CCNet, 52/2000 - 26 April 2000

     "The so called Torino Scale aims to give a simple rating system
     measuring the threat posed to the earth by any asteroid or comet
     approaching our planet in the near future. The rate of an
     encounter, an integer number from 0 (harmless) to 10 (certain
     global catastrophe), is derived from the estimated probability of
     impact and the estimated kinetic energy of the object. Since
     probabilities (specially the very small ones) are known to be very
     difficult to deal with by the general public, it is widely
     believed that the scale will be very useful for scientists working
     on the Impact Hazard problem to communicate to the public a
     non-distorted idea of the importance of the hazard associated to
     any encounter. Unfortunately, the scale has some important
     technical flaws, of which the more intuitive is that a very likely
     (80%-95%) collision with an energy of a hundred million megatons
     is rated as less threatening than a certain one megaton collision.
     Here I analyse these shortcomings and propose a change in the
     rating procedure, using the von Neumann-Morgenstern expected
     utility model, to overcome the flaws.”
         -- Joaquín Pérez, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, Spain

    Joaquin Perez <>

    Andrew Yee <>


(4) LYRIDS 2000
    Rainer Arlt <>

    Daniel Fischer <>

    Alison Garritya <>

(7) KILLER CRATER FOUND News, 19 April 2000


    Larry Klaes <>

     Bob Kobres <>

     National Post, 22 April 2000


From Joaquin Perez <>

Dear Benny:

On my web page at, CCNet readers
can find a critical analysis of the Torino Scale for the asteroid or
comet impact hazard.

Best regards.

Joaquín Pérez
Universidad de Alcalá.
Alcalá de Henares
Madrid, Spain


From Andrew Yee <>

New Scientist

UK Contact:
Claire Bowles,, 44-207-331-2751

US Contact:
New Scientist Washington office,, 202-452-1178

Hummingbird space probe

A hummingbird could soon be visiting the heavens -- in a manner of
speaking. NASA engineers want to build a space probe that behaves like
a hummingbird approaching a flower. In other words it will use a
touch-and-go landing technique to capture and analyse samples from a
comet's central core for the first time.

The team, led by Glenn Carle of the NASA Ames Research Center in
Moffett Field, California, is hoping to convince NASA chiefs to press
ahead with its Hummingbird Comet Nucleus Analysis Mission this summer.
The Ames team hopes to launch the probe sometime around 2005, to
complement three other NASA comet missions.

Comets are at about 100 kelvin, and scientists believe they contain
deep- frozen material from after the big bang but they would like to be
certain. "What I think is the most interesting question to answer is
the relationships of comets to material that ended up on the early
Earth and took part in the origin of life," says Carle. "We just don't
know what we started with."

The space probe would be powered by an ion engine. Once it reached the
comet, it would orbit for up to a year taking samples of the dust, ice
and gases in the comet's atmosphere and analysing their composition and
isotope ratios. During that period, the craft would take detailed
images to help the ground team choose a safe touchdown spot.

In the next phase of the mission, the craft would advance slowly toward
the comet's solid core, or nucleus, stopping frequently for safety
checks. But the craft would not land in the conventional sense: only
two dangling tethers would make contact with the comet. One tether,
equipped with temperature, hardness and contact sensors, would use
electronics to sense certain conditions and trigger a new type of
sampling mechanism attached to the second tether.

The sampler has two counter-rotating carbide wheels with sharpened
blades that would grind up the surface of the comets and kick chunks of
the material into collection funnels on the spacecraft. A prototype
sampler is being built at Honeybee Robotics in New York, and will
probably be finished by June.

The hummingbird sampling cycle takes less than two seconds, then gas
thrusters would fire and send the craft back to analyse its samples as
it orbits the comet. Ideally, the craft would repeat this hummingbird
manoeuvre up to six times.

As well as taking samples at many points on a comet nucleus, the
concept has several advantages. Comets have a tiny gravitational field
because their nuclei are only tens of kilometres across, so a normal
probe would have to latch onto the comet. The hummingbird probe's "bump
sampling" gets round this problem. Cutting down the time at the surface
is also safer, since it means the probe spends less time without
sunlight and channels of communication.

"Almost all the questions we have from 20 years ago still exist," says
William Boynton, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
"We've flown by comets and taken a peek at them, but we really have not
even scratched the surface. It sounds like this mission would scratch
the surface literally as well as figuratively."

Author: Mark Schrope, Washington DC

New Scientist issue: 22nd April 2000



PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Jane Platt  (818) 354-0880


Like an excited kid hoping to snag a fly ball at a professional
baseball game, NASA's Stardust spacecraft has extended its high-tech
"catcher's mitt" to collect a valuable space souvenir -- a batch of
interstellar dust particles.

The dust is contained in a stream of particles that flows through our
solar system, and scientists are anxious to study it so they can learn
more about the formation of Earth, other planets and life.

"We can see this material with the naked eye as a black zone running
along the center of the Milky Way," said Dr. Donald Brownlee of the
University of Washington in Seattle, principal investigator for
Stardust.  "These particles contain the heavy chemical elements that
originated in the stars.  Since every atom in our bodies came from the
inside of stars, by studying these interstellar dust particles we can
learn about our cosmic roots."

Stardust is equipped with a special collector containing aerogel, a
unique substance that can trap the particles and store the precious
cargo safely until it's returned to Earth. The aerogel collector has
two sides, one designed to gather the interstellar dust and one for
comet dust collection, which will take place later in the mission. 
Engineers orient the spacecraft to control which side of the collector
is exposed to a dust stream. 

Right now, Stardust is oriented so that the interstellar dust particles
are hitting the backside of the collector.  This collection began on
February 22, when the spacecraft's sample return capsule opened and the
aerogel collector was moved out of the capsule.  It will remain in this
configuration until May 1, when the collector will return to its stowed
position for safe storage until mid-2002, when another period of
interstellar dust collection is scheduled.
"The project's name, 'Stardust,' reflects the importance of this
event," said Stardust Project Manager Dr. Kenneth Atkins of NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.  "It's the first time
anyone has attempted to catch anything like this and bring it home. 
After all the design, building, testing, and now the flying of this
spacecraft over the past four years, the moment of truth for the
collector is here.  These tiny particles zip by at 20 to 25 kilometers
per second (about 45,000 to 56,000 miles per hour) relative to the
spacecraft.  The aerogel must slow them to a stop in fractions of an

In late December 2003, the collector will be deployed again in
preparation for the gathering of comet dust samples when Stardust flies
by Comet Wild-2 on January 2, 2004.  Once the samples of both
interstellar dust and comet dust are tucked safely inside the aerogel
collector, it will be retracted into the sample return capsule.  
Stardust will begin the return trip to Earth and make a soft landing at
the U.S. Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range in 2006.  The sample
canister will be taken to the planetary material curatorial facility at
NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.  The samples will be
carefully extracted and then examined by scientists.

"I'm thrilled at the thought of being able to look at and study these
particles firsthand," Brownlee said.

More information on the Stardust mission is available at .

Stardust was launched on February 7, 1999.  The mission is managed by
JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Lockheed
Martin Astronautics, Denver, Co, built and operates the spacecraft.
Science instruments were provided by JPL, the University of Chicago and
the Max Planck Institute, Garching, Germany. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

(4) LYRIDS 2000

From Rainer Arlt <>

I M O   S h o w e r   C i r c u l a r


Observations of the 2000 Lyrids were hampered by a gibbous waning Moon,
which rose before midnight shortly after the radiant of the Lyrids had
reached altitudes above 30 degrees. Typically, the annual maximum of
the Lyrids falls between solar longitudes 32.1 deg and 32.5 deg,
corresponding to April 21, 22:10 UT to April 22, 05:40 UT this year.

The return of the Lyrid meteor shower in 2000 was normal, according to
the present information. The amount of data available is far from
conclusive. High ZHRs of roughly 15 to 20 were recorded all through the
(UT) evening of April 21 and the whole morning of April 22. We would
like to thank the following observers for their quick reports after the

ARLRA  Rainer Arlt (Germany)
ATAJU  Jure Atanackov (Slovenia)
BUCAN  Andreas Buchmann (Switzerland)
DIAAS  Asdai Diaz Rodriguez (Cuba)
DUBAU  Audrius Dubietis (Lithuania)
ENZFR  Frank Enzlein (Germany)
HANIS  Isabel Handel (Germany)
KACJA  Javor Kac (Slovenia)
LINMI  Mike Linnolt (USA)
OSAKA  Kazuhiro Osada (Japan)
PETNA  Natasa Petelin (Slovenia)
RENJU  Jurgen Rendtel (Germany)
TRIJO  Josep M. Trigo (Spain)
WUSOL  Oliver Wusk (Germany)
YOUKI  Kim Youmans (USA)
YRJIL  Ilkka Yrjola (Finland)

Date       UT   Sollong nLYR nObs  ZHR  +-  Remarks
April 21  02:00  31.28    3    1   5.4  3.1
April 21  20:00  32.01   55    9  17    9
April 22  01:20  32.23   31    5  12    5
April 22  08:30  32.52   16    5  20   10   low LM for two indiv. values
April 22  21:00  33.02   29   11   7.0  5.0
April 22  22:50  33.10   17    6   8.3  3.7

Solar longitudes refer to equinox J2000. ZHRs are based on a population
index of r=2.9. Errors are standard deviations of the averages except
for the first value based on a single observation where we give

Rainer Arlt, 2000 Apr 25
Visual Commission, International Meteor Organization,


From Daniel Fischer <>

Dear Benny,

you had asked me to further investigate a story about a major asteroid
impact in the 19th century in Syria that I had heard mentioned last
year at a conference in Jordan. As chance would have it, when I visited
Amman again on April 20th, after the big Leonids conference in Tel Aviv
(a report on that event will follow), I met the very researcher who had
started the idea in person! And it seems that he has found quite a
number of similar reports in the vast (and hardly evaluated) Arabic
literature that could be attributed to deadly NEO impacts in Islamic
times (i.e. *very* recently on geological timescales). Here is a brief
report on what I've learned so far:

During a recent visit to Amman, Jordan, I was introduced to an Iraqi
scientist who has temporarily taken residence there: Dr Wafiq S. Rada
had quit a teaching job in Libya to be able to pursue more freely his
research into astronomical events recorded in old Arabic chronicles.
Rada is actually a cosmic ray physicist who had worked in the 1970's at
the University of Durham, UK, where he had played a (key?) role in the
construction of the Extensive Air Shower Array (EAS)*), an  instrument
he had then used for several astrophysical projects.

Later his interest had turned to the history of astronomy, though, and
he has been a collaborator with the famous British researcher F.R.
Stephenson, investigating old reports of solar eclipses that could be
used to measure the braking of Earth's rotation by the Moon. Other
papers by Rada in the 1980's dealt with Arabic chronicle reports that
he attributed to Halley's and other comets, supernovae, polar lights
and meteor showers, but with one exception**) all work was either never
published in the accessible literature or just presented at local
conferences. One paper (on aurorae) was even classified by the
Libyan government ...

Rada's current interest are possible records of devastating impacts by
Near Earth Objects during the last 1500 years that witnesses have
survived. Rada read to me extensive quotes from his huge collection of
transcripts that he translated from Arabic to English in realtime -
apparently in Yemen the best collections of Arabic chronicles can be
found. Several of these reports *sounded* like how a Hollywood script
would describe a 'deep impact' as seen from close-up, with (literally)
breath-taking heat and pressure waves, fire raining from the sky and
subsequent earthquakes.

His favorite "case" is a surprisingly recent one: Rada has dug up a
Chronicle of Aleppo (a major and very old city in Syria***) that was
written down in 1926 - and the author had talked to an eyewitness of
the great earthquake that had hit the city in August of 1822****).
(Rada actually said August 1, 1821, but all sources I tracked down on
the net say either August 13 or 23, 1822.) And what that witness has to
say was really weird. From Rada's 'live' translation I got something
like the following scenario:

- The witness was sitting in front of his house during a cool night.
- Suddenly the air got so hot that he couldn't breathe, and that
   extreme heat lasted for some 20 minutes.
- Then he saw a bright light in the atmosphere that lit the whole
   ground like sunshine. He describes the light like as if a "chamber
   had opened in the sky."
- Next he heard a sort of great noise like thunder, and
- the air started to move left and right.
- Four shocks lifted him and others out of their seats, and they
   were fearing for their lives, as if the sky would be falling.
- And then buildings all around them started to collapse, less than
   30 seconds after the bright light had appeared, with the earthquake
   and its aftershocks lasting for 40 days.

I don't know what to make of this report, written down many decades
after the event. It is well possible that the witness had woven the
observation of a major fireball and other experiences into the report
about the devastating earthquake that had killed 10 000's, and major
earthquakes happen in the Aleppo area every 100 or 200 years - a quake
there in 1138 was actually the 3rd-most devastating in history*****).
Rada has recently started to look for an astrobleme in the Aleppo area,
but the candidates he has located with the restricted resources he has
had so far are not convincing at all. Other similar reports of fire in
the sky with resulting devastation or casualties he has found in much
earlier chronicles might actually be more substantial, and he's got a
notebook full of such references.

Not only to me does Dr. Wafiq S. Rada - who, after spending time in the
U.K. as well as in Canada, speaks fluent English - appear as a very
dedicated researcher with a unique blend of talents who might be onto
something important. What he now needs is a collaborator with similar
interests, anywhere in the (Western) world, and some moderate funding:
Then, he says, he would be able to complete several key papers within
about a year. Dr. Rada can be reached during the coming months c/o The
Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS), P.O.Box 141568, Amman 11814,
Jordan, while copies of his CV (in Arabic), a complete list of
publications and various letters of recommendation could be obtained
directly from me. While Rada holds an Iraqi passport he has had no
trouble obtaining Western visa despite the continuing sanctions, so he
could join a research group basically everywhere.

Daniel Fischer (, April 22, 2000

*)     Rada et al., Nuclear Instruments and Methods Vol. 145, 283 (1977)

**)    Rada and Stephenson, Quarterly J. of the RAS Vol. 33, 5 (1992)


****)  This important earthquake is either mentioned or listed in



From Alison Garritya <>

Dear Dr. Peiser,

I am writing to you from Survival Anglia Television, where I am
currently researching a proposed television series on the future of the
planet earth. At survival we make natural history documentaries, and as
such our series would have an enviromental feel to it.

I have been researching the long term implications on earth of a comet
impact, and as such have come across your research on the Bronze Age. I
am writing to you now to ask you for some advice.

I am trying to find out if there are people who are currently
researching the implications of such an impact on today's planet, and
what those long term implications would be hundreds or even thousands
of years after such an event. I would be extremely grateful if you
were able to reccommend somebody that I should get in contact with, or
any papers that I should read.

I am trying to gather as much information as possible on future
pressures on the planet following an impact, and what the resultant
evolution might be. I realise that there will no doubt be differing
views, and I am keen to hear them all.
We plan to do a series of programmes that will follow the planet
through thousands of years in to the future. Looking at various
different scenarios in each programme. In some scenarios we will see an
end to the human race, and in others we will see it evolving. At the
moment this is pretty much a blank page for me, so I am interested in
what might make the most dramatic storyline.
I had thought that I would like to look at the future implications
following an impact with a large object, somewhere in the region of 2-4
kms across. This would allow me the opportunity to show how the
remaining human population would have to evolve to overcome the long
lasting effects of such a huge impact.
I would be extremely appreciative of any comments on the above
scenario, from both yourself, and anyone on your mailing list. I would
be delighted for you to post my email address for any return comments.

I thank you very much for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Garrity


From News, 19 April 2000

By Larry O'Hanlon,

April 19, 2000 -- Australian geologists have discovered the buried
remains of an 80-mile wide impact crater that could be the culprit
behind the worst extinction catastrophe in Earth's history.

Geologists detected the crater through smashed mineral grains and
magnetic and gravity measurements of the region around the town of
Woodleigh, near Shark Bay on Australia's west coast.

Although no precise age for the crater -- the fourth largest in the
world -- has been determined yet, it appears to be 250-360 million
years old, making it a possible source for the massive Permian-Triassic
extinction event that wiped out almost all life on the planet 250
million years ago.

The Permian-Triassic die-off destroyed 96 percent of all sea life and
nearly as much on land. It dwarfs the 65-million-year-old
Cretaceous-Tertiary extinctions that eradicated 75 percent of species,
including the dinosaurs.

"The global environmental effects would have been catastrophic," said
Geological Survey of Western Australia geoscientist Robert Iasky, who,
with colleague Arthur Mory, hunted down the crater.



From, 21 April 2000
SYDNEY, Australia – A new crater, the world’s fourth-largest at 75
miles (120 kilometers) across, has been found in western
Australia. Scientists believe the impact crater was caused by a
3-mile (5-kilometer) wide asteroid slamming into the area, causing
a wave of extinction 200 million to 360 million years ago. Upon
impact, massive earthquakes pulsated out hundreds of miles
(kilometers) from the site. Local animal life was vaporized by
intense heat or pulverized by massive sonic waves. The crash also
fostered regional volcanic activity and almost certainly sparked
tsunamis, or tidal waves, in the nearby ocean. Worst of all, the
violent crash must have shot huge amounts of dust into the sky
that blocked out the sun for months, killing plant and animal life
dependent upon stable atmospheric conditions.

"Lack of sunlight, temporary changes in climate and associated
acidification of rain would have resulted in an environment similar to
a prolonged nuclear or volcanic ‘winter,’" said Western Australia
government geoscientist Robert Iasky. He and a colleague confirmed the
crater’s existence last year while researching the isolated region’s
mineral exploration potential. The new crater has been named Woodleigh
in honor of the sheep station north of Perth, where it was found.

The crater now enters the record books as smaller in size only to
Vredefort crater in South Africa (at 1,865 miles, or 300 kilometers
across), the Sudbury crater in Canada (at 155 miles, or 250 kilometers)
and the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico (at 110 miles, or 180
kilometers). It displaces the Manicougan crater in Quebec and Popigai
crater in Russia (both roughly 60 miles, or 100 kilometers across),
which now become Earth’s fifth-largest known craters.



From Larry Klaes <>

General: U.S. Military Doesn't Need Separate Space Force

From Spaceviews, 22 April 2000

An Air Force general said this week that the best way for the United
States to handle the growing importance of space operations in the 21st
century is not through the creation of a separate "Space Force".

Instead, said Lt. General Roger DeKok, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans
and Programs for the U.S. Air Force, the Air Force should evolve into
an "Aerospace Force" that can better integrate air and space vehicles
to meet the nation's defense needs.



From Bob Kobres <>


Creation science is far from extinct. On the contrary, says Debora
MacKenzie, it's mutating and spreading

IN THE BEGINNING, there wasn't that much fuss. Charles Darwin published
On the Origin of Species in 1859. By 1900, mainstream Protestants had
adapted their theology to it. More conservative Christians had
misgivings. But nearly all agreed that the Earth is millions of years
old, and there was no organised opposition to the teaching of evolution.

Now, a century later, the US is the world's leading scientific nation.
Yet 47 per cent of Americans--and a quarter of college
graduates--believe humans did not evolve, but were created by God a few
thousand years ago. Nearly a third believe creationism should be taught
in science lessons (see below).

continued @:


From National Post, 22 April 2000


Margaret Thatcher's biggest feat as a world politician was not
transforming Britain, says Richard S. Courtney. It was making the
global warming issue a widespread political cause -- but for all the
wrong reasons.

The hypothesis of man-made global warming has existed since the 1880s.
It was an obscure scientific hypothesis that burning fossil fuels would
increase CO2 in the air to enhance the greenhouse effect and thus cause
global warming. Before the 1980s, this hypothesis was usually regarded
as a curiosity because the 19th-century calculations indicated
that mean global temperature should have risen more than 1 degree
Celsius by 1940, and it had not.

Then, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of the U.K., and
she elevated the hypothesis to the status of a major international
policy issue. Many now consider Mrs. Thatcher to have been a great U.K.
politician: She gave her Conservative Party victory in three general
elections, presided over the U.K.'s conduct of the Falklands War,
replaced much of the U.K. welfare state with monetarist economics and
privatized most of the nationalized industries.

But she had yet to gain that reputation when she came to power in 1979.
Then, she was the first female leader of a major Western state, and she
desired to be taken seriously by political leaders of other major
countries. This seemed difficult, because her only experience in
government had been as education secretary -- a junior ministry -- in
the Heath administration that collapsed in 1974. She had achieved
nothing notable as education secretary, but was remembered by the
public for having removed the distribution of milk to schoolchildren
(she was popularly known as "Milk Snatcher Thatcher").

Sir Crispin Tickell, then U.K. ambassador to the UN, suggested a
solution. He pointed out that almost all international statesmen are
scientifically illiterate, so a scientifically literate politician
could win any summit debate on a matter requiring scientific
understanding. And Mrs. Thatcher had a BSc degree in chemistry. This is
probably the most important fact in the entire global warming issue:
Mrs. Thatcher had a BSc degree in chemistry.

Sir Crispin pointed out that if a scientific issue were to gain
international significance, the U.K.'s prime minister could easily take
a prominent role, and this could provide credibility for her views on
other world affairs. He suggested that Mrs. Thatcher campaign about
global warming at each summit meeting. She did, and the tactic worked.
Mrs. Thatcher rapidly gained the desired international respect, and the
U.K. became the prime promoter of the global warming issue.


The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and
educational use only. The attached information may not be copied or
reproduced for any other purposes without prior permission of the
copyright holders. The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from
February 1997 on, can be found at



    E.P. GRONDINE <>

    Timo Niroma <>

    Phil Herridge <>

    Bob Kobres <>



Hello Benny -

This note is on topics far different than those usually covered by my
notes, and the astronomers here can skip this one, as it is for those
who are now working through records from sub-Roman Britain looking for
remembrances of earlier impact events.
An important point needs to be remembered when working with European 
records, and not only those from sub-Roman Britain: not all bright
lights in the sky were impactors. It must be remembered that a number
of ancient European religions (the Celtic Druidic religions and the
Greek mystery religions in particular) were based on the use of
hallucinogenic drugs, specifically the mushroom Amanita Muscaria and
various members of the atropa family of plants, and that among the
effects of these hallucinogens is the hallucination of a BRIGHT LIGHT

All Conference participants are intimately familiar with the problem of
identification in modern anthropological researchers. The closest
example of the "logic" underlying identification, one we are all
familiar with, runs such: "I am like the people I am studying; they are
like me; I have not personally experienced an impact event; therefore
the people I am studying did not experience an impact event."  Yet
another example of identification is: "I am like the people I am
studying; they are like me; I do not use hallucinogens; therefore the
people I am studying did not use hallucinogens."  My caution to those
working through ancient European records looking for mentions of bright
lights in the sky is, "Don't make that assumption".

The item which primed me to write this note was the passing last week
of Hittite scholar Hans Guterbock. Many Conference participants will
remember my note on the tale of cometary impact recovered from
Guterbock's splendid translation of "The Song of Ullikummi". In his
last days, Guterbock was nearly blind, and had lost most of his
hearing, but having been assigned a manuesis, was still at work at
Chicago's Oriental Institute on the Hittite Dictionary. I recieved
comment that Guterbock's manuesis had spent the bulk of their time
together vigourously arguing with him that the hittite word "SIUNA",
the "soma" of the Rg Veda, the hallucinognenic mushroom Amanita
Muscaria, (see R.G. Wasson, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality), was
not really eaten, as Guterbock continued to insist, but that instead
the Hittites had used the word figuratively.  What a way to spend your
final days, nearly blind and deaf, and arguing daily that 2+2 does not
equal 5!  It will be interesting to observe whether the Oriental
Institute's final Dictionary at least mentions Guterbock's reading, or
whether they will suppress this part of his work completely.

Supression of knowledge about the ancient Europeans' use of
hallucinongens extends far beyond far beyond Chicago, and far beyond
the times of the Hittites; in fact it extends to Britain, and
specifically to the times of Celtic sub-Roman Britain. The result is
that records from that period are poorly analyzed, and woe to the poor
paleo-ecologist working through them. As the British Archaeology
reviewer of Keys' book "Catastrophe" put it, "As for textual evidence,
pseudo-historical and historical material is intermingled, and few
specialists will accept that late medieval 'Arthurian' literature
contains any reliable information about the 6th century, the topic of a
whole chapter of this book." Or as the British Archaeology reviewer of
Baillie' "Exodus to Arthur less charitably put it, "Mercy on us,' wrote
Horace Walpole, on surveying the second volume of Archaeologia in 1771,
'what a cartload of bricks and ruins and Roman rubbish they have piled
together!"  Bold words, consdering that the fault for this rubbish pile
lies with neither Keys nor Baillie, but with large segments of the
British archaeological and classical communities.

In "Exodus to Arthur" Baillie notes a division of historical records
around 650 AD in Britain and the lack of records from earlier periods. 
While numerous early Christian remains have been found in Britain,
there is no literary remainder from these times, and this is not simply
an accident of histroical survival: the early Christians in Britain
were Pelagian heretics; with the arrival of orthodox Christians, and
their asscendancy to secular power, they suppressed the records of
these earlier heretics, who had been allied with earlier secular
powers. This suppression was and remains so complete that to this day
you can find entire books written about sub-Roman Britain without so
much as one single mention of Pelagianism.

Why were the Pelagians so vigourously suppressed?  It is likely that
their religious rites included the induced hallucination of a risen
Christ, or "anastasis". Exhaustively setting out the evidence for this
is a very lengthy proposition, and not suitable for the Conference
Letters, but one or two points may serve here. If, for example, one
travels to London, and goes down to the British Museum, and carefully
examines the side panel of the Pelagian Christian mosaic from Hinton
St. Mary mounted on display there, one can see that the plants'
"leaves" are in fact two colored atropa pods.

Use of hallucinogens shows up not only in physical artifacts, but in
literary evidence as well, and it can throw the researcher off if he is
not aware of it. In "Exodus to Arthur" Baillie cites a passage from St.
Patrick on Satan, "who falls upon me like a great rock". That St.
Patrick also used "rock" or "stone" in a "symbolic" manner may be seen
by this statement of his, made when he was offered a cup of poison by
the Druid priests at Tara after he had confronted them:

"I take in ignorance,        [Gaban anfis
I drink in ignorance,         Ibui anfis
Long thirsty for your lamb,   Fra sia uathib (var. "far from fear")
I drink the stone,            Ibiu lithu
Christ Jesus, Amen."          In Christo Jesu, Amen.]

- which of course is absolute gibberish unless you know that both
"lamb" and  "stone" were used as "symbolic" homophonic code words by
the Pelagian heretics, that both the Druids as well as the heretics
used hallucinogens, and that these hallucinogens are fatal in slightly
larger doses. In the immediate example of Baillie's passage, St.
Patrick mentions the use of sacrificial "honey" before the "stone"
falls on him.  Without further argument here, I am going to simply
assert that this early Christian heretical sect was a mystery religion
which concealed knowledge of its rite by using a homophonic word code,
and that researchers using documents from sub-Roman Britain need to
watch out for the use of this code any time they see a reference to a
bright light.

Thus ends my caution on dealing with mentions of bright lights in 
records from cultures which used hallucinogens, and it should be
remembered that these cultures include not only that of the British
heretics, but also those of nearly all pre-catholic European cultures,
particulary those cultures with Druid priests, and those European
cultures which had mystery religions.

Yet another trap for those working with ancient records is working out
of context, which can lead to errors in working with inadequate
translations by earlier writers. For example, if memory serves me
correctly, "draigne", sometimes translated into Welsh as "dreic",
"dragon", is an early Anglo-Saxon title. Particular caution should be
made with mentions of dragons in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a
Welshman with no knowledge of anglo-saxon, as may be seen from his
translation from anglo-saxon into welsh of "Brut y Brenhinedd".  My
advice is to always go as close to the original source document as

Finishing with these two cautions, I would like to point those working
with documents from sub-Roman Britain to what I think is a more
positive direction. During my casual researches (1973-1975) on
sub-Roman Britain, I was particularly struck by Adomnan's "Life of
Saint Columba", which Baillie makes use of in "Exodus to Arthur".  It
appeared to me that this work was assembled by Adomnan from an earlier
life of Saint Columba, eye witnesses, and most importantly, from the
annals of a monastery. (Reeve's translation of the "Life" struck me as
being the best at the time; I have not seen the Andersons' 1991
edition.)  As Adomnan attributed the eye witness accounts he used, and
a version of the earlier life survived in a much corrupted later copy
(by the Four Masters, again if memory serves), it seems that by
removing these two sources, it may be possible to recover the annals of
a monastery from the "Life", and thus a detailed chronology of
sub-Roman Britain.

With apolgies to the Welsh Tourist Board, and to the rescue
archaeologists working in the south of the UK, the references to
"demons" and "angels" (Dumnonia and Angles) in the "Life" place
Arthurian events (Aedan Artur) in south-west Scotland. While Columba is
attributed to the monastery of Iona on Scotland's northern and western
coast, these references, along with the lack of remains in Iona from
before the 9th century, point to a location for the monastery of the
annals somewhere near Ayr, possibly somewhere around Girvan. If I were
looking for the methane hydrate explosion mentioned in the "Life", I
would look in pollen cores taken from areas off the shore of this area,
pollen cores in which the sudden stoppage of agriculture due to the
death of all the farmers by hydrogen sulfide poisoning should be clear.
I don't know if such a core is available, or the cost of taking and
analyzing one, but even without the danger of the loss of life from
another methane hydrate explosion, or the potential for commerical use
of a methane hydrate deposit, the information gained from such a core
may make it worth taking in any case.

In closing, one thing I have learned over the years is that there is
nothing like the mention of hallucinogens to make most anthropologists
run for cover. It is tempting to set up a fictional personna and write
a paperback attributing all ancient European mentions of lights in the
sky to the use of hallucinogens, as this most likely would quickly
drive the European anthropological community to completely embrace the
impact hypothesis in the shortest amount of time.

Best wishes -


From Timo Niroma <>

Dear Benny,

In CCNet 19 April there was a letter titled "VOLCANO MAY HAVE BEEN
MINOAN DOWNFALL". However, the new more accurate timing measures has
made this most improbable.
What caused the Minoan downfall is really an old FAQ and long we had an
answer. Today we have no positive answer, only one in the negative
side. It has been repeated many times during the last 10 years, that
whatever it was, it was not the volcanic explosion of Thera/Santorini.

Why not?

Thera erupted 1628 BC. The Minoan culture survived that easily, or at
least survived. The grand time of Minoan Crete, the palatial period
lasted from 1900 BC to 1450 BC, Knossos itself a hundred year longer.
The Myceneans came soon after.

Timo Niroma


From Phil Herridge <>

Dear Benny,

I'm not sure that I understand why you included the diatribe against
environmentalists by this "Interfaith Council for Environmental
Stewardship" in CCNet. Leaving aside its wooly thinking and adversarial
tone, the article added nothing new to any of the discussion strands
within CCNet. So a bunch of American evangalists think that we should
pay more attention to the world's poor when formulating policies, hmmm
bet we all disagree with that. The quote of the day was nauseatingly
simplistic and moronically erroneous. Maybe when she returns from
Planet Dippy she can think about the real causes for high childhood
mortality rates in India and elsewhere.

Most of the time (well almost all) I think that you get the content of
CCNet about right but that article was just twaddle and I don't think
that CCNet is the right forum for showing up the stupidity of American
religious "leaders" (or was that the point?).

All the best



From Bob Kobres <>


I was none too favorably impressed with the distress call from the
ex-military, right-wing-lauded 'nun' with a law degree you selected to
head the 4/19/00 CCNet mailing. This woman works with drug addicts in
Chicago. Does this qualify her for assessing environmental and health
problems in India?

The problems faced by so called third-world cultures have far more to
do with local-government condoned corporate/private greed and
exploitation than with protests from people who react to the
consequences they see.  Sure, some may protest further change in
general, which is futile and can be counter productive, but where do
you draw the line?  For example a few weeks ago I was passed on an
expressway by a kid (young adult) driving a frigging Hummer (think
Desert-Storm) with a "MEAN PEOPLE RULE" bumper sticker plastered on the
back. If I'd had an obscenity seeking missile on my Volvo that
survival-of-the-fattest dude would have been deep fried in the fast
lane!  Unfortunately flagrant unsustainable over consumption is not at
all hard to detect, particularly in the US.

Human activity affects the biosphere either positively or negatively
and many big dam projects have ended up being good for certain
pocketbooks only. I favor the empirical approach to improving the
health of Life on this planet. The best solutions will vary from place
to place because conditions are not homogeneous throughout. Big
experiments can produce big messes! Theologically rooted consortiums,
like ICES, which laud corporate wisdom in a free-for-all market where
one dollar equals one vote are dubious champions of a democratic
approach to problem solving. We don't need another holy-high-roller

In the case of India there are examples of the triumph of good sense
over corporate dollars and elite sagest:


ALWAR, India, April 21 — Rippling streams and lush green fields are
hard to find in Rajasthan, a desert state in India’s northwest perhaps
best known as the site of the country’s nuclear test sites. A drought
here and in neighboring Gujarat state has caused a shortage of drinking
water and threatens six million people. Yet driving through the hilly
Alwar region, something of a miracle is evident. Here the wells are not
dry and women in traditional long skirts thresh wheat in the fields
green with life. [...] Alwar provides a lesson. But the secret of its
awe-inspiring feat is disarmingly simple. The government has not pumped
in vast sums of money. Nor are there large dams or irrigation engineers
pottering around.. 

The water revolution rejuvenating dead rivers, recharging wells, and
morphing the so-called ‘dark zone’ of the seventies into one of the
brightest spots on the map of India’s parched regions is a community
effort. The villagers did it themselves supported by a local volunteer
organization called Tarun Bharat Sangh (Indian Youth Association). 

The change agents are the johads, small crescent-shaped earthen dams
used to harness rainwater and bring to life wells and rivers in this
parched land. Johad is basically a village water tank and was the
traditional system of water storage for lean periods in several parts
of India. They are erected and maintained by those who directly benefit
from them. 

In Bhaonta and other villages, men and women still talk animatedly
about how each family worked from the early hours till dark to build
the small and medium sized dams which have transformed their lives.
Even small children helped. They carried bags of stones to the
construction sites. The villagers are so proud of the greenery around
that they socially boycott anyone caught felling trees or cutting
branches Johads had fallen into disuse for a variety of reasons.
However, the failure of more modern water-shed management has rekindled
interest in this traditional watershed practice of Rajasthan.

"Reviving the traditional systems including Johad has met with limited
success in other parts of the country, primarily due to resistance from
the entrenched bureaucracy. In the absence of a clear-cut policy on
traditional systems. Most efforts to rejuvenate them have been thwarted
by vested interests,” points out a report by the U.N. Inter-Agency
Working Group on Water and Environmental Sanitation which looked at the
revival of the johad in Alwar.

In Bhaonta-Kolyala, a neighboring village, Dhapa Devi, an elderly woman
breaks into a giggle talking about the changes in the family’s diet.
“Once, there is water, there is everything. This is the good life. Our
men stay with us and we eat tasty food.”

Earlier, a typical meal consisted of the traditional bread with just
chillies mashed into a pulp. Now, there is piping hot broth of lentil
and yogurt and vegetables. Fodder is not a problem any longer and
villagers say the milk yield of the cattle has gone up sharply. Dhapa
Devi proudly says her family eats as much yogurt and whey as they feel

The village was recently in the news when Indian President K. R.
Narayanan honored it with an award instituted by the Delhi-based Center
for Science and Environment. Bhaonta and Kakdali Rampura are not the
only success stories. In village after village in Alwar, you hear the
same tales of the water revolution

The magical transformation of this arid landscape has become a talking
point among water experts and environmentalists in the country faced
with a looming water crisis and a population reaching the billion mark.

Rajinder Singh, a bearded man in his forties and the secretary of the
NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh, was the key catalyst in motivating villages to
renew their traditional water harvesting practice. Today, he says, the
villagers from Alwar are invited by residents of villages in other
water scarce regions in India to share their experiences. 

But the road ahead looks rocky and success has brought in its wake its
own set of problems.  “The increase in the groundwater table is
attracting industries,” says Singh. Recently, the central government
issued notices to all medium and major industries to relocate their
production units from the union territory of Delhi to decrease the
pollution level in India’s capital city. Alwar, about 150 miles from
Delhi, has emerged as the favorite option of many industries.. And more
are looking for land. Villagers say the price offered to sell their
land is often tempting but this can be only be ‘bad news’ feels TBS’
Singh. “The industries will provide very few jobs to the locals and
they will use up more and more water.” Currently, there is no law under
which the concerned village community can demand payment through
royalties or any other means.

Whole schmooze at:
More @:


Standing in a sun-scorched arid stretch of land he had newly bought,
Abdul Karim made himself a promise: "I will turn this ochre expanse

Nineteen years later as he walks through that land, there is the
twitter of birds in the air scented with the fragrance of wild flowers.
Karim has kept his promise, creating a whole forest out of nothingness.
The rustic undergraduate, who had worked in a Mumbai dockyard and run a travel
agency, was 29 years old when he returned to his native Kasargod in Kerala state.
It was a call of the wild--he had always wanted to live in a forest of his own.

Four years later, Karim dug a pond in his plot and the villagers were
amazed to find plenty of water in it. It was the first time someone had
struck water in that part of the village. But Karim knew, from his feel
for nature, that there would be water if there were trees. The
deciduous trees he grew were the kind that drank in water during the
rains and released it to the earth during summer. The leaves they shed
also helped replenish the ground water level.

Karim says it is the fallen leaves which were responsible for raising
the water table. "Even in reserve forests you will not find so much
leaf deposit since many people collect and sell the leaves as manure,"
he says. "But I don't allow a single leaf to be removed from here." The
leaves let rain water seep into the ground. Water rippling in the pond
encouraged him to buy more land, dig more ponds and wells and plant
more trees. By the end of the eighties he was tending 32 acres of

As the trees grew tall, birds began nestling in them. "Birds are the
natural carriers of many seeds and they dropped the seeds of many
varieties of trees and plants here," says Karim.

"Thus trees like sandalwood and ebony began growing here. If we respect
nature she shows us greater respect."

When the growth became dense small animals like the rabbit and the
mongoose, and wild hens made homes amid the thickets and shrubs. Karim
is trying to introduce the deer to this living forest.
To him, the forest is almost like a living being. He has never cut wood or even
broken a branch or killed any of the animals. They are guests in his green shelter
and he makes no money out of it. "This forest is not for making money," he says.
"I created it to enjoy living here."

Enjoying, certainly he is. Ever since he moved into the house he built
on the edge of the forest in 1986 the Karims and their seven children
have been living in nature's lap. They need no electric fan, the air is
refreshingly cool even when hot winds assail neighbouring villages.

The water is sweet, unlike pipe water, and the wells and ponds never
dry. Karim has not monopolised nature's reward--75 families in the
village depend on these wells and ponds which contain 1.5 lakh litres
of water at any time. "This forest is our greatest blessing," says
Rukhia Beevi, a villager. "It was only after Karim grew the forest that
water appeared here..."

The forest has also bestowed good health on the family. No one has
fallen ill ever since Karim moved house. "The natural environment
shields us from most diseases," says Karim. "Besides our daily walk
through the forest keeps the body fit." Shemim, his six-year-old son,
betrays no sign of fatigue after a several- hour-long trek. Unlike most
children of his age, Shemim is yet to go to school because his father
believes that schooling at a very young age will stunt the natural
growth of children.

For a living, Karim has a farm, a cashewnut trading business and a
shopping complex. He also builds houses near his forest for people who
want to live in communion with nature.

Five years ago, a forest officer gave him the application forms for the
Vrikshamitra award, instituted by the environment ministry. The forms
are yet to be filled. "Living happily in this forest is a reward in
itself. So why seek others," Karim says, his face breaking into a smile.

Basically these people are emulating the valuable role of beaver, a
truly laudable species we almost toppled due to the profitability of
headwear and other apparel constructed from their hides!   See:

Might better we learn from the wise beaver spirit than from the wily
weasel's ways!/?


Bob Kobres
Main Library
University of Georgia
Athens, GA  30602

CCNet-LETTERS is the discussion forum of the Cambridge-Conference
Network. Contributions to the on-going debate about near-Earth objects,
the cosmic environment of our planet and how to deal with it are welcome.
The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on,
can be found at

CCCMENU CCC for 2000