Date sent: Fri, 09 Jan 1998 10:58:17 -0500 (EST)
From: Benny J Peiser B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk
CAMBRIDGE-CONFERENCE DIGEST, 8 JANUARY 1998
NOAH'S FLOOD RE-EMERGES ON SCIENTIFIC AGENDA 170 YEARS AFTER
CHARLES LYELL'S CATEGORICAL DENIAL
170 years ago, David Milne, a young British astronomer won
Edinburgh University's astronomy-prize with his "Essay on Comets"
(Edinburgh 1828). In his remarkable paper, he outlined, on the
basis of recent astronomical research and discoveries, an
astronomically sound theory of cometary punctuations and their
catastrophic effects on our planet.
"But if a comet, moving with the prodigious velocity
acquires near its perihelion, should chance to strike a planet, as
for instance the Earth, then coming in an opposite direction, the
consequences would be truly disastrous [...] The waters of the
ocean, now attracted by the close approach and next driven from
their ancient beds by the contact of the comet, would sweep over
the face of the globe, covering even the highest mountains in their
impetuous course, and involving all things in undistiguishable
ruin. Whole species of plants and animals, existing in different
quarters of the Earth, would, by this cataclysm, be at once
overwhelmed and annihilated".
"Seeing, then, that the collision of a Comet and Planet
event lying within the verge of possibility, Have we any reason to
suppose that it is one which has ever happened?"
"When we contemplate the broken and lacerate appearance
map of the world exhibits; when we consider the irregularities and
confusion characterising the constitution of its crust; when we
reflect upon the discovery of numerous plants and animals, in
every different climate and situation buried under the surface; -
we can hardly entertain a doubt that tremendous convulsions have
taken place upon the Earth, attributable to sudden inundations
from the oceans; and that event, of whose occurrance, geography,
geology, and natural history combine to furnish evidence, the
universal tradition of every people, however barbarous, serves to
"Now, it is quite evident, that there exists no agent on
itself, at all capable of creating such vast effects as those
which have been described; seeing that there are no physical
causes of change on the surface of our planet, but what are so
local and gradual in their operation, as to be totally
inconsistent with the sudden and extensive convulsions which we
seek to explain. Since, then, this deluge cannot be referred to
any agent residing in the Earth itself, the only foreign cause to
which it can be ascribed, is either the near approach, or the
actual contact, of a Comet".
There was, then, during the early 19th century a body of
scientific evidence that cometary collisions were not only -
astronomically speaking - inevitable, but that the newly
discovered fossils of extinct species and catastrophic strata
in the crust of the Earth could be best explained by such
I don't know whether one of Edinburgh's most famous sons,
Lyell, was aware of Milne's "Essay on Comets" which was, after
all, an award-winning publication of his University, when he was
working on his "Principles of Geology" during the same period.
We do know, however, that Lyell published the first volume of his
controversial book two years later, ignoring (or ridiculing) both
astronomical as well as palaeontological evidence for past
catastrophes. Instead, he simply re-interpreted human and natural
history according to his religious and political beliefs and
re-established Aristotle's dogma of Gradualism. The rest, as
historians of science say, is history.
Now, after a rather conspicuous period of almost 150 years of
ridicule and denial, astronomers, geologists and others have
re-commenced David Milne's original research, contemplating once
again the likelyhood that oceanic impacts of cosmic bodies might
have triggered major flood catastrophes of biblical proportion.
Whatever the outcome of this new debate about oceanic impacts in
historical time and their relation to the story of Noah's flood,
scholars will have to re-write the entire devolpment of science
and scientific thought since Lyell's scholastic revolution in the
mid 19th century. Not for the first time in the history of Western
science and civilisation, Baconian sceptics have proved
Aristotle's theories wrong.
Benny J Peiser
(1) RESEARCHERS MAKING WAVES AT LOS ALAMOS
(2) OCEANIC IMPACTS & NOAH'S FLOOD
(3) LATEST SPACE FEAR: ASTREOID-SPAWNED TSUNAMIS
(4) TSUNAMI PRODUCED BY THE IMPACT OF SMALL ASTEROIDS
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Gary Kliewer, (505) 665-2085 firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) RESEARCHERS MAKING WAVES AT LOS ALAMOS
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 7, 1998 -- Los Alamos National
researchers are demonstrating the enormous damage of an asteroid
strike -- not from an impact on land but from tsunamis caused by an
asteroid hitting Earth's oceans. Computer models show how impacts of
various sizes will generate waves that could devastate entire
coastlines on several continents. A surveillance and defense system
could prevent such a disaster.
Astrophysicist Jack Hills of the U.S. Department of Energy's
National Laboratory presented his findings today at a news conference and a
scientific session at the Washington, D.C., meeting of the American
A tsunami is a fast-moving ocean wave, usually caused by
earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, that runs up on a coastline, causing
widespread damage. A tsunami retains its destructive energy while it travels
enormous distances. When the wave strikes a continental shelf, its speed
decreases and its height increases. An asteroid impact would induce a series
of waves that could scour thousands of miles of coastline with walls of
water and roiling debris.
Hills and his colleague Charles Mader use a detailed numerical
simulation with a one kilometer spatial resolution and comparative data from
historical tsunami events.
The Los Alamos model estimates that an asteroid three miles
hitting the mid-Atlantic would produce a tsunami that would swamp the
entire upper East Coast of the United States to the Appalachian
Mountains. Delaware, Maryland and Virginia would be inundated,
including Long Island and all the coastal cities in this region. It
would also drown the coasts of France and Portugal.
Alternately, Hills' model shows how much of Los Angeles and
would be lost if the same rock cratered the ocean between Hawaii and
the West Coast.
Fortunately, Earth is likely to take a hit from an object that
only once every 10 million years. However, the chance of a strike by a
relatively small asteroid is two or three thousand times more likely,
or once every few thousand years.
Objects larger than about 600 feet across are virtually
the atmosphere and will reach Earth's surface at nearly full velocity
to cause a crater on land or sea. Most of the damage from such an
impact would come from a tsunami.
For example, the Los Alamos model shows that an asteroid about
feet in diameter would devastate the coasts on both sides of the ocean
with a tsunami more than 300 feet high.
Asteroids smaller than the threshold 600 feet across lose most
energy in the atmosphere but can still cause unprecedented damage. A "small"
impactor hit near the Tunguska River in central Siberia in 1908. Though it
never hit the ground, the shock wave flattened 800 square miles of forest.
An impact like Tunguska, which hit with a force a thousand
greater than the Hiroshima bomb, occurs over land every 300 years on
average. Hills and Mader have received Laboratory funding for an
additional three years of model development. They expect increasingly
sophisticated models to predict more extensive coastal damage than
previously calculated. And Hills would like to see the research yield a
practical plan of defense. "An impact from the smaller asteroids is one
disaster that is preventable," Hills said.
But to deflect an asteroid on a collision course, first it
must be seen
ahead of time. Then a nuclear-armed rocket must be ready to intercept it. A
nuclear blast in space could either shatter or re-direct the incoming
asteroid, Hills said. Currently, there is no such surveillance or defense
capability in place.
"It's a problem that could be solved for much less than
the cost of one
hurricane. We could just set it up and be done with it," said Hills.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University
California for the U.S. Department of Energy.
(2) OCEANIC IMPACTS & NOAH'S FLOOD [some comments from the
from: Dona K Ebert email@example.com
I was wondering if we don't have some evidence in a very large
hitting the ocean which was a catastrophic event. With my limited
knowledge, if such a comet hit the ocean there would be a lot of water
thrown up into the air which would take a long time to settle back to earth
like a volcano ash. Also if such an event took place the water level of the
oceans would change. Could all of this be documented in Noah's flood.
from: Ron Baalke BAALKE@kelvin.jpl.nasa.gov
Actually, the tsunamis from such an impact would cause
flooding along the shorelines around the world. Some scientists have
theorized that an object hit the Earth fairly recently, at least within the
time frame of the past 20,000 years, because of the proliferation of stories
from different cultures of an ancient flood.
from: Benny J Peiser firstname.lastname@example.org
Believe it or not, but the first 'scientific' speculation
astronomical cause of Noah's Flood was formulated almost 2000 years ago by
the then leading Jewish astronomer, Rabbi bar Nachmani (3rd century CE).
According to this tradition, the biblical flood was caused by two celestial
bodies impacting the Earth. This rabbi-astronomer recorded his idea in the
Babylonian Talmud which includes a surprisingly open-minded and
controversial interpretation of the Hebrew Bible (including its astronomy).
Rabbi bar Nachmani claimed that the Flood was triggered by two stars which
fell from the sky and punctuated the Earth: "When God decided the bring
about the Flood, He took two stars from Khima [a place of hundred stars],
put [threw] them on Earth, and brought about the Flood" (Tractate Brakhot,
59). This is quite an amazing hypothesis which might go back either to some
form of oral tradition (perhaps linked to Plato's Phaethon story) or was
derived from astronomical speculation only.
I don't know whether Edmund Halley and William Whiston were
their ancient precursor when they (back in the late 1690s) developed
similar ideas about cometary punctuations causing the biblical flood.
In contrast to 17th century England, we are no longer allowed to
interpret the biblical flood story word-for-word. This would not only
be an insult to natural history and common sense; what is worse, it
would totally contradict the biblical imperative for mankind to be
truth-loving. Paradoxically, though, the Bible (and the people who have
never stopped studying it) have kept alive the memory of ancient
catastrophes whose scientific analysis and understanding might now be vital
for the protection of our own civilisations from future impacts and their
effects. This fact alone, I believe, justifies its admiration - even among
enlightened scientists like myself - as the book of books.
Benny J Peiser
LATEST SPACE FEAR: ASTREOID-SPAWNED TSUNAMIS
from: Bob Kobres email@example.com
Latest Space Fear:
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - First they killed the dinosaurs.
An astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory predicted
Wednesday that falling asteroids -- the same phenomena thought to have led
to the extinction of the dinosaurs -- could cause monumental tsunamis far
worse than those caused by earthquakes.
No such impact has ever been confirmed, Jack Hills of Los
reporters at a briefing, but he said there is still a 2 percent to 3
percent chance that this could happen within the span of an average
If an asteroid with a diameter of 600 feet (200 meters) or
splashed down in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it would set off a
tsunami, a huge sea wave.
If the asteroid had a diameter of 3 miles (4.8 km), it would
flood the upper
east coast of the United States and drown the coasts of France and Portugal,
according to the Los Alamos computer model. England would escape most harm,
but Ireland's west coast would be inundated.
If this kind of big space rock hit the central Pacific,
Waikiki Beach would be a memory and the tonier parts of Los Angeles
would be drenched and then scoured raw by the debris-laden waters when they
The energy released by a cataclysmic asteroid-spawned tsunami
hundreds of megatons, far more than that associated with a nuclear bomb or
most volcanic eruptions, he said.
The tsunami's waves would move outward from the impact site at
the speed of jet aircraft, giving humans on shore about three hours to
On the plus side, the acute phase of the event would be quick.
``The worst part would be over in a matter of hours,'' Hills said.
This has never happened in the course of recorded history,
Hills said; on
the other hand, the computer model indicates the likelihood of it occurring
is about once every 3,000 to 5,000 years.
All recorded tsunamis have so far been attributed to
while they have caused considerable damage and loss of life, they have
generally been localized. But Hills said an asteroid-spawned tsunami could
cause more widespread damage.
Hills and his colleagues plan to continue their research and
Hills said he
wanted to see a practical plan for defense against incoming asteroids.
``You don't want to destroy it,'' he said. ``You want to deflect it.''
Might an asteroid impact have caused the flood that swamped
biblical Noah? ``It may be tantalizing, but I personally would like to see
some physical evidence,'' Hills replied when asked.
Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.All rights reserved.
(4) TSUNAMI PRODUCED BY THE IMPACT OF SMALL ASTEROIDS
J. G. Hills & C. L. Mader: Tsunami produced by the impacts
asteroids. ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 1997, Vol.822,
The fragmentation of a small asteroid in the atmosphere
increases its cross section for aerodynamic braking, so ground
impact damage (craters, earthquakes, and tsunami) from a stone
asteroid is nearly negligible if it is less than 200 meters in
diameter. A larger one impacts the ground at nearly its velocity
at the top of the atmosphere producing considerable impact damage.
The protection offered by Earth's atmosphere is insidious in that
smaller, more frequent impactors such as Tunguska only produce air
blast damage and leave no longterm scars on the Earth's surface,
while objects 2.5 times larger than it, which hit every few
thousand years, cause coherent destruction over many thousands of
kilometers of coast. Smaller impactors give no qualitative warning
of the enormous destruction wrought when an asteroid larger than
the threshold diameter of 200 meters hits an ocean. A water wave
generated by an impactor has a long range because it is
two-dimensional, so its height falls off inversely with distance
from the impact. When the wave strikes a continental shelf, its speed
decreases and its height increases to produce tsunamis. The average
runup in height between a deep-water wave and its tsunami is more than an
order of magnitude. Tsunamis produce most of the damage from asteroids with
diameters between 200 meters and 1 km. An impact anywhere in the Atlantic by
an asteroid 400 meters in diameter would devastate the coasts on both sides
of the ocean by tsunami over 100 meters high. An asteroid 5 km in diameter
hitting in mid Atlantic would produce tsunami that would inundate the entire
upper East Coast of the United States to the Appalachian Mountains. Studies
of ocean sediments may be used to determine when coastal areas have been hit
by tsunamis in the past. Tsunami debris has been found to be associated with
the Cretaceous-Tertiary impact and should be detectable for smaller impacts.
From: Bob Kobres firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: University of Georgia Libraries
To: Benny J Peiser B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk
Date sent: Fri, 9 Jan 1998 09:46:59 EST
Subject: Re: David Milne
Copies to: email@example.com
Readers interested in David Milne's essay may find Part III
(INFLUENCE OF COMETS AND PLANETS UPON ONE ANOTHER) at:
CCCMENU CCC for 1998