CCNet DEBATE, 8 May 1998



From Bob Kobres <>

"I thus propose a new law of survival "The probability of the
long-term survival of a civilization is inversely proportional
to the cost of Space Travel!" As a member of the public, can I
ask that this become our long-term and openly stated aim?"

[The above excerpted from: Michael Martin-Smith's

In all the polemics regarding the probability that the future course of
1997 XF11 was, wasn't or should have been plain, a more important
probability relationship was mentioned but perhaps not sufficiently
noted or commented upon. Michael Martin-Smith proposed that we should
adopt the notion that 'The probability of the long-term survival of our
civilization is inversely proportional to the cost of extending human
civilization into Space.' This proposition very much echoes the wise
words of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: "The Earth is the cradle of human
civilization, but one cannot live in the cradle forever." 

This man, who lived from 1857 to 1935, is considered to be the father
of the theoretical science that led to human space flight. His ideas
about the future of humanity in space are truly advanced, even today. 
Tsiolkovsky felt sure that the future of human civilization would be in
Space, so he did, and suggested that we must, study the cosmos to pave
the way for future generations.

History records that he formulated his calculations on space flight
theory about a hundred and one years ago, on May 10, 1897. These
formulas first appeared in the article "Exploration of the Universe
with Reaction Machines," in the monthly periodical "The Science
Review," no. 5 (St. Petersburg, 1903). This is the first paper in the
world on this subject.

In addition he wrote and published over 500 works about space travel
and related subjects.  Among them, he discussed the design and
construction of steerable space rocket engines, space stations with
artificial gravity, the problems of eating, drinking, and sleeping in
weightlessness.  He thought of double walled pressurized cabins to
protect from meteorites, gyroscopes for attitude control, reclining
seats to protect from high inertia loads at launch, space suits and air
locks for exiting the spaceship into the vacuum of space, as well as
providing other astute observations of what would be necessary for
Space travel.  He also determined the escape velocity from the Earth
into orbit was 8 km./second, and that this would most efficiently be
achieved by using a multi-stage rocket fueled by liquefied oxygen and
hydrogen.  Tsiolkovsky did not miss the idea of mining asteroids for
materials and even envisioned closed cycle biological systems to
provide food and oxygen for space colonies.

This fellow was as interested in the philosophy of a human presence in
Space as he was with the engineering needed to make that possible.  His
main work on this subject was "Ethics or the Natural Foundations of
Morality" (1902-1918).  In 1932 Tsiolkovsky wrote "The Cosmic
Philosophy," which was a summary of his philosophical ideas.  Though
this likely sounds outrageously naive and idealistic to most people,
his main idea was to work toward happiness not only for humanity, but
also for all living beings in the Universe.  Perhaps easier for the
tooth and claw set to accept is his belief that human occupation of
space is inevitable and will drive human evolution.

But let us not pass too quickly on this incredibly insightful man's
principal goal.  According to Tsiolkovsky's Cosmic Philosophy,

  "'happiness' is the absence of all kind of suffering throughout the
  Universe, for all times, as well as the absence of all of the
  processes for destroying goodness. How shall we start this evolution
  to 'Universal Happiness?' The main task is to study the laws that
  rule the Universe. To do so, we must study the Universe, and
  therefore we must learn how to live in outer space. To begin that
  long period of our evolution, we will have to design large manned
  space rockets. So, the first space flight will be the beginning of
  the new era of space exploration, the beginning of Space Culture in
  human history. It will be the beginning of our history itself."

This man truly believed that it was possible for humankind to occupy
the solar system, expand into the depth of the cosmos and create a
cosmic civilization that would, by understanding the laws that govern
nature, abolish natural catastrophes, and achieve happiness for all.

In 1926 Tsiolkovsky defined his "Plan of Space Exploration," consisting
of sixteen steps for human expansion into space:

1) Creation of rocket airplanes with wings.
2) Progressively increasing the speed and altitude of these airplanes.
3) Production of real rockets-without wings.
4) Ability to land on the surface of the sea.
5) Reaching escape velocity (about 8 Km/second), and the first flight
   into Earth orbit.
6) Lengthening rocket flight times in space.
7) Experimental use of plants to make an artificial atmosphere in
8) Using pressurized space suits for activity outside of spaceships.
9) Making orbiting greenhouses for plants.
10) Constructing large orbital habitats around the Earth.
11) Using solar radiation to grow food, to heat space quarters, and for
    transport throughout the Solar System.
12) Colonization of the asteroid belt.
13) Colonization of the entire Solar System and beyond.
14) Achievement of individual and social perfection.
15) Overcrowding of the Solar System and the colonization of the
16) The Sun begins to die and the people remaining in the Solar
    System's population go to other suns.

Now this fellow was definitely thinking beyond the next election and I
rather think that Tsiolkovsky had a better fix on what might be
possible than most, if not all, contemporary decision makers. And this
gets back to the suggestion of our contributing family physician,
Michael Martin-Smith, that our long term and openly stated aim needs to
be developing the ways and means of moving human culture into Space
quickly and efficiently. By doing this we can not only gain the best
position for protecting the biosphere on Earth but we will also provide
ourselves with insurance that a failure to avert an assault to
civilization from whatever vector need not spell THE END to the amazing
progress we have made toward the laudable goals of Konstantin

For more info visit:
The Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of
Cosmonautics at

For some additional background on our meteoric rise to today see:

Another important observation buried in the fray is excerpted below
from:  Alain Maury's <>

"The few around here who search for Earth Grazing Asteroids are mostly
involved into this not for political, religious or financial reasons,
but because we know night after night, that despite the small search
area we are covering, there are many NEOs out there. There are
certainly much better ways to succeed in a scientific career than to
try to support an asteroid search program.

"We seem to be out of phase with about everything which makes the rest
of the world: Our astronomer colleagues, who deeply hope to get back to
'normal affairs', and still consider most of us as nuts, the general
public, who has never seen a star, except in the background of
publicities, read astrology magazines, and places the astronomer's sky
(I mean space around us, the real thing) among other concepts like the
one in which you can see an old man on a sledge every Xmas, or the sky
who has an effect on our daily sexual life, or the one in which we will
certainly go after our death, if we have been good.

"There is an enormous amount of public information to be done to convey
a real image of the sky to these persons. For your information, there
are still some religious wars around (ask Mark Bailey), all this in the
inner edge of an arm of a galaxy we call our own, and because some
stupid jerks still think their god is better than the neighbours god.
There are still people who commit suicide because they happen to trust
another jerk who has told them wrong things about what a comet is. We
badly need to tell people what a comet or an asteroid is."

The salient points made by Maury are that we who are involved in this
new area of study are still very much a minority and we are also
treading into an arena with information that is going to step on the
tales that lie under many extant belief systems. This situation is
rather certain to cause some political problems that might be lessened
by taking a proactive approach now. 

Already I have seen on the Internet comments such as: 'Are impacts with
comets or asteroids the way God cast Judgment upon the world?'  Such as:

Here lies the potential continued durability of supernatural belief
systems--the top Deus has absolute control of everything so, regardless
of what people who are deceived by the scientific method say, it's
ultimately God's call that will decide what happens.  This type of
world-view is not going to be supportive of the notion that we should
try to protect Earth from what they perceive as their creator's will. 
Unfortunately the more zealous believers of these inherited
explanations for everything are fast gaining political clout in the
USA. It is too early to tell how strong their influence will become
but already we are seeing their view on abortion interfering with
support for projects that desperately need continued funding. 
Ultimately the extent to which these folks can exercise their
fear-of-God-based ways is dependent upon a continued recruitment of
youth. It's in this aspect of our activities that a proactive approach
is most needed. 

Aside from trepidation about one of the world's time-trip-odometers
rolling over in a couple of years the chief allure of these established
All-Mighty predicated belief systems is they are familiar and offer
more emotional comfort than the world-view that is generally perceived
to be supplied by practitioners of the scientific method. The notion
that Life on Earth is an insignificant product of the Great-Laws of the
physics that govern the Universe does not set well with many people--me
included. In my opinion it is both presumptuous and counterproductive
for the scientific community to tacitly promote what is interpreted by
most, even if they accept this view as an axiom, to be a demeaning of
the value of Life. The fact is we don't know diddly about why Life is
and I think it rather important to acknowledge this ignorance to the
general public more often.

As Alain Maury went on to point out, research is not about always being
there with the correct answers. The attractive part of scientific
investigation is that the generally productive methodology employed can
often lead to a better understanding of what's going on. In the almost
two decades that I've been involved with learning what I could about
our situation with respect to cosmic crashes past and potential, I ran
into too many academics who pontificated Science for a living.  Because
they had allowed themselves to become dogmatic they were unwilling to
even consider some of what is now coming to be demonstrably correct. 
The few who did become interested generally kept it under their hats
because of woes about the influence research in this virtually taboo
area might have on future funding.  That's a sad and dangerous
situation that could easily be exacerbated if the US purse strings for
research funds become more controlled by the 'Religious Right.'

To win broad lasting support for a planetary protection system and
Space development in general, I think that the concept needs to be
presented as if we are embarking upon a long and noble adventure--very
much in the spirit that Konstantin Tsiolkovsky conveyed.  What could be
wrong with more researchers publicly stating that they are aspiring to
bring about a happier situation for all, through the continued pursuit
of knowledge?  A positive optimistic attitude is much more likely to
enlist support from youth than a stodgy pessimistic evaluation of

We might also promote terminology that can help to bridge the gap
between investigators and the vested.  A phrase I have used for some
time now as a ‘plug-in’ for Deity references is Grand Omniverse Design.
I’ve found this quite helpful when spending US money without feeling
the urge—often acted upon in the past—to strike the O and ink in a REE.
Anyway, the idea here is to convey a fixed set of rules that
facilitates all that happens rather than a moody Almighty that might
just decide to trash the whole thing and start over. In this context
the use of the scientific method to secure a greater understanding of
GOD is quite reasonable. I must add that this concept does not imply a
designer, but it does acknowledge that we are part of an incredible web
of continuous creation which we cannot now fully explain. A faith that
there is Grand Omniverse Design does not evoke fear but rather marvel
at the intricate relationships that allow our experience of Life. 

Another term I’ve sought to co-opt from the clergy’s repertoire of
verbal imagery is EDEN.  I think that this might actually stand for
Earth Doing Ecologically Nicely.  Corny—yes—but a worthwhile goal to
strive for nevertheless!

All in all I think it would be a good idea for members of this forum,
who feel inclined, to express their view of the social impact this new
knowledge we are accumulating is apt to have in the immediate future. 
Again, it is preferable for us to be proactive in public relations as
we are advocating an undertaking that is, by its very nature,

Plugging along.

Bob Kobres
Main Library
University of Georgia
Athens, GA  30602


CCNet DIGEST, 8 May 1998*
*On the day DEEP IMPACT opens & 53 years after the end of World War II

    Ed Grondine <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Reuters/Wired, 7 May 1998

    Robert Matthews, The Sunday Telegraph


From Ed Grondine <>

Benny -

Once again yesterday I got up at 3:30 in the morning and went in to DC
for "Global Air & Space 98", the annual meeting of the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In the evening a reception
was held for the fellows of the AIAA, and Dr. Wesley Hutress very
graciously took a few mintues away from enjoying cocktails with his wife
and a close friend to take a few questions.

(After the first item, which confirms Leonard David's earlier story in
Space News, this is all new material, so I hope Dr. Morrison is
satisfied with the report.)

Dr. Huntress told me that the program office is being set up for him by
Carl Pilcher. The office will intially serve as a focus point for
current NASA efforts.

Continuing, for quite some time about every other year or so NASA had
been considering setting up a program office. Generally, this had
followed the raising of public's awareness of the issue following
movies, BUT most significantly following the impact on Jupiter of Comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9, and then once again after last year's movie. This
time NASA decided to stop thinking about it and do it.

NASA is fully aware that dealing with the problem is beyond NASA's
abilities alone.  NASA will be coordinating with other countries
efforts and will coordinate with the IAU and the MPC.

NASA will also be coordinating with FEMA (the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency) as well as with disaster relief agencies and

The initial NASA efforts will be focused on upgrading small telescopes.

Asked if "Planetary Defense" would be upgraded to the status of "Theme"
in the NASA Strategic Plan, Dr. Huntress emphatically responded no,
absolutely not.  NASA will coordinate with DoD (the Department of
Defense) and BMDO (DoD's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.)
Mitigation efforts will be DoD' responsibility; NASA is solely
concerned with trying to find potential Earth impactors. Further, NASA
has absolutely no desire to be in that business (nuclear charges and
interceptor guidance systems).

At this point dinner was starting, and after exchanging mutual
apologies, me to Dr. Huntress and his party for intruding on a social
occasion, and Dr. Huntress for not having more time, Dr. Huntress
suggested that I contact Carl Picher. Then Dr. Huntress and his wife
and friend departed to the ballroom, and thus the interview came to an

This is the best picture I can get of the state of NASA's efforts on
the eve of the opening of "Deep Impact". NASA has set up a firm base on
which the expansion of efforts could be made, and importantly has set up
a focal point for their current efforts which they can point to, and
thus spare NASA and the administration from unwarranted criticism.

I very much would have liked to ask Dr. Huntress if the detection of
PHO's would be elevated to the status of "Theme" in the NASA Strategic
Plan, but unfortunately time did not permit.  I suspect that such an
expansion may be very dependent on exactly how successful "Deep Impact"
is at the box office, in other words exactly how much public support is
generated for such an expansion. 

It is interesting to note Dr. Huntress's emphasis on the upgrading of
small telescopes.  That the search for PHOs is something which is going
to require lots of observing time on the larger telescopes is a
decision which NASA is avoiding for now, and in my opinion this is
largely in deference to the cosmologists who are their predominate
clients in the astronomical community.

Another item of interest is that NASA expects that the Balllistic
Missile Defense Organization will be able to handle mitigation efforts
by itself.  Unlike ballistic missiles, which are just barely
transatmospheric, PHOs are deep space objects, and one wonders what
BMDO will propose to use to handle this task. Other questions are how
BMDO will coordinate with the responsible agencies in other advanced
countries (Russia, China, and the members of the EU come to mind), as
well as what kind of educational program BMDO is going to undertake
with the launch officers in newly armed nations such as Pakistan,
India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt, to warn them that not
necessarily every very large explosion is nuclear.

The answers to these questions will most likely be gained at another
dinner.  Lunch anyone?

                                    Best wishes -


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Florida

Sources: Stanley Dermott, (352) 392-2052;
Stephen Kortenkamp, (202) 686-4370 ext. 4440

Writer: Kristen Vecellio,

May 7, 1998


GAINESVILLE -- Space dust in the earth's atmosphere and changes in the
planet's orbit may have started the gradual extinction of dinosaurs and
other life thousands of years before a massive asteroid collision dealt

the final blow, according to research from the University of Florida
and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The dust build-up, which rises and falls on about a 100,000-year cycle,
also may answer some big questions researchers have about the history
of earth's climate, said Stanley Dermott, chairman of UF's astronomy

"A major, outstanding problem in present day geophysics is
understanding the history of earth's climate," said Dermott.

The research will be published in the Friday (5/8) issue of the journal

The earth's climate varies on a 100,000 year scale, and during that
time the earth's eccentricity changes causing the earth to move closer
or farther away from the sun. Current scientific thinking says this
variation in the amount of sunlight reaching the earth, known as the
Milankovich Effect, changed the earth's climate.

But Dermott and Stephen Kortenkamp, a postdoctoral fellow at the
Carnegie Institution, both felt this assumption was unlikely.

"The amount of variation is extremely small," Dermott said.

Dermott and Kortenkamp did calculations spanning 1.2 million years to
prove the amount of dust in the atmosphere did vary and that the
eccentricity of Earth's orbit can make dust accumulation rates vary by
a factor of 2 or 3. Dermott said the earth gains nearly 30 million
kilograms of dust a year, and the amount of dust in the atmosphere
could effect earth's climate.

However, Dermott said, even that amount of dust is relatively small, so
scientists still aren't sure exactly how much it could influence the

Earth accumulates dust through gravitational focusing, an effect that
causes the earth to pull dust particles toward it. To gather
information on dust levels, NASA launched a craft the size of a school
bus into the earth's atmosphere and counted the number of particle
impacts on the side of the craft over several years. "It was a good
record of the impact of dust striking earth," said Dermott.

Kortenkamp, a UF graduate, said the effects of interplanetary dust on
the climate will be similar to the effects of volcanic dust in the
atmosphere. Past volcanic eruptions have caused a detectable cooling of
the earth's surface. Volcanic dust settles in a couple of months and
the cooling effect is short-term.

But the effects of space dust on the atmosphere can last much longer.
"The influx of interplanetary dust could remain at high levels for
extended periods several hundred thousand years and therefore any
associated cooling would also persist for this length of time," said

The researchers also examined the possibility that if the amount of
dust in earth's atmosphere altered the climate, the change could cause
gradual extinctions.

Dermott said every 100 million years the majority life on earth is
destroyed by a catastrophic event, such as an asteroid striking Earth's
surface, but history doesn't show an exact moment or date in time for
the extinction of life.

Dermott and Kortenkamp are investigating the idea that if atmospheric
dust effects the climate, then the dust may effect life on earth as
well. For example, an asteroid collision creates a dust wave that
reaches earth 1 million years before the asteroid. The dust may alter
the climate enough to cause a gradual extinction before the asteroid
hits earth's surface and causes a catastrophic event.

"While the issue is controversial, there are groups of paleontologists
who have found evidence suggesting some mass extinctions were gradual,
lasting for hundreds of thousands of years," Kortenkamp said.

To prove their theory, Kortenkamp said, a detailed analysis must be
done of geological records looking for enhanced dust accumulation
connected with gradual mass extinctions.


From Andrew Yee <>

Sandia National Laboratories

Media contact:
John German,, (505) 844-5199

Technical contacts:
David Crawford (hypervelocity impact physics),, (505) 845-8975

Arthurine Breckenridge (3-D computer visualization),, (505) 845-8390

Real (not reel) deep impacts: Sandia scientists predict what an
asteroid strike would look like, really

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Steven Spielberg's new blockbuster movie -- with
its computer-animated interpretation of a comet striking Earth --
promises to be a big hit at the box office this summer. But computer
scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are creating some big hits
of their own these days that they think may better approximate a real
asteroid catastrophe.

Using virtual reality techniques, decades of experience in shock
physics, advanced computer programs, and the world's fastest computer,
the scientists have completed in recent weeks one of the largest
hypervelocity impact physics calculations ever performed.

In the latest computing scenario, an asteroid 1.4 kilometers in
diameter strikes the Atlantic Ocean 25 miles south of Brooklyn, N.Y. To
model the event the scientists broke up a 120-square-mile space that
roughly approximates the New York City metropolitan area, the air
above, and the water and earth below, into 100 million separate cubes,
or grids. Sandia's teraflops supercomputer then calculated what
happened inside each cube as the asteroid splashed down. The cubes were
reassembled to produce a three-dimensional moving picture of the
collision. The teraflops, currently the world's fastest computer,
performs more than one trillion mathematical operations per second.

The simulation is no video game; the calculations take into account the
real-world laws of physics governing time, temperature, pressure,
gravity, the densities of water and earth, and hundreds of other
considerations to create an accurate prediction. What's more, the
resulting computer simulation can be explored using interactive virtual
reality techniques. For instance, scientists can "fly through" the 3-D
movie to get a better idea of what's happening on Coney Island if they

The work supports Sandia's Department of Energy mission to use the
world's highest-performance computers to develop computer codes that
can one day model the extremely complex physics that occur during a
nuclear weapon blast. In the absence of real-world nuclear testing, DOE
and the weapons labs are developing continually more powerful
supercomputers and computer codes to simulate the complex 3-D physics
involved in nuclear-weapon performance and to accurately predict the
degradation of nuclear weapon components as they age in the stockpile.
Simulating comet impacts provides an opportunity to test and improve
the codes.

How did Spielberg do?

So what would happen during such an impact, really? According to the
simulation, the impact would vaporize the asteroid, deform the ocean
floor, and eject hundreds of cubic miles of superheated water vapor,
melted rock, and other debris into the upper atmosphere and back into
space. Much of the debris would then rain down over the world for the
next several hours and also form a high global cloud, says David
Crawford of Sandia's Computational Physics and Mechanics Department.
The shock wave from the impact would level much of the New England
region. The heat would incinerate cities and forests there
instantaneously. The global cloud would then lower temperatures
worldwide, and a global snowstorm likely would ensue and last several
days to several weeks, initiating a "nuclear winter" that would create
more hardships for earth's inhabitants.

An impact of this magnitude can be expected to occur on Earth about
once every 300,000 years and approximates what scientists consider to
be the "global catastrophe threshold," he says.

So how close is Spielberg's interpretation of the event to the
teraflops' virtual predictions?

"The movie makers didn't have the benefit of the world's fastest
computer, but they produced superior visuals that appear remarkably
realistic," says Arthurine Breckenridge of Sandia's Computer
Architectures Department.

In the movie preview, the comet strikes at an angle and raises a
symmetrical steam cloud, she says, which probably wouldn't happen. "We
now know that the vapor cloud produced by an impact is initially
asymmetric, sending more material in the direction of the ricochet."
The movie does realistically depict a tsunami that would surely follow
an ocean impact, she says.

Spielberg's Deep Impact opens this Friday, May 8. Another movie,
Armageddon, which depicts an asteroid "the size of Texas" threatening
to strike Earth, opens July 1.

An experiment you would never want to do

The teraflops simulations employ "massively parallel computing," a
computing approach pioneered by Sandia in the late 1980s. In massively
parallel computing, thousands of discrete computing tasks are assigned
to several hundred separate computing "processors" inside the
supercomputer. The computing tasks are accomplished simultaneously and
their results reassembled. All of today's high performance
supercomputing employs a massively parallel approach.

In the most recent 100-million-cell calculation, the teraflops used
8,192 of its 9,000 processors. The entire calculation lasted 18 hours.
Sandia has done similar calculations on its high performance computers,
including a 54-million-cell simulation of a comet striking the ocean.
In 1994, Crawford and Sandia scientist Mark Boslough accurately
simulated what would happen when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plunged into
Jupiter's atmosphere. Months later, the world's astronomers watched the
Sandia-predicted event unfold in real life through the Hubble space

"A lot of major breakthroughs in science are going to come from these
kinds of calculations," Boslough says. He notes that the impact
simulations are something that can't be done any other way. "It's
almost like doing an experiment -- one you could never do. One you
would never want to do."

Sandia's teraflops computer is a joint development of DOE, Sandia, and
Intel. It represents the initial goal of DOE's Accelerated Strategic
Computing Initiative, a ten-year program designed to move nuclear
weapons design and maintenance from a test-based to simulation-based
engineering approach.

Sandia is a multiprogram Department of Energy laboratory operated by
Lockheed Martin Corp. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and
Livermore, Calif., Sandia has research and development programs
contributing to national defense, energy and environmental
technologies, and economic competitiveness.


The simulations in Quick Time format, other illustrations, and links to
information about other Sandia comet modeling work are available at

A video tape containing the simulation and other Sandia comet-modeling
work is available from Sandia's media relations office; call (505)


[Comet hit simulation image 1]
This computer-generated image by Sandia National Laboratories'
scientists shows the impact of a 1-km comet (or asteroid) hitting in
the open ocean. The comet and 300 to 500 cubic kilometers of ocean
water would be vaporized nearly instantaneously by the tremendous
energy of the impact. The impact energy of about 300 gigatons of TNT
would be equivalent to about 10 times the explosive power of all the
nuclear weapons in existence in the 1960s at the height of the Cold

[Comet hit simulation image 2]

Five seconds after a 1.4 kilometer-wide asteroid crashes into the
Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New York, an impact plume containing
superheated water, earth, and other debris blankets major portions of
Long Island. The viewpoint is from orbital altitude from a location
about 100 kilometers west of New York City looking east. Long Island
trails off in the distance. Manhattan and Staten Islands are in the

[Comet hit simulation image 3]
Eleven seconds after impact, Long Island and the New York shoreline are
engulfed in debris and superheated steam, and much of the material in
the upper portions of the impact plume is on suborbital trajectories.
In both images, water is blue, land is brown, water vapor is white, and
hot material (greater than 5,000 Celsius) is orange.


From Reuters/Wired, 7 May 1998

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Danish expedition will go to Greenland in July
to search for fragments of a meteorite that crashed to the ground last
December, hoping to find clues to the birth of the solar system.

"It was a blazing meteorite...that lit up the night sky and fragmented
over the southwestern part of the Greenland icecap," the Tycho Brahe
Planetarium astronomy centre said in a statement.

Astronomer Lars Lindberg Christensen, a member of the expedition, said
that the Greenland meteorite was likely to have been the size of a
private car.

"We believe that this was a very big meteorite," he told Reuters. The
object from outer space had probably been a so-called stone
meteorite-one of three main categories of meteorites, he said.

Traces of more than 10,000 meteorites have been found on earth. The
Greenland find is special because it is one of the few that was
actually seen falling down.

The Tycho Brahe centre has over one hundred eyewitness reports, three
seconds of video-tape and data from a U.S. defence satellite of the
meteorite's plunge through the earth's atmosphere.

So far it has been possible to calculate the orbits of just four
meteorites crashing down on earth, Christensen said. Advanced computer
technology and mathematics were currently being applied on the
information collected to determine the Greenland meteorite's orbit, he

Because the fragments had landed on ice, any pieces found would be
"nearly pure and not contaminated", as was often the case with
meteorites found in forests or agricultural areas, he said.

The stone material believed to have composed the Greenland meteorite
would be different from any stone or rock found on earth.

"The fragments can provide clues to the birth of the solar system,"
Christensen said.

The four-man expedition, made up of a polar scientist, an astronomer,
an electronics engineer and a mountain climber, planned to spend up to
four weeks in Greenland.

Meteorite fragments found by the expedition would be sent to the
Geological Museum in Copenhagen for analyses. Some collected material
would also be sent to research institutes in other countries.

(C) 1998 Reuters/Wired


From The Sunday Telegraph, 3 May 1998

By Robert Matthews

A CHEMISTRY professor has embarrassed experts by pointing out a flaw in
their predictions about the warming of the Earth's atmosphere.

David Taylor, an emeritus professor of chemistry living in retirement
in Scarborough, has examined the claims for global warming - and, in
particular, the argument that pollution must be to blame. He claims to
have made an astonishing discovery: the mere act of burning fossil fuel
may heat the atmosphere at the rate of around half a degree centigrade
a decade - just the sort of rise that climatologists have tried to
blame on pollution.

Climatologists, using sophisticated computer models, have claimed to be
able to predict the consequences of this global warming, and have
issued dire warnings to politicians. Last week, European ministers duly
signed up to an international agreement aimed at cutting back on the
amount of pollution.

Mr Taylor said: "Whatever it is used for, all this energy will
eventually turn up as heat - by friction if in no other way. And it
ends up warming the biosphere." Of the claims made by scientists that
global warming is caused by pollution, Mr Taylor said: "I think this
calculation makes them look pretty silly."

Yet despite this, Mr Taylor initially met a wall of silence when he
sent his calculations to climate experts. He said: "Someone accused me
of missing out a factor of 10, which I hadn't. But apart from that,
there did not really seem to be much reaction at all - except, I
suppose, incredulity."

However, shown Mr Taylor's calculations by The Telegraph, experts at
the Hadley Centre, Britain's leading climate research centre in
Bracknell, Berks, admitted that the effect was genuine - and that their
computer models ignore the fact that burning fuel makes heat.

Peter Rowntree, of the centre, said: "We have not so far included this
heating effect in the climate model, although we have been considering
whether we should." He insisted that the effect was almost certainly
much smaller than Mr Taylor claims.

But he conceded that the only way of showing that the effect
highlighted by Mr Taylor could be ignored would be to include it in a
full computer model - which may now be carried out, following Mr
Taylor's discovery.

Critics of the reliance put on computer models of the climate point to
previous cases of "garbage in, garbage out". They include the discovery
that the warming effects of methane from the flatulence of the world's
cattle had been radically overestimated - as scientists had forgotten
that cattle in developing countries are half-starved.

Mr Taylor said: "What my calculations really show is that one just
doesn't know what other effects have been left out of the climate
models. God knows what else they have missed."

(C) 1998 The Sunday Telegraph

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