CCNet DIGEST, 30 March 1999

There will be no further CCNet mailings before 10 April.

    Ron Baalke <>

    Michael Paine <>



    Andrew Yee <>

    Trevor Palmer <>


From Ron Baalke <>

Catastrophic Events & Mass Extinctions: Impacts And Beyond
July 9-12, 2000
Vienna, Austria

This conference will be the fourth of an informal series of meetings on
mass extinctions, global catastrophes, geological (and biological)
implications of impact events, and related investigations, which were
initially held at Snowbird, Utah, to discuss studies of the
Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. The first and second of these
meetings were held October 19-22, 1981, and October 20-23, 1988. The
third one took place February 9-12, 1994, in Houston, Texas. While the
first two of these conferences had the K-T boundary as their main
topic, and included vigorous debates on the evidence for an impact
event 65 m.y. ago and alternative explanations, by 1994 this evidence
was overwhelming due to the discovery and confirmation of the Chicxulub
structure in Yucatan, Mexico, as the long-sought K-T boundary impact
crater. Therefore, more recently the discussion shifted to the question
if (and how) short-term, high-energy events influence the biological
evolution on the Earth, and if the observed changes in the biological
record show evidence of very short-term events other than the K-T
boundary event.

Current 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, but speculations center on massive volcanism or
cometary impact. Other boundaries and short-term events (e.g., 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.


From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

Follow-up on to the CCNET posting on 23/3/99 "SCIENTISTS DISCOVER NEW
LIFE FORMS". Below is an extract from my "Swapping Rocks" web page

On 20 March the Australian ABC Radio Science Show had a report on
Queensland research into nanobacteria (nanobes) - see (particularly
the PDF download)). The findings have implications for:

* Interplanetary transfer of organisms via meteoroids - the Nanobes
apparently survived the vacuum and intense radiation of the electron
microscope (c.f. space travel) after being taken from the hot,
pressurised environment 5 km below the seabed (c.f. planetary ejection
due to a cosmic impact and subsequent re-entry) and

* "Nanofossils" in Martian meteorite ALH84001. Until now it was thought
by many scientists that "organisms" around 20 nanometres - the size of
the nanofossils - were too small for "life"!


Press release</A> from Queensland University

BBC item

ABC TV Quantum "Deep Bacteria"
featuring an interview with Paul Davies. Paul's comment on
the Queensland University discovery, if verified - "Mommentous"

New Scientist editorial

Michael Paine


W.K. Hartmann*), M. Malin, A. McEwen, M. Carr, L. Soderblom, P. Thomas,
E. Danielson, P. James, J. Veverka: Evidence for recent volcanism on
Mars from crater counts. NATURE, 1999, Vol.397, No.6720, pp.586-589


Impact craters help characterize the age of a planetary surface,
because they accumulate with time. They also provide useful constraints
on the importance of surface erosion, as such processes will
preferentially remove the smaller craters. Earlier studies of martian
crater populations revealed that erosion and dust deposition are
important processes on Mars. They disagreed, however, on the age of the
youngest volcanism. These earlier studies were limited by image
resolution to craters larger than a few hundred metres in diameter.
Here we report an analysis, using new images obtained by the Mars
Global Surveyor spacecraft, of crater populations that extend the size
distribution down to about 16 m. Our results indicate a wide range
of surface ages, with one region-lava flows within the Arsia Mons
caldera-that we estimate to be no older than 40-100 million years. We
suggest that volcanism is a continuing process on Mars. Copyright 1999,
Institute for Scientific Information Inc.


Y. Miura, S. Fukuyama, A. Gucsik: Compositional changes by multiple
No.1-3, pp.192-193


Multiple impacts (i.e. progressive impacts) with reduction state
produce characteristic compositions originated from target rock. Pure
carbon can be obtained from limestone target rocks by multi-impact
reaction with reduction state which can be found in natural and
artificial impact craters. Pure Fe spherules in lunar agglutinates can
be obtained from FeO-rich basaltic rock by multiple impacts including
multi-impact reaction on the airless Moon. (C) 1999 Published by
Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.


From Andrew Yee <>

Royal Astronomical Society Press Notice

Date: 29 March 1999
For immediate release

Ref. PN 99/08

Issued by:

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
RAS Public Relations Officer
Office & home phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
FAX: Cambridge ((0)1223) 572892


Professor David Gubbins, Department of Earth Sciences, University of
Normal Office Tel. +44 (0)113 233 5255
Contact phone no. 29 March - 10 April 1999: +44 (0)1988 500296


Far below us, in the bowels of the Earth, something is stirring.
Immense flows of hot liquid iron gradually rise and fall in the molten
outer part of our planet's core where dynamo action gives rise to
magnetism. Now, new insight into the nature of this process is helping
make sense of the aberrant behaviour of Earth's magnetic field over
thousands and millions of years. Writing in the April 1999 issue of the
Geophysical Journal International (GJI), Professor David Gubbins of the
University of Leeds describes a new scenario for physical processes in
Earth's core that explains in broad terms the pattern of past episodes
in which Earth's magnetic field has changed dramatically in strength,
direction or both.

Certain rocks preserve a record of the state of Earth's magnetism at
the time they formed. From studying and dating them, geophysicists have
known for some time that Earth's magnetic poles have often flipped
completely in the remote past. The last such reversal took place 700
thousand years ago. But there is also evidence for more frequent
episodes when the magnetic poles have moved a large distance -- 45
degrees or more away from the geographical pole -- then returned. These
events, known as 'excursions', are rather like failed attempts at
reversal. When they occur, the strength of the magnetic field falls
dramatically as well, by a factor of 5 or 10.

Professor Gubbins has drawn on recent experimental results,
particularly those from a research group in Utrecht headed by Dr Cor
Langereis, which clearly identify six relatively recent magnetic
excursions as true global phenomena. All the excursions lasted roughly
the same length of time -- about 5,000 years. Furthermore, preliminary
results from the recent Ocean Drilling Program Leg 172 have revealed
more than twenty excursions recorded in sediments of the North Atlantic
in the same time period. While these events have not been correlated
world-wide, the sediments indicate very clearly that excursions are
quite frequent events. Professor Gubbins noted that there are about ten
excursions between each full reversal. Every 20 - 50 thousand years,
the Earth's magnetic field collapses in a failed attempt to reverse,
but then re-establishes itself quickly over a timescale of just a
couple of thousand years.

This pattern of behaviour can be explained, says Professor Gubbins, by
the much longer period of time it takes for magnetic change to take
effect in the solid inner core than in the fluid outer core. In the
outer core, the magnetic field changes in response to the flow of the
liquid iron, which typically moves 10 or 20 kilometres per year. At
that rate a 'parcel' of iron moves from the top of the inner core to
the bottom in about 500 years or so, and the magnetic field in the
outer core could also changethat quickly.

However, the magnetic field also permeates the solid metal inner core.
Here change is much slower, governed by the response to electrical
resistance. The timescale is more like 5,000 years than 500. The
difference of a factor of ten between these two timescales explains
why there are about ten excursions for every reversal.

In the scenario painted by Professor Gubbins, excursions represent a
reversal of the magnetic field in the liquid outer core, which takes
only a few centuries. The much slower process of change in the solid
inner core begins, but more often than not, the dynamo in the outer
core re-establishes the magnetic field there in its original direction
before total reversal in the whole core is achieved. The 5,000-year
timescale for magnetic change in the inner core also explains why no
excursions lasting longer than about 5,000 years are identified in the
best data; an episode lasting more than 5,000 years will end up with
total reversal.

So far these ideas are largely qualitative. Computers currently
available are not powerful enough for the kind of simulations needed to
reproduce the properties of Earth's liquid core in sufficient detail,
but Professor Gubbins is hopeful that the next generation of parallel
supercomputers will finally help theorists explain the mysteries of
Earth's magnetic field reversals.


     Radius of Earth - 6,371 km
     Radius of solid inner core - 1,233 km
     Liquid outer core - begins at a depth of 2,886 km.


From Trevor Palmer <>

Dear Benny,

During my recent forays into early European history, I have come across
the Annals of Xanten, from northwestern Germany, translated by Simon
Coupland for a forthcoming volume with Manchester University Press
about sources for the reign of Charles the Bald. You are probably
already familiar with these Annals but, if not, the following extracts
may be of interest to you.

810. The sun and moon failed twice, the sun on 8 June and the moon on
21 June, and King Pippin, the Emperor's son, passed away.

814. The most glorious Emperor Charles of blessed memory was called
by the Lord, and departed this life on 28 January. And later, in the
month of  March, Emperor Louis came to the palace at Aachen from

817. The Emperor established his son Lothar as emperor. In the month of
October that same year rays of fire appeared in the sky.

834. Emperor Louis and his wife pursued Lothar, who eventually came to
them with all his men, and when both parties had sworn allegiance -
even if it was unreliable - they each went back home. Meanwhile, as
this was going on, heathens fell upon the celebrated trading
settlement at Dorestad, and laid it waste with savage cruelty. And at
this time the Frankish Empire was lying largely desolate within itself,
and day by day men's misery increased greatly. In the same year
water flooded the land far and wide.

836. In the month of February wondrous rays of light appeared from east
to west in the early part of the night. In the same year the heathen
again attacked the Christians.

837. A mighty whirlwind kept breaking out, and a comet was seen,
sending out a great trail to the east, which to human eyes looked as
if it was three cubits long.

838. The winter was wet and windy, and on 21 January thunder was heard,
just as on 18 February loud thunder could be heard. And the excessive
heat of the sun scorched the earth, and there were earthquakes
in some parts of the land, and fire in the shape of a dragon was seen
in the air. In that year a wicked heresy arose. In the same year a
great peal of thunder was heard on the fifth night before the birth of
our Lord, and lightning was seen, and the distress and misfortune of
men grew daily in many ways.

839. On 26 December an immense whirlwind arose, so that the waters of
the sea burst their banks and bounds over a wide area, and tragically
engulfed a countless host of people and buildings in villages and
settlements round about. And fleets at sea were broken up and
overturned, and a flame of fire could be seen over the whole of the
sea. On 25 March of the same year wondrous rays of light appeared
in the sky towards evening, encompassing the whole arc of the heavens
like a circular building.

840. Identical rays appeared on two successive nights like those of the
previous year. And on 3 May, that is the third Rogation Day, there
was an eclipse of the sun at the ninth hour, and the stars were as
clearly visible in the sky as at night.

841. On July 28 of the same year, a Thursday, three circles appeared in
the sky in broad daylight, encircling one another so that they looked
rather like a rainbow. The smallest enclosed the sun at its centre,
and yet seemed more intense in colour than the others. The largest
was in the west, with its rim appearing to touch the sun. The middle
one was in the north, and encircled the two already described to an
equal extent. Even so, the big one and the middle one seemed much paler
than the little one. And the small cloud in the north-east shone
brightly in the same way as the rings, though in one place it looked
as if it was a long way from them. They were observed before the
third hour of the day, and remained until after midday.

842. During Lent a star in the west shone with unusual brightness to
the east. And Lothar ravaged Gaul before returning to Aachen.

845. There were two earthquakes in the Worms region, the first in the
night after Palm Sunday, and the second in the holy night of Christ's
resurrection...After all this had happened, King Louis mustered a great
army and moved against the Wends. When the unbelievers learned of this,
they dispatched envoys across to Saxony and sent him presents and
hostages, seeking peace. And he returned from Saxony, having granted
them peace. Later, however, the robbers were struck down by a terrible

850. On 1 January, that is, eight days after the Lord's nativity, loud
thunder was heard towards evening, and on the same day great lightning
was seen, and that winter floods of water afflicted the human race. And
the following summer the excessive heat of the sun scorched the earth.

852. The steel of the heathen glowed red hot, the sun's heat was
excessive, and famine followed: animal fodder ran short, and there
was an abundance of feeding-grounds for the pigs.

853. There was a great famine in Saxony, so that many people lived off

857. A great plague of swollen abscesses swept through the populace,
and as it consumed them they rotted away horribly, so that their limbs
fell apart and dropped off before they died.

868. During the September fast two great circles appeared in the sky,
looking rather like a rainbow. At first the larger of them, to the
north, was the most beautiful, but then it faded as it seemed to
diffuse its essence towards the south. And the smaller one encircled
the sun at its centre and shone in all its glory at the far end of the
other one. And they appeared before the third hour and lasted until the
ninth hour, when they disappeared. At that time in Saxony fire was seen
flying through the air with the speed of an arrow, as thick as a
pitchfork and shooting off sparks like an iron block in a furnace. And
suddenly it seemed to go up in oily black smoke before the eyes of many
people. But only the Lord knows the meaning of this. Later, in the
autumn, an edict went out from the kings that a general fast should be
observed for three days because of the threat of the terrors of famine
and plague, and there were great earthquakes throughout the kingdoms,
so that very many people despaired of life itself.

869. In the month of February peals of thunder were heard from the dark
waters in the clouds of the air, and on 15 September, that is, the
holy night of Septuagesima, a comet was seen in the north-west,
followed immediately by very strong winds and an enormous deluge
of water, in which very many were caught unawares and perished.
And then in the summer a very severe famine ensued in many
provinces, but above all in Burgundy and Gaul, in which a large
number of people suffered an untimely death, so that some people
are said to have eaten human corpses, while others are supposed to
have lived off dogmeat.

872. In that same year the battering of thunder, rain and hailstorms
did great harm to mankind, damaging buildings and crops alike. And the
principle mother church of the holy apostle Peter in the town of Worms,
which had just been restored again by Bishop Samuel, abbot of the monks
of St Nazarius, was set alight and destroyed when it was struck by

873. In the same winter there was unexpected flooding caused by the
snow suddenly melting, particularly on the banks of the Rhine. And a
great many people were lost as the waters poured in, along with
countless buildings and crops. Later, in the middle of the month of
August, the ancient plague of the Egyptians once again appeared
throughout the land from the east, namely countless swarms of locusts,
like bees leaving the hive, which as they flew through the air gave out
a faint noise, like little birds. And when they rose, the sky could
only just be seen, as if through a sieve...And from 1 November right up
until Sezagesima snow covered the whole surface of the earth, and the
Lord constantly distressed his people with various plagues, visiting
their transgressions upon them with the rod, and their sins upon them
with the whip.

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    Benny J Peiser

    Jonathan TATE <>

    Andrea Milani Comparetti <>

    Clark Chapman <>


These are the last letters on the Kosovo conflict which I will accept
for circulation on the CCNet. I think the contrasting positions
among list members are perfectly clear. The battle for the soul of
Europe and the future of human rights internationally will have to be
fought on other fronts. There is just one other issue I would like to
address: In his letter below, Jay Tate, the director and driving force
of SPACEGUARD UK, tells us that he is on 48 hours notice to move to
Kosovo. It is only because brave men like Jay have confronted
totalitarian dictatorship and mass murder in the past that most of us
today are living in open and free societies. Let us hope that the race
against the Kosovo genocide will be won before Jay is called up.
Good luck, Jay.

Benny J Peiser


From Jonathan TATE <>

Dear Benny,

Firstly let me say that I do not believe that this forum is the place
for political Soap-boxing, but secondly, as a member of the armed
forces I cannot let Andrea Milani's letter pass without reply. I would
like to make a couple of brief points, and then I'll shut up.

Point 1

No one hates war as much as those who are invited to prosecute it.
Those pilots (and soon soldiers) now fighting in the former Yugoslavia
would much rather be at home, safe, with their families.

Point 2

Mr. Knezevic is perfectly safe, as long as he is not a member of the
Serbian armed forces or Special Police.  He is probably, and quite
understandably frightened by the propaganda.

Point 3

I totally agree that Science should be above politics. Why then is
information being withheld?

I am trying to understand Dr Milani's moral dilemma.  It would be nice
if politics did not impinge on science, but the real-life fact is that
it does. More to the point, it is much more important to consider those
affected by the genocide than our own petty concerns.  As you may know,
I am, as well as being involved in Spaceguard UK and the Foundation, a
serving officer in the British Army. I have been to war before, more
than once, but I want to be in on this one.  The aim is crystal clear
.... and the enemy is so despicable as to make pulling the trigger

Point 4

No stealth bomber has yet turned back because of public opinion. Bad
visibility at the target, making certain marking has been a factor in
aborted missions.

Point 5

"Thus I would like to officially announce my one man anti war strike. I
shall not publish the results of the work done with Zoran Knezevic, and
the results already obtained shall not be made available to other
scientists, until he has the possibility to visit me to write the
paper. Other scientists can do the work in our place; some may salute
with some relief the end of a monopoly on the production of proper
elements which has lasted even too long. But I hope some will
understand that I have good reasons to do what I am doing."

I can sympathise with this feeling ..... no one hates war as much as
those who have had to do it before.  But give a credible alternative to
the current actions.  Diplomacy has been blown out of the water by
Milosovic, the Serbs are committing horrible crimes in Kosovo.  Should
we just stand by, wringing our hands saying "Please stop, we don't like
what you are doing"?  I await the answer to this one with interest.

If you saw a pregnant woman being assaulted on the other side of the
road, would you just walk away saying "Hey, I don't know her so it's
not my problem."

I am on 48 hours notice to move to Kosovo, and after some soul
searching (what about my family?) I am damned proud to be part of the
organisation that will bring this abhorrent regime to heel.

OK .... that's it. Sorry about all of that.

All the best

Jay Tate
Royal Artillery


From Andrea Milani Comparetti <>

Dear Benny,

If you believe that I am a biased pro-Serb, then you might not have read
well my 'Serb mithology', which actually contains something more, and
which by a quirk of fate applies exactly to Kosovo (although it was
written some time ago). I enclose the page, from

With all this, I am against the war (not against NATO!).


Andrea Milani


From Andrea Milani

In the poem The ruin of the Serb kingdom, which belongs to the Serb
oral tradition collected by Vuk Karadzic, the king Lazar is visited,
immediately before the battle of Kosovo (1389), by a grey hawk holding
in the mouth a swallow. However, the grey hawk was not a hawk but Saint
Elias, and the swallow was not a swallow but a letter from the Mother
of God. The hawk deposited the letter on the knees of Lazar, and the
letter began to speak, proposing the following alternatives. If he
prefers the kingdom of this Earth, then he should prepare himself and
his army with the weapons for the battle, and all the turks would be
killed and the great battle would be won. If, on the contrary, he
rather likes to belong to the kingdom of the heavens, he should build a
church on the field of Kosovo where he was to meet the turks, and
himself with all his soldiers should get the Holy Communion; but later
he and all his soldiers would be killed, and the decisive battle lost.

Then king Lazar considered by himself what he would rather do, and
having thought that the earthly kingdom is anyway small and limited in
time, while the heavenly kingdom is infinite and ethernal, he decided
to chose the latter. Thus he built the church and performed the
religious rites, following exactly the instructions received from the
Mother of God; the next day, after a long and terrible battle, he was
defeated by the turks and killed, together with all his soldiers.

This traditional song, preserved for many centuries -of course with
many transformations, and with little care for the details of the
historical events- for having been song with the accompaining music of
single string fiddle, must represent a very strongly held belief. All
along the centuries of the Turkish domination, after all resistance had
been crushed, when all the rare uprisings only resulted in massacres,
the Serbs kept copying their icons and singing their legends, thus
preserving their language, culture, religion, and national identity.
Only in the 19th century they were able to fight, with some reasonable
chance of success, against the turks; the first Serb high school , in
which a new Serb speaking intellectual elite could be formed, was
created during the first Belgrade uprising of 1806-1813, and Vuk
Karazic  was one of the first students.

The legend of king Lazar is of course susceptible of different
interpretation, but a possible one is that the Serb were deeply
convinced that it is better to be right, to preserve their own way of
thinking, rather than to be successful in the military and economic
sense, as they never were for centuries. Actually, the ones who give
up, and become Muslims, do not consider themselves, and are not
considered, Serb any more.

Since I do not believe in neutral, objective knowledge, and even less
in neutral touristic guides, I have done many comments and I apologize
if I have offended somebody, but I will nevertheless stand for my own
opinion. However, I would like to give a single, final comment which is
as far from neutral as it could be.

Let us try to answer the following question: suppose king Lazar is
reborn now. If presented with the following alternative: should the
Serb nation either chose to reaffirm that it has preserved, even
against the odds and the persecutions (not only by the turks), the
culture, the spirit, and the morality by which it is a nation in its
own right, but within the framework of European culture, spirit, and
morality; or, should the Serbs prefer a small kingdom of this world,
may be in the form of some villages where other Serb either live or
used to live? Guess what king Lazar would chose.


From Clark Chapman <>

Benny and Andrea -- While I respect the high principles that have
motivated you each to write as you did in the recent mailing, I think
the subject matter has strayed from the purposes for which CCNet
subscribers participate.


CCCMENU CCC for 1999