"...the chances of losing the entire station in any 8-month period
lie between 1 in 200 and 1 in 500--meaning there's a 5 to 10 per
cent chance of disaster over 15 years. But its calculations suggest
that, if this happens, there is a 93 per cent probability that a
micrometeorite impact will be the cause. Futron assumes just a 2 per
cent chance that fires, explosions or collisions between spacecraft
would be to blame."

Michael Paine


From The Wall Street Journal - Europe, 23 December, 1999

By Roger Bate, a fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London
and co-editor of Fearing Food (Butterworth Heinemann).

According to the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise
Pascal, our first moral obligation is to think clearly. With his
introduction to "Earth Report 2000: Revisiting The True State of
The Planet" (New York: McGraw Hill, $19.95, 364 pages), theologian
Michael Novak reminds us of Pascal's dictum, and this helps set
the tone for an impressive and clear thinking book. "Earth Report
2000," a collection of papers by experts in fields relevant to
environmental thought, explains why we are not heading toward
environmental Armageddon, and why policies designed by bureaucrats
to save us are more likely to harm us. Stephen Safe, Professor of
Toxicology at Texas A&M University, Roy Spencer from NASA, and
Harvard University's Nicholas Eberstadt are just three of the
experts who write chapters reminding us that things are, on the
whole, getting better.

The final chapter of the book is a collection of over 30
environmental enchmarks collated by staff of the Washington, D.C.
think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Nearly all these
measures, from air and water quality to energy efficiency, have
improved in recent decades, which neatly exposes the unfounded
doom and gloom of environmental reporters. Since the book is
predominantly optimistic, it should not come as a surprise to find
that it is dedicated to the memory of the arch clear thinker and
renowned optimist, the late Julian Simon.

Simon used to enthuse, almost uniquely, that population growth was
good for the planet, because for each mouth that had to be fed
came a brain and two hands with which to think and work. But Mr.
Eberstadt shows that, far from suffering a population explosion,
79 countries have reproductive rates too low to replace current
population levels, and numerous other countries have decelerating
growth rates (soon to fall below replacement level). By
implication, Simon would be concerned that there were not going to
be enough people in the new millennium.

Editor Ronald Bailey's chapter "The Progress Explosion:
Permanently Escaping the Malthusian Trap" furthers our
understanding of the Simon thesis that human ingenuity and desires
have always overcome pressures of larger populations. Mr. Bailey
dismisses arguments that higher agricultural production will
simply lead to more people, putting more pressure on ecosystems.
He amusingly explains that for developed countries "more food
doesn't mean more children, it means more fat, old people." Mr.
Bailey also exposes the malign effects of certain neo-Malthusians
who, for example, try to deny oral-rehydration therapy to young
children in developing countries because they might grow up
into poverty and possible starvation.

Perhaps the most controversial chapter is written by Indur Goklany
of  the U.S. Department of the Interior. Along with NASA's Mr.
Spencer, he explains why only very limited global warming is ever
likely, given negative feedbacks in our environment (such as
increasing carbon dioxide absorption by plants as atmospheric
concentrations rise). Furthermore, the idea that we in the North
will be inundated with malaria and infectious diseases as
temperatures rise is shown to be folly. Alleviating these problems
can be addressed far more effectively and cheaply with methods,
such as pesticide spraying, other than reducing carbon emissions.
In short, Mr. Goklany exposes the U.N.'s Kyoto Climate Protocol as
pointless: it would reduce temperatures at most by 0.07 degrees
Celsius, and adaptation to climate change (which will occur
naturally anyway) is a cheaper and more sensible option for
developed and especially developing countries.

Other chapters on wildlife management and energy policies are
interesting but not particularly controversial, and the chapter on
fisheries is the only depressing one in the book. Fish stocks are
depleting quickly in many areas because of inappropriate institutional
structures. There is no clear ownership (and hence stewardship) of the
oceans, and without this, the world's fishermen race to catch fish,
inevitably depleting stocks. Only in the seas controlled by New
Zealand and Iceland, where a tradable quota (i.e., the market) has
operated, have stocks recovered and profits risen. Privatizing the 
seas would undoubtedly save the fish in them, but does not appear to
be a solution favorable to the world's politicians.

Having lost the scientific arguments that ambient levels of synthetic
chemicals cause cancer, the latest anxiety campaign by the
environmental activists has been that these same chemicals cause
hormonal and reproductive problems in humans. Professor Safe
explains that at most their claims are overplayed, at worst
completely unfounded. Sperm counts are probably not falling and if
they are, there is no evidence it has anything to do with modern
chemicals. Furthermore, the estrogenic (feminizing) effects of
synthetics, such as from pesticides like DDT, do exist but are
dwarfed (by several thousand times) by naturally occurring
estrogen-mimicking substances in our food. The only synthetic
substance that has a major effect on reproduction is ethynyl
estradiol. But that should come as no surprise, since it is the
main ingredient in the contraceptive pill. In short, the Greenies
have targeted substances they don't like rather than those most
likely to have an effect.

In fact, the book taken as a whole shows the mendacity of the
green lobby. Their forecasts of impending disaster may be good for
fund raising but have led to poor environmental policies and
slowed economic growth, thereby harming the very people whom they
say they want to help in the developing world. "Earth Report 2000"
is an antidote to all this alarmism. It should be read by all
those interested in the fate of our planet in the next century.

Copyright 1999 Wall Street Journal - Europe

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