CCNet, 8 November 1999


     By Malcolm Miller

     Annihilation of the human race
     will generate relief in far-flung galaxies
     whose populated planets shiver at the thought
     of those rampaging bipeds whose mighty energies
     used to be spent in ripping out the treasures
     of their own planet until it groaned and died,
     the forests gone, the soils rank with salt and metals,
     the atmosphere and oceans choked with muck.
     And all the while, like cornered rats, the brightest
     looking up, saw out there in space the possibility
     of rich new places to be plundered.
     Perhaps they'll organise a little nudge
     of  comets in the far Oort Cloud
     where icy remnants from before the Sun ignited
     wait to sterilise that ball of dirt whose
     upstart apes might let loose  havoc on the galaxy!

    Malcolm Miller <>

    Benny J Peiser <>

    Arthur C. Clarke

    Michael Martin-Smith <>

    Michael Martin-Smith <>

    Mohammad Odeh <>

    SKY & TELESCOPE, December 1999, pp. 79-81


From Malcolm Miller <>

Dear Benny,

I, too, was brought up in an era when discovery, invention, exploration
and technology were the most exciting human activities I knew. But the
dream of perpetual investigation of the new and unexpected seems to
have died for so many,  sated by technology of entertainment until
reality and its unknown hazards seem boring and non-existent. Ockham's
Razor suggests to me that the reason is that there are just too many of
us here on Earth, and the only route to improvement might be a real
reduction in population. Let's hope we can do that ourselves - and the
latest population forecasts suggest it is possible - before we're
decimated by some outside force, or our own stupidity.

Malcolm Miller


From Benny J Peiser <>

Dear Malcolm,

I hope you will forgive me, but this is the first time that I fail to 
notice any inspiration in your latest CCNet poem. I am afraid, I
can neither support the somewhat dark visions expressed in your
accompaning message. Your poem seems to be inspired by the
misanthropic views the BBC has incorrectly attached to Arthur C
Clarke. I should make clear, however, that these quotes and
expressions are not Sir Arthur's. It is evident, that his article
in NATURE is a tongue-in-cheek piece of science fiction. In fact,
his imaginary story about the "death of a nearby star system" is
obviously meant as a caution to "ensure that such a situation
never arises again" (see below).

How the BBC came to portrait Arthur C Clarke as a cosmic 
pessimist, which is the exact opposite of his life-long
philosophy, is a complete mystery to me. We are still awaiting an
explanation by the BBC for their misleading mistake.

Let add to this clarification a brief comment about your alarm
concerning the current level and future increase of the world's
population. Although you live in the most underpopulated
continent, a vast country  that, potentially, holds sufficient
space and resources for hundreds of millions of people, you share
the popular concern about continuous population increase. This is
not the place to go into detail about whether or not this
widespread gloom is justified. Yet for everyone seriously
interested in looking at the population issue from a humanitarian
and scientific perspective, I can recommend Julian Simon's books
on this question (The State of Humanity, 1995; and The Ultimate
Resource, 1996). Readers will be astonished to realise how little
substantiated these Malthusian population fears actually are - and
how antiquated they have become in recent years.

Studying Julian Simon's enlightening research on population growth and
its benefitial implications for the future of humankind might even
bring back those times when many people thought that discovery,
invention, exploration and technology have the potential to being
inspiring human activities. Perhaps, some may even fall in love
again with our world and its mischievous children.

With kindest regards,



From NATURE, vol. 402, 4 November 1999, p. 19

By Arthur C. Clarke

At last, after feats of information processing that taxed our resources
to the limit, we have solved the long-standing mystery of the Double
Nova. Even now, we have interpreted only a small fraction of the radio 
and optical messages from the culture that perished so spectacularly,
but the main facts - astonishing though they are - seem beyond dispute.

Our late neighbours evolved on a world much like our own planet, at
such a distance from its sun that water was normally liquid. After a
long period of barbarism, they began to develop technologies using
readily available materials and sources of energy.  Their first
machines - like ours - depended on chemical reactions involving the
elements hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.

Inevitably, they constructed vehicles for moving on land and sea, as
well as through the atmosphere and out into space.  After discovering
electricity, they quickly developed telecommunications devices,
including the radio transmitters that first alerted us to their
existence.  Although the moving images these provided revealed their
appearance and behaviour, most of our. understanding of their history
and eventual fate has been derived from the complex symbols that they
used to record information.

Shortly before the end, they encountered an energy crisis, partly
triggered by their enormous physical size and violent activity. For a
while, the widespread use of uranium fission and hydrogen fusion
postponed the inevitable. Then, driven by necessity, they made
desperate attempts to find superior alternatives. After several false 
starts, involving low-temperature nuclear reactions of scientific
interest but no practical value, they succeeded in tapping the quantum 
fluctuations that occur at the very foundations of space-time. This
gave them access to a virtually infinite source of energy.

What happened next is still a matter of conjecture. It may have been an
industrial accident, or an attempt by one of their many competing
organizations to gain advantage over another. In any event, by
mishandling the ultimate forces of the Universe, they triggered a
cataclysm which detonated their own planet - and, very shortly
afterwards, its single large moon.

Although the annihilation of any intelligent beings should be deplored,
it is impossible to feel much regret in this particular case. The
history of these huge creatures countless episodes of violence, against
their own species and the numerous others that occupied their planet. 
Whether they would have made the necessary transition - as we did, ages
ago - from carbon- to germanium-based consciousness, has been the
subject of much debate.  It is quite surprising what they were able to
achieve, as massive individual entities exchanging information at a
pitiably low data rate - often by very short-range vibrations in their

They were apparently on the verge of developing the necessary
technology that would have allowed them to abandon their clumsy,
chemically fuelled bodies and thus achieve multiple connectivity: had
they succeeded, they might well have been a serious danger to all the
civilizations of our Local Cluster. Let us ensure that such a situation
never arises again.

Dedicated to Drs Pons and Fleischmann, Nobel laureates of the
twenty-first century.

Copyright Sir Arthur C Clarke 1999.

Sir Arthur C Clarke is chancellor of the International Space University
and the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.  He is the author of 2001: A
Space Odyssey and many other novels and stories, and was nominated for
the Nobel Peace Prize for inventing the communications satellite. His
latest book is Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! He lives in Sri


From Michael Martin-Smith <>

The following is the abstract of a paper given at the 50th
Anniversary Congress of the International Astronautical
Federation/International Academy of Astronautics in Amsterdam on
Oct 5, 1999, at the Cultural Aspects of Astrobiology symposium of
the IAA. The abstract is given below. In view of some of the fin
de siecle pessimism now in vogue, it might be welcome; in any
event, our future is to some extent the result of choices we make
and decisions we implement.It would be healthy, I think,  to
recall some of this essentially humanist message 

Dr. Michael Martin-Smith
Space Age Associates

Fermi's Paradox is first set out, then related to Drake's Equation
for the probability of technological Extraterrestrial
civilizations. Recent advances in finding the terms of Drake's
equation are described, leaving the lifespan of a technological
civilization as the most variable and important term. Factors
affecting this term (V) are outlined, with particular reference to
the asteroid impact scenario, as recently highlighted at Jupiter,
and on Earth. The asteroid impact threat is discussed in terms of
its nature, effects on civilization, and possible frequency.
Possible detection and countermeasures are described, and their
implications for Space development. Survival strategies for
particular cultures here on Earth are described - there being two
extreme cases - one of minimal environmental impact, in isolation
from change - the aboriginals of Australia, and the other, in
contrast, one of Diaspora and belief in its future Destiny -
Judaism. It is shown that, for advanced liberal human
civilization, Diaspora works and is most likely to ensure growth
and development. Thus the solution to the implied threat from
Fermi's Paradox for our emerging civilization is proposed to be
dispersal backed by belief in a Cosmic Destiny for Man as the
bearer of Mind. If we prove to be alone in the Galaxy, this is a
sine qua non for further Evolution; if not, Humanity's
contribution to an overall potential Galactic civilization of the
future depends on expansion into Space. We thus have a new
argument - opposable only  by misanthropes - for a space based
dispersed human civilization, which, in this 50th year of the IAF
should become widely adopted by the Space community. Efforts by the
author and associates to disseminate such ideas into the wider
public arena are underway, and described

For permission to copy or republish, contact the International
Astronautical Federation 3-5 Rue Mario-Nikis, 75015 Paris, France
Copyright @1999 Michael Martin-Smith. Published by the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc with permission  Released
to IAF/IAA/AIAA to publish in all forms.


From Michael Martin-Smith <>

An Announcement of opportunity , etc re. International Astronautical
Federation (IAF) and International Academy of Astronautics (IAA)
Congress, Oct 2-6,2000, in Rio de Janeiro,

First announcements and call for papers are now appearing, and can be
reached via IAF- 51st International Astronautical Congress
c/o Gauche Promotions and Events Ltd
Av. Rio Branco, 181- Grupo 501- Centro
20040-007-Rio de Janeiro - RJ Brazil
tel +55-21-262-1236 Email

Deadline for abstracts is Feb 22, 2000. second announcements with more
details about social, hotel etc is due late May
In Amsterdam the IAF was joined for the first time by 450 students
sponsored by ESA - a very rewarding experience for all I am myself now
on the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Arts and Literature
subcommittee, of the Space Activities and Society Symposium, which
includes SETI, science, technology, cultural aspects and contributions
of Space to society - and would like to encourage any involvement from 
members of the CCNet who are interested in the *cultural aspects* of
space and astronomy, if appropriate.

There are numerous tracks also relating to disaster mitigation and
monitoring, planetary exploration, rocketry, industry,  and much else-
something for everyone! There will be an outreach committee organized
by INPE I believe, and the IAA will be running a symposium track
entitled " Cultural Aspects of Space"-- this last time it was "Cultural
Aspects of Astrobiology"-= a first and most successful outing for this
track as a sub track under the "Space and Society Committee"

Michael Martin-Smith


From Mohammad Odeh <>


The Arab Union for Astronomy & Space Sciences, the Institute of
Astronomy & Space Sciences, and the Jordanian Astronomical Society,
will organize the 1999 Jordanian Leonid Meteors Conference on the
period 12-21 November 1999.

Kindly visit our Leonids '99  page to know the details of this
conference, as well as the expectations of some well-known scientists.
Also, u will find several links to other related sites.  Have a look at
that page, and we appreciate ur comments.

Clear Skies !!

Mohammad Shawkat Odeh.
Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS).
Member of JAS Administrative Board.
P.O. Box 925916 Amman 11110 Jordan.
Fax:  (001)(707) 221-0918.    (Personal URL)   (JAS URL)

Mike Baillie (Chrysalis Books Ltd., 1999) 256 pages.
ISBN 0-7134-8352-0. $ 19.95

Reviewed by Duncan Steel

From: SKY & TELESCOPE, December 1999, pp. 79-81

As a schoolboy I learned a song dating from when Lord Nelson ruled the
waves for Britannia. The chorus began:

Heart of oak are our ships
Jolly tars are our men.

The song lives on in the Steel household, as I rouse my own jolly tars
(sons aged 6 and 4, known to asteroid watchers as 5263 Arrius and 6828

What has this to do with the book now under review? Well, the text
largely concerns the hearts of oaks found in the British Isles and
the light they throw upon changes in Earth’s cosmic environment
throughout the past several millenniums - at least as interpreted
from a heterodox British/Irish viewpoint.

Mike Baillie is a professor of paleoecology at Queen’s University
Belfast. He should not be confused with Mark Bailey, Director of
the Armagh Observatory, only 60 kilometers away, an authority on
cometary dynamics who will enter this story again below. Baillie
is an acknowledged expert on dendrochronology, the study of tree
rings and what they can tell us about the changing ancient
climates in which those trees grew.

It should not be a surprise that tree rings have the capacity to
inform us on matters astronomical. The science of dendrochronology
was pioneered by Andrew Douglass, working in Arizona in the early
part of the 20th century. The University of Arizona continues as a
major center of excellence in this area of study, with allied
subjects having sprung from it (such as archaeological dating). At
one stage in his career Baillie considered moving to Tucson but
decided to remain in his native Belfast. Just as well, because the
mighty oaks he has examined have been preserved in Irish peat
bogs, and there are few swamps in the Sonoran Desert.

While he was later hailed as a visionary, the early ideas of Douglass
were greeted with less than instant acclaim.  For example, he
maintained that tree rings showed the ll-year solar cycle in
normal times as well as abnormal events, such as the Maunder
Minimum of sunspots in the 17th century. Perhaps Baillie's
suggestions will be treated likewise. But I think that, in broad
stroke, he is on the correct track.

Some time ago Baillie came to the conclusion that tree rings
indicate a severe widespread disruption of the climate around A.D.
540, a phenomenon  evidenced by other events, such as the
Justinian plague of the Eastern Roman Empire. As has been the
norm, an endogenous cause was sought, the favorite being a massive
volcanic eruption.  For Ireland, great Icelandic eruptions have
been shown to deposit tephra (glassy dust) layers in the bogs, and
for some  time Baillie championed this concept.

But Baillie is open to new ideas, and in 1980 he noted, along with
much of the rest of the scientific world, the evidence from Luis
Alvarez and his team for an asteroid or comet impact having caused
the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event 65 million years ago (when
the dinosaurs died out). In this picture the Earth is not isolated
from the cosmos, and the environment can be perturbed (to say the
least) by erogenous agents.

Living in the United Kingdom, however, Baillie was also exposed to
an alternative history of asteroid/comet-driven extinctions. In
1979 Bill Napier and Victor Clube - then both at the Royal
Observatory, Edinburgh - published in Nature a broader hypothesis
of impact-caused extinction than the specific concept of the
Alvarez group. Note, though, that the idea of impact-driven
catastrophes has a much longer history, dating back to at least
Edmond Halley and William Whiston three centuries ago. Lord Byron
spoke of cometary calamities in 1821. After Earth-crossing
asteroids were discovered in 1932, the great American
meteoriticist Harvey H. Nininger wrote of their significance, as
did Fletcher Watson and Ralph Baldwin in terms of the origin of
lunar craters. In 1958 Ernst J Opik, of Armagh Observatory, wrote
of the hazard that asteroids pose, and today his grand-son (a
member of the British Parliament) is trying to push the U.K.
government  into playing a significant part in the international
Spaceguard effort.

The Napier and Clube impact hypothesis of two decades back involved
terrestrial catastrophism on time scales of tens of millions of years,
linked to the oscillations of the Sun about the plane of the Milky Way.
A quite different aspect of their work has been the idea that a giant
comet has gradually disintegrated in the inner solar system over the
past 10 or 20 millenniums, causing periodic bombardments of the Earth
by a stream of debris, affecting our climate.  In this work they have
been joined by Mark E. Bailey, David J. Asher, and me, all of whom
either are or have been associated with Armagh at some stage. The group
was labeled the Cavaliers by Gerrit L. Verschuur in his book Impact!
(S& T.. January 1997, page 64).

This coterie of astronomers, then, was close at hand to feed
Baillie alternative ideas for the origin of the A.D. 540 climatic
downturn that he felt sure he had identified (an important era,
when Christianity was spreading through Ireland). Eventually
Baillie became pretty much convinced that he should abandon his
previously favored volcanic thesis.

Baillie explains the background in the opening third of the book and
then embarks upon an explication of his new hypothesis.  He is honest;
he writes that "the reader is about to embark on a journey which will
stretch credulity but which is entirely based on documentary sources
and a few logical jumps."

Actually his interpretation of the evidence is more closely aligned
with the suggestion published by Fred Hoyle and N. Chandra
Wickramasinghe in 1978 that the dinosaur extinction was due not to
a cometary impact but rather to a close call. The logic is
impeccable. The Earth is a tiny target, so for every strike there
are thousands of close approaches.  For asteroids, only impacts
count. But for comets, a flyby results in our planet passing 
through the cometary coma, which can be larger than the Moon's
orbit. In such an event, we would accumulate a mass of dust, which
takes years to settle out of the atmosphere. These crossings must
occur on millennial time scales. (Napier and Wickramasinghe are
currently investigating the climatic effects.)

Baillie suggests that the A.D. 540 climatic disruption was due to
a dust veil being lowered over the planet, and he adduces much
evidence in support of the idea: not only physical evidence from
tree rings and the like, but also from the written accounts and
mythology of disparate civilizations.

Was the A.D. 540 event the sole such episode in recent times?
Baillie thinks otherwise. He also explores other epochs. Bronze
Age specialists know that something strange happened around 2345
B.C., and Baillie discusses the evidence. Similarly in 1628 and
1159 B.C. he finds that the Irish oaks preserved in their bogs
tell a story of exceptional cooling, at the same time as Egyptian
and Chinese (and indeed Irish) annals speak of interesting times
in the sky.

If these climatic excursions were due to veiling events resulting
from cometary dust, then should we not find layers of such
material in suitable reservoirs?  As Baillie explains, the
ice-pack evidence is equivocal. Just five weeks back I visited
Belfast to discuss with Baillie, Valeric Hall, and other members
of the team their plans to search for cosmic dust in the Irish
peat bogs themselves. A positive result might mean that the bogs
have exhibited both the cause and the effect of these
environmental deviations.

The book is not without fault. If Baillie had seen fit to coin
abbreviations for "dendrochronology" and "dendrochronologist" then
the text would have been 10 pages shorter, and fewer trees would
have been chopped down to print it. The comet associated with
Julius Caesar actually appeared months after his assassination.
James Ussher (who came up with 4004 B.C. as the beginning of the
universe) was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, so
it is especially incongruous that Baillie spells Ussher's name

Nevertheless, Exodus to Arthur is a valuable addition to the
literature. For those enthusiasts of astronomy who would like to
discover more about how their science may have affected the
development of human civilizations, it is a highly recommended
read. Baillie is not scared of being wrong. But he may well be

For some years DUNCAN STEEL directed an asteroid and comet search and
tracking program in Australia, resulting in his book Rogue Asteroids
and Doomsday Comets (Wiley, 1995). He has recently moved back to the
United Kingdom to start a space-research program at the University of

Copyright 1999, SKY & TELESCOPE

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