CCNet 52/2003 - 19 June 2003

"An asteroid which exploded like a nuclear bomb may have converted the
Roman emperor Constantine to Christianity it is now being claimed.
Scientists have discovered an impact crater dating from the fourth
or fifth century in the Italian Apennine mountains. They believe the
crater in the Sirente mountains, which is larger than a football field,
could explain the legend of Constantine's conversion."
    --Ananova, 18 June 2003

"Omigod, Earth's core is about to explode, destroying the planet and
everything on it! That is, unless a gigantic asteroid strikes first. Or
an advanced physics experiment goes haywire, negating space-time in a
runaway chain reaction. Or the sun's distant companion star, Nemesis,
sends an untimely barrage of comets our way. Or ..."
   --Gregg Easterbrook, Wired, 17 June 2003











Ananova, 18 June 2003

An asteroid which exploded like a nuclear bomb may have converted the
Roman emperor Constantine to Christianity it is now being claimed.

Scientists have discovered an impact crater dating from the fourth or
fifth century in the Italian Apennine mountains.

They believe the crater in the Sirente mountains, which is larger than a
football field, could explain the legend of Constantine's conversion.

Accounts from the 4th century describe how barbarians stood at the gates
of the Roman empire while a Christian movement threatened its stability
from within.

It is said the emperor saw an amazing vision in the sky, converted to
Christianity on the spot, and led his army to victory under the sign of
the cross.

Swedish geologist Jens Ormo discovered the crater after spotting a
photograph of an unusually round lake in Italy's Sirente-Velino Regional

A visit to the site quickly identified several tell-tale features of an
impact crater, New Scientist magazine reported.

The seasonal lake, 140 metres across, had a pronounced raised rim and no
inlet or outlet, being filled by rainfall.

Ormo's team believe they were made when an asteroid about 10 metres in
diameter shattered during entry into the atmosphere.

New Scientist said: "From the crater size, Ormo estimates that the
impact had an explosive force of a kiloton - equivalent to a very small
nuclear weapon. Indeed, it would have looked like a nuclear blast, with
shock waves, earthquakes and a mushroom cloud."

Copyright 2003, Ananova



Being convinced, however, that he needed some more powerful aid than his
military forces could afford him, on account of the wicked and magical
enchantments which were so diligently practiced by the tyrant, he sought
Divine assistance, deeming the possession of arms and a numerous
soldiery of secondary importance, but believing the co-operating power
of Deity invincible and not to be shaken. He considered, therefore, on
what God he might rely for protection and assistance. While engaged in
this enquiry, the thought occurred to him, that, of the many emperors
who had preceded him, those who had rested their hopes in a multitude of
gods, and served them with sacrifices and offerings, had in the first
place been deceived by flattering predictions, and oracles which
promised them all prosperity, and at last had met with an unhappy end,
while not one of their gods had stood by to warn them of the impending
wrath of heaven; while one alone who had pursued an entirely opposite
course, who had condemned their error, and honored the one Supreme God
during his whole life, had formal I him to be the Saviour and Protector
of his empire, and the Giver of every good thing. Reflecting on this,
and well weighing the fact that they who had trusted in many gods had
also fallen by manifold forms of death, without leaving behind them
either family or offspring, stock, name, or memorial among men: while
the God of his father had given to him, on the other hand,
manifestations of his power and very many tokens: and considering
farther that those who had already taken arms against the tyrant, and
had marched to the battle-field under the protection of a multitude of
gods, had met with a dishonorable end (for one of them had shamefully
retreated from the contest without a blow, and the other, being slain in
the midst of his own troops, became, as it were, the mere sport of death
(4) ); reviewing, I say, all these considerations, he judged it to be
folly indeed to join in the idle worship of those who were no gods, and,
after such convincing evidence, to err from the truth; and therefore
felt it incumbent on him to honor his father's God alone.


ACCORDINGLY he called on him with earnest prayer and supplications that
he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch forth his right hand to
help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus praying with
fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the
account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related
by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long
afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when he was
honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement
by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially
since the testimony of after-time has established its truth? He said
that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw
with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above
the sun, and bearing the inscription, CONQUER BY THIS. At this sight he
himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which
followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.


He said, moreover, that he doubted within himself what the import of
this apparition could be. And while he continued to ponder and reason on
its meaning, night suddenly came on ; then in his sleep the Christ of
God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens,
and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in
the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Battle of Milvian Bridge took place on October 28, 312 between the
Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Maxentius. When Constantine
emerged victorious, the path of Western civilization as it had been
known, was about to be changed forever.

The underlying cause of the ba five-year-long dispute between
Constantine and Maxentius over control of the western half of the
empire. Although Constantine was the son of the western emperor
Constantius Chlorus, the system in place at the time, the tetrarchy, did
not necessarily provide for hereditary succession. When Constantius died
on July 25, 306, his father's troops proclaimed him as Augustus (October
28, 306), but in Rome, the favorite was Maxentius, the son of
Constantius' predecessor Maximian. Both men continued to claim the title
afterwards, although a conference to resolve the dispute in 308 resulted
in Maxentius being named a senior emperor along with Galerius.
Constantine was allowed to maintain rule of the provinces of Britain and
Gaul, but was officially only a "Caesar", or junior emperor.

By 312, the two men were engaged in open hostility to one another,
although they were brothers-in-law. Much of this was the work of
Maxentius' father Maximian, who had been forcibly retired as emperor in
305 by Diocletian. Maximian schemed and double-crossed both his son and
Constantine trying to regain power before the latter had him executed in
310. When Galerius died in 311, the power struggle was on. In the summer
of 312, Constantine gathered his forces and decided to settle the
dispute by force.

He easily overran northern Italy, and stood less than 10 miles from Rome
when Maxentius chose to make his stand in front of the Milvian Bridge, a
stone bridge (still standing today) which carries the Via Flaminia road
across the Tiber River into Rome. Holding it was crucial if Maxentius
was to keep his rival out of Rome, where the Senate would surely favor
whoever held the city.

Constantine, after arriving, realized he had made a miscalculation and
that Maxentius had many more soldiers available than he did. Some
sources say the advantage was 10-to-1 in Maxentius' favor, but it was
probably more like four to one. In any case, Constantine had a tough
challenge ahead of him.

On the evening of October 27, with the armies preparing for battle,
Constantine reportedly had a vision as he looked toward the setting sun.
The Greek letters "Chi-Ro" (Christ) intertwined along with a cross
appeared emblazoned on the sun, along with the inscription "by this
sign, you will conquer." Constantine, who was a pagan at the time, put
the symbol on his solders' shields.

The next day, the two armies clashed, and Constantine emerged
victorious. Already known as a skillful general, Constantine began to
push Maxentius' army back toward the Tiber, and Maxentius decided to
retreat and make another stand at Rome itself. But there was only one
escape route, via the bridge, and Constantine's men inflicted heavy
losses on the retreating army. Finally, a bridge of boats set up
alongside the Milvian Bridge, over which many of the troops were
escaping, collapsed, and those men stranded on the north bank of the
Tiber were either taken prisoner or killed, with Maxentius numbered
among the dead.

Constantine entered Rome not long afterwards and was acclaimed as sole
western Augustus. He credited his victory at Milvian Bridge to the god
of the Christians, and ordered the end of any religious persecution
within his realm, a step he had already taken in Britain and Gaul in
306. With the emperor as a patron, Christianity, which was already quite
common in the empire, exploded in popularity.


Mainichi Dail;y News, 17 June 2003

MITO -- Scores of reports of a mysterious explosion were received from
southeastern Ibaraki Prefecture and northeastern Chiba Prefecture late
Monday night, police said Tuesday.

No explosions or problems with aircraft have been confirmed as having
occurred in the area, and no injuries were reported.

Experts have speculated a falling meteor could have caused the loud
explosion, but investigators continue looking into the case.

Police said 60 of the 80 reports of the noise came from Ibaraki
Prefecture, including one person who claimed to have seen a flashing
blue light traveling from west to east in the sky.

Ibaraki Prefectural Police headquarters officials said transportation
and meteorology authorities had confirmed there had been no reported
cases of problems with airplanes or the weather.

Narita Airport officials confirmed there had been no troubles at Japan's
largest gateway to the world.

Chiba meteorological officials also reported things had been quiet all
night. The blast occurred just after 10 p.m. (Mainichi Shimbun, Japan,
June 17, 2003)


The Mercury, 19 June 2003,5936,6619337%255E3462,00.html


A MYSTERY trail of blazing light soared through the sky across Tasmania
last night.

Speculation was rife the light show was direct from outer space -
possibly space junk re-entering the Earth's orbit or a giant shooting

Hobart and Launceston airport towers both witnessed the spectacle.

Tasmania Police received calls from witnesses across the state who
thought they had seen multi-coloured distress flares.

Acting Sergeant Karina Parker said the reports had been baffling
initially, since there was no sign of any boats in distress.

"Each of the callers rang in reporting a flare of a different colour. It
was obviously absolutely spectacular," she said.

The calls lit up the police switchboard at 8.05pm.

"We've had calls from Cambridge, Huonville and north of the state as
well," she said.

Police were later in contact with Hobart and Launceston airports, which
both saw the lights and believed they looked more like an enormous
shooting star.

"It appears it was a giant shooting star which fell out of the sky and
exploded into all different colours," Acting Sergeant Parker said.

Night workers at Launceston Airport said it was the biggest shooting
star in memory.

However, there was also speculation the light display could have been a
meteor, a satellite burning up or other space junk.

An airport worker said an incoming pilot also witnessed the flash of
light and reported seeing a "re-entry", which is industry jargon for
space junk returning to earth.

He said the light was definitely not an aurora australis, which were
frequent at this time of year.

However, there were reports in other parts of southern Tasmania of
southern lights, aurora australis.

"It looked to me like a shooting star - the biggest I've ever seen," he

Scientists estimate more than 8000 pieces of space hardware, or space
junk, are orbiting Earth.

Copyright 2003, The Mercury


Stuff, 19 June 2003,2106,2544922a4560,00.html


Alien intelligence is out there and if it arrives on Earth, we don't
stand a chance of outsmarting it, a Wellington astronomer believes.

Richard Hall says science fiction is fast becoming science fact.

"It's no point looking at movies like Independence Day where we outsmart
the aliens. If something's got the technology to come here, believe me,
we don't have a chance."

Mr Hall, who spoke to the Manawatu Branch of the Royal Society of New
Zealand at Te Manawa last night, said humans exploit animals even if
they show signs of intelligence, and we could find that the worm turns
if, or when, higher intelligence arrives.

Recent technological advances that have enabled astronomers to detect
hundreds of planets in other solar systems point towards the existence
of extraterrestrials, Mr Hall said.

"By the sheer size of our galaxy, there must be millions of worlds in
the galaxy."

And if you're wondering what form aliens might take, forget Hollywood
and lurid comic book images. "We construct our ideas about what they may
look like based upon ourselves, but they won't look like us," he said

Even though aliens may not have arrived on Earth yet, a potentially
deadly threat is arriving from space at the rate of a tonne a day. It's

Mr Hall believes epidemics like Sars and Aids could have arrived here on

The prospect that killer diseases came from outer space is not a new
one, but Mr Hall said a recent experiment where living organisms were
shown to survive 41km above the earth backs up the theory.

Sars could have come from an asteroid crashing into Mars and the
remnants reaching Earth.

That niggly question about where we come from can also be answered by
looking to the stars, he says.

The building blocks of DNA are evident in cosmic cloud gazing and this
confirms we are a part of the rest of the universe.

"You can take two views of life on Earth. You can take the spiritual
view - that God created the earth. Or you take the view that everything
on earth is part of the natural universe."

Copyright 2003, Stuff

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE, 18 June 2003 <>

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News,
Number 642  June 18, 2003  by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein,
and James Riordon

A recent study by researchers at Duke University and the Army Research
Office has  found new evidence of a link between solar flare activity
and the earth's temperature. The work is another contribution to the
ongoing debate over global warming and its causes. A strong link
between solar flares and our climate, if it exists, could override the
influence humans have on the temperature of our environment. One of the
challenges of determining the connection between solar flare activity
and the atmosphere stems from the fact that the motion of the air that
blankets our planet is turbulent and complex. A sudden burst of
solar activity would, in effect, be smeared out by moving air and
its interaction with the earth's surface. Any temperature increase
caused by a given period of solar flare activity would be difficult
to determine, at best. Rather than focus on such challenging
one-to-one correlations, the new study compares the form of the
statistical fluctuations in solar flare activity with the form of
the statistical fluctuations of the earth's temperature. The
researchers (contact: Bruce J. West,,
919-549-4257) explain that solar flare activity can be characterized
by a type of statistics described by a Levy distribution, which is
generated by a "Levy-walk." (Many natural phenomena, from foraging
patterns of spider monkeys to complex hydrodynamic flows, are well
described by Levy walks, although the coefficients in the relevant
equations typically vary from one phenomenon to another. See Update
510-3 for one example.) Analyses of global and local temperature
fluctuations are also well described by a Levy-walk. In fact, a
comparison of the mathematical coefficients that describe the
fluctuations suggest to the researchers that the atmosphere directly
inherits its temperature fluctuations from the variation in solar
flare activity.  Unless some other underlying cause is responsible
for the unlikely correspondence between solar flares and the earth's
temperature, the research suggests that for the large part variations in
global temperatures are beyond our control and are instead at the mercy
of the sun's activity. (Nicola Scafetta and Bruce J. West, Physical Review
Letters, 20 June 2003)


Editorial help: Dr. Steve Ostro, JPL; Dr. Duncan Steel, University of
Salford; Dr. Richard Binzel, MIT; and Dr. David Kring, LPI

Artwork by Dr. William Hartmann and Don Davis
Concept, written & designed by Sarah Kennedy Coleman, Jensan Scientifics

This poster features topics on: the chemical relationship between
asteroids and meteorites; the history of asteroids and meteorites;
asteroid orbits; impact hazards and close approaches; famous asteroids
and meteorites, and more!

Availability: Usually ships in 2-3 business days.
Asteroids and Meteorites JPT-8300$16.00



Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

We have a valuable opportunity, now, to study the recent Vitimsky impact
and we want to thank our Russian colleagues for the things they have
and plan to do, to collect data and observations.

Electromagnetic Disturbances

The impact site, in the Vitimsky Nature Preserve, is amazingly close to
the 1908 Tunguska site and the observations from the people in Mama and
Irkutsk were very interesting.....especially the comments about the
electromagnetic disturbances (unpowered lights coming on, etc.). We have

suggested such effects, in previous notes to the Net, and these
observations seem to confirm them.

We are especially concerned about such effects interrupting global
emergency communications, in the event of a major impact event, and we
think it is important to study and plan for alternative communications

Asteroid/Comet Emergency (ACE) Magnitude Rating

The Vitimsky (V) event fits well on our exponential Asteroid/Comet
Emergency (ACE) Magnitude Scale, at about Step  -1.5, based on the area
of heavy vegetation damage (40 square miles or so) and we think
the explosive energy level may have been in excess of 10 kilotons of

As many know, Tunguska, on our step scale, is the baseline....with an
ACE rating of 1 (10 megaton TNT range and about 50 meters wide). The
scale is like the Richter and Volcanic Explosivity scales. It is a
simple exponential step scale, for comparing impact event magnitudes,
and the NEO diameter is doubled, with each increasing step. We think
the NEO effective diameter may have been in the 10 meter range, with
an absolute magnitude of around 29.

Seismic Indications

We are checking for seismic detections and we noticed, with interest,
the Bodaibo indications (2 pulses observed but not recorded, because
of equipment problems).

We especially appreciate the initial efforts made by the Irkutsk State
University Astronomical Observatory (Prof.Yazev et al), the Vernadsky
University Meteoritics Laboratory and others and we are looking forward
to more reports and studies.

July Salute

We invite CCNet users to join us in our annual toast and salute to Gene
Shoemaker and to all of those who have helped to raise the global level
of asteroid/comet danger awareness and to move us toward emergency
prevention and preparedness. We will salute them on July 16th, the 9th
anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact on Jupiter. This was our
second wake-up call (1989 FC was the first and Vitimsky is the
third)....and we are making progress. We always enjoy playing the First
Beethoven Symphony (which they were playing when the discovery of the
comet was made) and sipping our favorite beverages.

Cheers...Andy Smith,
International Planetary Protection Alliance


Wired, 17 June 2003

But it won't be from germ warfare, runaway nanobots, or shifting
magnetic poles. A skeptical guide to Doomsday.

By Gregg Easterbrook

Omigod, Earth's core is about to explode, destroying the planet and
everything on it! That is, unless a gigantic asteroid strikes first. Or
an advanced physics experiment goes haywire, negating space-time in a
runaway chain reaction. Or the sun's distant companion star, Nemesis,
sends an untimely barrage of comets our way. Or ...

Not long ago, such cosmic thrills, chills, and spills were confined to
comic books, sci-fi movies, and the Book of Revelation. Lately, though,
they've seeped into a broader arena, filling not only late-night talk
radio, where such topics don't seem particularly out of place, but also
earnest TV documentaries, slick mass-market magazines, newspapers, and a
growing number of purportedly nonfiction books. Everywhere you turn,
pundits are predicting biblical-scale disaster. In many scenarios,
mankind is the culprit, unleashing atmospheric carbon dioxide,
genetically engineered organisms, or runaway nanobots to exact a bitter
revenge for scientific meddling. But even if human deployment of
technology proves benign, Mother Nature will assert her primacy through
virulent pathogens, killer asteroids, marauding comets, exploding
supernovas, and other such happenstances of mass destruction.

Fringe thinking? Hardly. Sober PhDs are behind these thoughts. Citing
the hazard of genetically engineered viruses, eminent astrophysicist
Stephen Hawking has said, "I don't think the human race will survive the
next thousand years." Martin Rees, the knighted British astronomer,
agrees; he gives us a 50-50 chance. Serious thinkers such as Pulitzer
Prize winner Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, and Bill Joy,
who wrote Wired's own 2000 article "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us,"
warn of techno-calamity. Stephen Petranek, editor in chief of the
science monthly Discover, crisscrosses the world lecturing on "15 Major
Risks to the World and Life as We Know It." University of Maryland
arms-control scholar John Steinbruner is lobbying organizations like the
American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World
Medical Association to establish an international review board with the
power to ban research into the Pandora's box of biomedicine.

If we're talking about doomsday - the end of human civilization - many
scenarios simply don't measure up. A single nuclear bomb ignited by
terrorists, for example, would be awful beyond words, but life would go
on. People and machines might converge in ways that you and I would find
ghastly, but from the standpoint of the future, they would probably
represent an adaptation. Environmental collapse might make parts of the
globe unpleasant, but considering that the biosphere has survived ice
ages, it wouldn't be the final curtain. Depression, which has become 10
times more prevalent in Western nations in the postwar era, might grow
so widespread that vast numbers of people would refuse to get out of
bed, a possibility that Petranek suggested in a doomsday talk at the
Technology Entertainment Design conference in 2002. But Marcel Proust,
as miserable as he was, wrote Remembrance of Things Past while lying in

Of course, some worries are truly worrisome. Nuclear war might
extinguish humanity, or at least bring an end to industrial
civilization. The fact that tensions among the US, Russia, and China are
low right now is no guarantee they'll remain so. Beyond the superpowers,
India and Pakistan have demonstrated nuclear capability; North Korea
either has or soon will have it; Japan may go nuclear if North Korea
does; Iran and other countries could join the club before long.
Radiation-spewing bombs raining from the sky would, no doubt, be
cataclysmic. If you're in the mood to keep yourself up at night, nuclear
war remains a good subject to ponder. But reversal of the planet's
magnetic field?

At a time of global unease, worst-case scenarios have a certain appeal,
not unlike reality TV. And it's only natural to focus on danger; if
nature hadn't programmed human beings to be wary, the species might not
have gotten this far. But a little perspective is in order. Let's review
the various doomsday theories, from least threatening to most. If the
end is inevitable, at least there won't be any surprises.

1. Laws of probability!

Standing at the Berlin Wall in 1969, Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard
Gott III used a statistical formula to predict that the barrier would
last 2.66 to 24 more years. It lasted 20. Later, Gott applied the same
equation to humanity and calculated, with 95 percent certainty, that it
would last 205,000 to 8 million more years. His paper on the subject
made it into the august British scientific journal Nature.

Basically, Gott's formula (you will be spared the details) combines a
series of estimates, then treats the result as though it was precise.
Speculations about the far future have about as much chance of being
spot-on as next week's weather forecast. But Gott's academic reputation
won't suffer; if humanity still exists in 8.1 million years, it will be
a little late to revoke his tenure.

2. Chemical weapons!

Spooky-sounding, sure. And dangerous. But bombs and bullets are
dangerous, too. In actual use, chemical weapons have proven no more
deadly, pound for pound, than conventional explosives. In World War I,
the British and German armies expended 1 ton of chemical agents per
enemy fatality.

Are modern nerve agents like sarin superdeadly in a way World War I
mustard gas was not? When the Aum Shinrikyo cult attacked Tokyo's subway
system with that substance in 1995 - the subway being an enclosed area,
ideal for chemicals - 12 people died. That was 12 too many, but a
conventional bomb the same size as the cult's canisters, detonated on a
packed subway, would have killed more.

During this winter's duct tape scare, I heard a Washington, DC, radio
talk-show host sternly lecture listeners to flee if "a huge cloud of
poison gas" were slowly floating across the city. Noxious clouds of
death may float across movie screens, but no military in the real world
can create them. Wind rapidly disperses nerve agents, and sunlight
breaks them down. Outdoors, a severe chemical attack likely would be
confined to a few city blocks.

Some chemical incidents have been horrifyingly deadly. In 1994, when a
Union Carbide plant accidentally loosed a cloud of methyl isocyanate
over Bhopal, India, 8,000 people died, some of them 20 miles from the
site. But the source was an industrial complex, and it spewed gas for an
extended period of time, something no bomb or aircraft could do. Another
heinous event, Iraq's poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja
in 1988, killed an estimated 5,000. However, the slaughter involved
dozens of Iraqi aircraft flying repeated sorties over an undefended
city. Had they dropped conventional bombs, the toll might have been
equally high.

Gregg Easterbrook, a senior fellow at The New Republic, wrote about the
convergence of science and religion in Wired 10.12.

Copyright 1994-2002 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

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