CCNet, 078/2000 - 21 July 2000

Due to a family holiday in the south of France, the next issue of
CCNet will be posted in the second or third week of August.

Wishing you all a restful and refreshing summer break!

Benny J Peiser
CCNet Moderator


     "About 251 million years ago, something killed 90% of all life in
     the oceans and 70% of vertebrates on land. It was the largest mass
     extinction in the history of Earth. Although scientists don't yet
     know the cause, a report in the 21 July issue of Science indicates
     that it was a single cataclysmic event rather than a series of
           -- John S. MacNeil, inScight, 20 July 2000

     "The example of Nazi Germany shows that 'politically responsible'
     science endowed with power can have disastrous consequences for
     innocent people and for science itself. The call for politically
     responsible science, frequently heard today, cannot solve the
     problem of how scientists can prevent science from serving
     immoral, inhuman ends."
       -- Ute Deichmann, Institute for Genetics Cologne, 21 July 2000

    Andrew Yee <>
    Margaret Penston <>
    Science-Week <>
    Larry Klaes <>
    Michael Martin-Smith <>
    Michael Paine <>

    Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>
     Alasdair Beal <>

     Intellectual Capital, 20 July 2000


From Andrew Yee <>

[ ]

Thursday, 20 July 2000, 5 pm PST

Mass Extinction Struck Suddenly
By John S. MacNeil

About 251 million years ago, something killed 90% of all life in the
oceans and 70% of vertebrates on land. It was the largest mass
extinction in the history of Earth. Although scientists don't yet know
the cause, a report in the 21 July issue of Science indicates that it
was a single cataclysmic event rather than a series of catastrophes.

The extinction, which marks the end of the Permian period and the
beginning of the Triassic, has intrigued paleontologists because of its
massive scale; more than twice as many kinds of vertebrates died out
than in the extinction that killed the dinosaurs 186 million years
later. And unlike the end of the dinosaurs, exactly what happened is a
mystery. Some scientists see evidence for a gradual series of natural
disasters, such as glacier-induced changes in the oceans, while others
believe only the rapid punch of a massive asteroid could have wreaked
so much havoc so quickly.

To find out whether everything went wrong all at once, paleontologist
Doug Erwin of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington,
D.C., and his colleagues at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and
Palaeontology in China analyzed 333 extinct species, collected from a
well-studied section of the Permian-Triassic boundary near the town of
Meishan in South China. The strata at the Meishan site have previously
been dated, so the researchers knew when each species last appeared in
the fossil record. Erwin and his colleagues also took into account the
number of fossils of each species. This is an important factor in
determining the probability that they didn't find the last fossil,
which would mean the extinction took place later than it appears.

After crunching the numbers, the researchers conclude that it's most
likely that 94% of the species discovered at the end of the Permian
are, in fact, the last survivors. This means that they died off more or
less simultaneously, about 251.4 million years ago. As further evidence
for a one-time mass extinction, Erwin's group found volcanic dust in
the same stratum as the extinct species, as well as a change in the
carbon isotope profile, an indication that fewer plants were alive and
photosynthesizing. Erwin thinks the event most likely was triggered by
massive lava flows but doesn't rule out an impact from outer space.

The researchers are the first team to study such a large number of
species at this extinction event, says Charles Marshall, a
paleontologist at Harvard University. The data "do seem to suggest
there was one major event, that's for sure," he says. But Marshall is
skeptical of extraterrestrial influence, saying his guess would be that
a massive change in ocean circulation or ocean chemistry, possibly
after a continental collision or rift, caused the extinction.

2000 The American Association for the Advancement of Science

[Extracted from inScight, Academic Press.]


From Margaret Penston <>

A special Pro-Am RAS Discussion Meeting
Saturday September 16th 200, 10.30-16.00
University of London Observatory, Mill Hill
'Professional and amateur collaborations in astronomy'
Topics will include the discovery and follow-up observations of
supernovae, cataclysmic variables and gamma-ray bursters and their
interpretation and also the importance to the professional
astronomer of asteroid, meteor and comet observations by amateurs.
NUMBERS ARE LIMITED so if you wish to attend please contact Margaret
Penston ( and please say if you wish to make a
contribution to the Discussion. There will a small charge to cover
Details of the programme will be on the RAS webpage
( in due course.
Dr Margaret Penston      Tel: 01223-766655 (with voice-mail)
Institute of Astronomy               Fax: 01223-337501
Madingley Road
Cambridge CB3 0HA


Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington, DC              July 19, 2000
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Bill Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-5017)

RELEASE:  00-111


     If you've seen one comet, have you seen them all? Not
according to new NASA research.

     Scientists believe they may one day be able to travel through
time by looking more closely at the dust swirling with a comet as
it hurdles through our galaxy. The research also indicates that
theories of how comets were formed may need to be revised.

     Comets are lumps of ice, gas, rock, and dust - frozen relics
from the birth of our solar system - that orbit the Sun.
Scientists now believe comets could have formed at different times
during the evolution of the solar nebula, and may reveal their age
by the structure of the dust they carry.

     Within a comet's cosmic cloud, astronomers have found two
kinds of dust grains; grains with their molecules stuck together
every which way, called amorphous, and grains with molecules that
have an orderly, crystalline structure. The dust emit light of
various colors at different intensities, allowing astronomers to
distinguish between the two.

     The researchers believe molecular clouds, like the one that
collapsed to form the solar nebula, contain only amorphous dust.
Crystalline grains formed later, as the dust clouds were heated by
the forming Sun.

     The research, to be published in the July 20 issue of Nature,
indicates that comets with mostly amorphous dust are ancient
because they formed early in the solar nebula's evolution, before
the Sun had time to heat and distribute very much crystalline
dust. Comets with a large proportion of crystalline dust formed
later as the nebula evolved and crystalline grains became more

     "The fun part of laboratory work like this comes when you try
to tie it together with observations, and you run into an
interesting problem," said lead author Dr. Joseph Nuth,
Supervisory Astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center,
where the laboratory research was conducted. "Observations in 1989
found crystalline olivine dust in comet Halley.  Our research placed
severe constraints on how fast this dust crystallizes, and we realized
that Halley could not have formed the way astronomers think it formed."

     Astronomers believe Halley formed exclusively from material
present in the region of the giant planets (Jupiter and Neptune),
then was ejected to the cold fringes of the outer solar system,
well beyond Pluto.

     "We know that these dust grains change from amorphous to
crystalline as they are heated, and our laboratory research
revealed that the rate at which they change is extremely sensitive
to temperature," Nuth added. "At the very low temperatures, where
water-ice and the other volatile components of comets are frozen,
the time required for amorphous silicate dust grains to change to
the crystalline olivine found in comet Halley is many times longer
than the age of the Universe."

     The crystalline olivine dust must have been made much closer
to the Sun, where temperatures were higher, and olivine could have
been formed in hours, days, or years. However, at these warm
temperatures, the ices that make up the bulk of Halley could not
form. Researchers believe the crystalline dust formed near the Sun
and was thrown out to the region near the giant planets, where it
was incorporated into Halley. This outflow of material is a new
twist on models of comet formation and the solar nebula's

   For images and more information, refer to:


From Science-Week <>

SCIENCE-WEEK (Shareware Edition)
July 21, 2000 -- Vol. 4 Number 29



Since science, in the words of J.R. Oppenheimer (1904-1967) brings
"power over the world", and since politics is more or less devoted to
the wielding of such power, one can reasonably expect an implicit or
explicit bond between science and politics to always pervade their
respective histories. How is the individual scientist to deal with this
dangerous dance of science and politics, which is more a passionate
tango than a minuet? This question is not easily answered.

Ute Deichmann (Institute for Genetics Cologne, DE), presents an essay
on the dangers of "politically responsible" science, the author making
the following points:

1) Disillusionment concerning the contributions of eminent scientists
to the Nazi Regime (1933-1945) led many to question the notion of a
pure and universal science, to reject this as a myth, and instead to
redefine science as a socially organized political enterprise.
Proponents of this view argue that science must be politically
responsible, directed towards socially acceptable goals, and assessed
according to its long-range consequences.

2) But this call for politically responsible science does not guarantee
an ethical stance. For example, environmentalists attempted in the
1980s to create a "political ecology", but the intellectual origins of
their criticisms of "causal reductionist" science lie in the 1920s,
when German ecologists proclaimed ecology as a path to "a view of the
world, in which everything is related to everything else, everything
directly or indirectly affects everything else." The ecologist Karl
Friederichs became a leading Nazi ecologist, and he and his colleagues
created and spread the view of biology as an eminent political science
aimed at serving "the benefit of the people (Volk)" and of ecology as
the "doctrine of blood and soil".
2) Eugenics, or race hygiene, is another example of scientists claiming
to act in a politically responsible manner, with the idea that to avert
long-range threats to the gene pool it is necessary to institute
compulsory sterilization of "genetically unfit" people. These attempts
to create a politically responsible biology ended disastrously. The
author states: "If we criticize reductionist science for having
contributed to the technical and military power of the Nazis, we have
to acknowledge that 'politically responsible' biologists provided for
their ideological and political power."

3) The author suggests there is a scientific level outside politics,
ethics, and applications. It is not the quest for knowledge that was
responsible for the Nazi atrocities, but the fact that scientists did
not pay due regard to normal ethical principles. The author states:
"Nazi moral standards were not imposed on scientists. On the contrary,
for whatever reason -- opportunism, conviction, promotion, or power --
scientists lent their support to ranking human beings as valuable,
inferior or worthless, hence providing the ideological basis of the
Nazi state."
4) For example, Otmar von Verschuer, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm
Institute for Anthropology, collaborated with Josef Mengele in
Auschwitz, and Verschauer's acceptance of organs and blood from
deliberately infected concentration-camp inmates is considered by many
as the most infamous crime in which geneticists have participated, and
a clear transgression of the limits of science.

5) The author concludes: "The example of Nazi Germany shows that
'politically responsible' science endowed with power can have
disastrous consequences for innocent people and for science itself. The
call for politically responsible science, frequently heard today,
cannot solve the problem of how scientists can prevent science from
serving immoral, inhuman ends."
Ute Deichmann: An unholy alliance.
(Nature 15 Jun 00 405:739)
QY: Ute Deichmann, Institute fur Genetik, Weyertal 121, D 50931,
Koln, DE.
Summary by SCIENCE-WEEK 21Jul00
For more information:
Related Background:


This past August was the 50th anniversary of the formulation of the
Nuremberg Code, which occurred during the so-called Nazi Doctors Trial
held in Nuremberg DE immediately after the Second World War, and which
included 23 defendants, all but 3 of whom were physicians accused of
murder and torture in the conduct of medical experiments on
concentration camp inmates. Of the 23 defendants, 16 were found guilty,
and of the guilty 7 were sentenced to death by hanging, 5 were
sentenced to life imprisonment, 2 to imprisonment for 25 years, 1 to
imprisonment for 15 years, 1 to imprisonment for 10 years. The
executions were carried out at the Landsberg prison, DE. In a recent
review of the Nuremberg Code, Evelyne Shuster (Veterans Affairs Medical
Center, Philadelphia US) describes the important role physicians had in
the prosecution of the Nazi doctors and in the formulation of the
Nuremberg Code, and she summarizes how medical researchers have used
the code over the past 5 decades. The author emphasizes that perhaps
the most important aspect of the code is the centrality of informed
consent of human subjects in experiments. The editors of the journal in
which the review appears have recently criticized US research
authorities for unethical protocols in connection with HIV research in
undeveloped countries, protocols using placebo controls involving
patients with diagnosed medical conditions who could have been helped
by the drugs that were tested.
QY: E. Shuster, VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104 US)
(New England J. Med. 13 Nov 97) (Science-Week 21 Nov 97)
For more information:

Copyright (c) 1997-2000 SCIENCE-WEEK/Spectrum Press Inc.
All Rights Reserved



From Larry Klaes <>

As posted on the Europa Icepick Group <>

From: Bruce Moomaw <>

I've finally been through the last 4 months of "Nature", and found
several interesting Solar System articles.

The one that applies directly to Europa is Eric Gaidos' and Francis
Nimmo's "Tectonics and Water on Europa" (June 8), in which they 
detail their attack on Richard Greenberg's theory that Europa's
ridges are areas where liquid water has oozed through tidally
produced cracks in an ice shell only 1 km thick:

"The formation of kilometer-deep cracks in Europa's crust is a
problem.  Below a depth of 35 meters, the pressure from the weight
of the overlying ice will exceed the estimated stresses due to tides
(<40,000 Pascals) and prevent cracks from growing.  Any fractures
will halt at a depth where warmer, less viscous ice flows, rather
than fracturing further, to acommodate tidal strain... We find that
the brittle-ductile transition occurs at depths where temperatures
exceed -103 deg C, well above that of any ice-ocean interface.

"Also, liquid water in a crack will freeze solid by virtue of the
conduction of heat to the walls... A 1-meter crack will freeze in
1.3 orbits.  Hydrostatic forces are too weak to extrude ice from
such a narrow orifice and, unless a compensatory removal of crust
occurs elsewhere, the crack will disappear.

"We propose, alternatively, that tides drive viscous flow and
heating by dissipation at zones of lateral motion (strike-slip) in
the crust... The relative motion along a fault or defect will
produce frictional heating, causing the local temperature to
increase and the viscosity of the ice to decrease. This feedback can
lead to accommodation of the relative motion of two blocks of crust
by viscous flow in a zone of finite width, rather than a
discontinuity at a fault...

"A plausible diurnal motion of 0.6 meters can maintain the ice in
the center of the shear zone at a temperature of 0 deg C...The width
of this zone of soft ice is...about 1 km for a shear stress of
20,000 Pascals. This warm ice will have a buoyant density
contrast...with respect to the surrounding ice and will flow upwards
by a few tens of centimeters over the course of one tidal cycle...

"We suggest that such motion over the course of many cycles could be
responsible for the formation of structures such as ridge pairs. 
Our model does require the existence of an ocean (not necessarily
shallow); without the mechanical decoupling between the ice crust
and the interior, the motion of the crust would be 30-50 times

"Larger strike-slip motion may lead to partial melting (liquid
water) in the zone...Although there are considerable uncertainties
in some of these values, the equilibrium melt fraction is of the
order of 1%. This much melt will form only if the strike-slip motion
is sufficiently large (~1 meter) to compensate for the reduction in
ice viscosity by a factor of about one-third as a result of the
presence of melt.

"The pore pressure due to the presence of melt will also increase
the depth to the brittle-ductile transition and allow fractures to
accommodate strike-slip motion and to slow heat generation.  Melt
pockets below the fracture zone will percolate downwards at a
velocity of a few tens of meters per year, and so will have a
lifetime of ~1,000 years...

"In this case, the melt lifetime, estimated by equating the latent
heat that must be rejected to the rate of thermal conduction away
from the fault zone, will be about 30 years (although shorter at
shallow depths, where vertical conduction to the surface is
important).  Depending on the thickness of the fractured zone,
transient liquid-water or brine pockets may exist within reach of
sunlight, potentially providing habitats for photosynthetic
organisms capable of remaining dormant in ice for millennia between
relative brief 'blooms'."

Other interesting items:

(1) Don Yeomans' "Small Bodies of the Solar System" (April 20), in
which he backs up the statement I made a few weeks ago tht the
debate over whether to call Pluto a planet is nothing compared to
the next big problem in Solar System nomenclature -- the fact that
the distinction between asteroids and comets is now hopelessly
blurring, both because we're now regularly seeing small icy objects
so far out in the outer Solar System that they don't have comas, and
because we can't simply assume that all such objects are ice rather
than rock:

"Most of the objects in the Oort cloud are probably comets that
formed in the outer Solar System.  But up to 3% of the current
population could be asteroids that formed just inside Jupiter's
orbit and then were pushed out, by way of gravitational interactions
with Jupiter, to the very edge of the Solar System...

We now have comets in asteroid-like orbits and asteroids in
comet-like orbits [including two recently discovered asteroids in
retrograde orbits]. Both comets and asteroids can evolve from the
Oort cloud into highly inclined, even retrograde, orbits around the
Sun, so orbital behavior is no better than physical behavior for
telling them apart.  Our attempts to sort comets and asteroids into
separate boxes have failed, and astronomers should now consider
these objects as members of a highly diverse family -- the small
bodies of the Solar System...

"The loss of our standard picture of comets and asteroids is already
providing a more diverse spectrum of possible structures -- from
porous balls of ice to solid rocks and slabs of iron... Far from
being the dry rocky bodies they were once thought to be, it would
seem that some asteroids, along with comets, mgiht be significant
sources of water...From physical evidence alone, it appears that the
structures of asteroids run from fluffball ex-comets to rubble
piles, solid rocks and slabs of solid iron."

(2) "Nature's" April 6 editorial: "Don't Blame NASA Alone for Mars
Mission Failures":

"Most would agree that [Dan] Goldin is a visionary, and that his
transformation of NASA has been truly revolutionary.  But he is also
a politician. And NASA tends to run into trouble when politics is
injected into a business that is difficult even under the best

"It would be wrong to say the Mars program was politically
motivated.  The planet's similarity to Earth and the existence of
water (certainly in the past, maybe under the surface today) make it
a compelling scientific destination. But the 1996 claim of fossils
in a Martian rock added a public relation (hence political)
dimension to the program that hadn't been there before. This, along
with Goldin's eagerness to prove that his employees could do more
with less, are what led to the [1998] downfall.

"The Young report treats this NASA prssure on JPL delicately: 'NASA
Headquarters thought it was articulating program objectives, mission
requirements, and constraints. JPL management was hearing these as
non-negotiable program mandates.' This may be letting NASA off the
hook too easily. The political realities of the Mars program were
not misinterpreted by the JPL engineers and scientists in the
trenches. They udnerstood that they could not ask for more money,
nor could they radically 'descope' their missions.  Their opnly
choice was to sigh and accept more risk. That, or resign...

"Do Goldin and those who determine his funding really understand
where they went wrong?  In the case of the Mars program, probably
yes. But it will be interesting to see how they respond to another
current agency project that has the same disturbing combination of
engineering complexity, too few resources, politics that constrain
project managers' decision, and workers just trying to make the best
of a bad situation. It's called the International Space Station."

I'll add only that NASA understands perfectly well that the Space
Station program is running off the rails -- after all (as with the
Shuttle), they only got Congress and the White House to approve it
in the first place by ridiculously understating its cost and
overstating its utility, and since then have resorted to the
time-honored Camel's Nose technique of steadily raising the cost
while telling Congress that they should keep supporting it anyway or
the money already spent will have been wasted. Neither program was
an honest "mistake" on NASA's part -- both the Shuttle and the
Station are deliberate, cold-blooded schemes by NASA to defraud the
taxpayers of tens of billions of dollars.  (As one former NASA
official told "Time" magazine, regarding its lies to Congress to get
the Shuttle program started: "We hated to do it, but we were getting
SO many votes.")

Bruce Moomaw


From Michael Martin-Smith <>

Dear Benny

Commenting on Timo Niroma's letter "Are we Alone?"
A personal view
It is possible that we see a Universe evolving from simplicity to
complexity over aeons, in a series of phase changes. For example, we
see a progression from  four forces, radiation domination, subatomic
particles, condensation of matter as atoms, galaxies, stellar
systems, simple biochemistry, uni-cellular life, complex life to, 
finally, mental/civilized Life.

This, like the stages in the growth of an embryo, requires time, and
it could be that only now is the time sufficient for this. We may
even be the first to flower in a garden of intelligent life forms
only now emerging.

Given the known hazards of impacts, Gamma Ray Bursters and
ecological variability, it could be that only Intelligent races
which become space travellers and colonists can truly expect to
survive and develop for long enough to make their presence felt in
the Galaxy at large. We after all are the only species among 500
millions to have arisen on Earth capable - in principle at least -
of building our own Future according to a conscious plan.

The future development of Mind in the Universe may depend vitally on
whether we are prepared to build a spacebased civilization, and
bring the Galaxy to a state of cultivation before Nature once again
reshuffles the cards. Maybe, after all, Mankind is special and has a
role to perform in the larger History of the Cosmos.

Current widely voiced attitudes, even among people who could be more
far sighted, show that this is by no means an assured outcome. It
is, I am learning  to my surprise, not politically correct to
champion our own species in some quarters. This, if a Universal
trait, surely accounts adequately for Fermi's Paradox!

The real lessons from Astrobiology may relate not so much to our
origins as to our Future. "The Lifespan of an Intelligent
Civilization is inversely proportional to the cost of Space Travel!"

Michael Martin-Smith


From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

The issues raised by Timo Niroma (CCNet 18 Jul) are also covered in
detail in the July issue of Scientific American:
Where Are They?

On the subject of the 'Chandler Wobble', it would be interesting to
work out the magnitude of wobble created by a well-placed large NEO
impact. I suppose it is not much (given the huge difference in mass)
but it seems that the various wobbles (from whatever cause) are now
being measured to a high degree of accuracy. In his book Cosmos, Carl
Sagan mentioned the possibility that the Moon might be ringing like a
bell after the impact that generated the 20km crater Giordano Bruno so
a wobble is not out of the question. See for links on
this highly speculative event. (but the NASA links have vanished!)

Michael Paine


From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

In CCNet, 18 July 2000 Timo Niroma wrote:

> Where was I. One planet in one galaxy per a million galaxies?
> After all, it seems that we probably really are not alone. But the
> others are far, too far our imagination to grasp it. But they are
> there. The Universe is so huge, they got to be. But hopelessly far
> to be reachable or us to be observed by them.

For one thing the present incarnation of the Universe is v_e_r_y young,
maybe 15 billion years. Second or third generation stars take time to
emerge, but are necessary for iron-ball planets such as Earth to form.

In other words there is a high probability that our civilization is as
fast off the starting block as they come, and therefore we have no
predecessors who could have left us their card.

Even the most pessimistic among cosmologists expect the Universe to
last for trillions of years, so let's not despair at the thought that
right now we may have no intragalactical neighbours to quarrel with!

Jens Kieffer-Olsen
Slagelse, Denmark


Alasdair Beal <>

Dear Benny,


How does Iran developing a missile with an 800 mile range justify the
USA developing an anti-ballistic missile system (in breach of the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty) for its own territory over 5,000 miles
away? I am pretty broad minded but I'm not sure that rubbish like
really merits space on CCNET.

Alasdair Beal


From Intellectual Capital, 20 July 2000

Strategic Defenses
by Dr. Jerry Pournelle
As often noted, one problem with the National Missile Defense (NMD)
debate is that most Americans think we already have it. If you ask the
average man in the street how many ICBMs aimed at their city we could
intercept if we knew when and where they would be launched, the answers
vary from a few to some to all; few give the right answer, which is

The only reason we do not have strategic missile defenses is that our
political leaders do not want them.

Yet some sort of NMD system is strategically, morally and
constitutionally necessary. It is also economically and technologically
feasible. I made the case, along with Stefan T. Possony and Francis X.
Kane, in 1969 in our book, The Strategy of Technology. Since that time
both the technological and economic factors have gotten much better for
defenses. The moral and constitutional arguments are unchanged.

The constitutional and moral arguments for a strategic defense system
are simply stated. Our present arms policy is based on retaliation: If
you kill any of us with nuclear missiles, we will destroy you. You kill
us, and we will kill you back -- cities, civilians, children and all.
The doctrine is called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy, and it
has been the official policy of the United States since Robert McNamara
was secretary of defense in the 1960s.

Without strategic-defense capability, MAD is all we have, but surely it
is nothing to be proud of. The Constitution says the United States
should "provide for the common defense," not for the common destruction.
If mutual destruction is the only possible course, you take it, but as a
moral country we need to develop other capabilities. Leaving only one
option -- a repulsive one -- is itself an immoral action.


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