Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Catastrophe Roundup

[Slow day at the office, so I'm pondering the End of the World. Or, more exactly, catastrophism. We get so obsessed with long-term, inexorable, gradual forces of decline, degeneration and extreme unpleasantness that we forget to pay attention to the certain death that can strike at any second. My story on the nanodiamonds and the Younger Dryas sent me into the archives to fish out a passage from a piece I wrote after visiting Belize and looking for remnants of the K/T impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs. It sums up the difference between catastrophism and gradualism.]

It took a long time for humans to discover that they lived on an old planet, and that its history was written in the rocks. In the late 1600s people discovered the principle of stratigraphy, in which the layers of sediments formed a chronology of the past. In the early 1800s geologists began defining geological periods according to changes in the fossil record. The rocks told of life and death on Earth. In 1815 they recognized that there was an abrupt change in marine fossils at a certain stratigraphic point that later became known as the K/T boundary, the end of the Cretaceous period and beginning of the Tertiary (the "K" is from the German equivalent of "Cretaceous"). In the decades that followed there came to be interest in unusually large bones found in various sites around the world, and in 1841 the world learned that once upon a time the planet was roamed by terrible lizards -- dinosaurs. Eventually it became obvious that the dinosaurs disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous. Did they die because pesky little nocturnal mammals ate their eggs? Did they freeze in an ice age? Did their marshlands turn into mountain ranges? Did they get zapped by radiation from a nearby exploding star?

There were many outlandish theories. Constipation from eating flowering plants was one inventive explanation. So too was the idea, floated periodically, that an object from space smashed into the planet. In the early 1970s Nobel Prize winner Harold Urey pushed the impact hypothesis -- and hardly anyone paid attention to him. There was a problem with Urey's idea: It involved a catastrophe. Most scientists didn't like catastrophes. They were just a bit too . . . Old Testament.

Catastrophism had been popular until the early 1800s. Then came Sir Charles Lyell, a godlike figure who argued that the world was shaped by forces so gradual no human could perceive their workings. A canyon can be carved by the merest trickle of water. Mountains crept skyward millimeter by millimeter. Lyell was a uniformitarian, a believer that the laws of nature were constant in time and space, on Earth and in the heavens, now and forever. He ridiculed tales of "general catastrophes and a succession of deluges, of the alternation of periods of repose and disorder, of the refrigeration of the globe, of the sudden annihilation of whole races of animals and plants . . ." Such stories were not scientific. Charles Darwin then extended gradualism into the biological realm -- species, too, appeared and disappeared due to incremental genetic mutations and the imperceptibly subtle pressures of this vague phenomenon called "natural selection." Nature was the perfect subject for tweedy tenured professors using the same faded yellow lecture notes year after year.

Less than two decades ago the strange truth began to emerge: Both sides were right. Things happen slowly -- except when they happen suddenly. -- From "Incoming," April 19, 1998, The Washington Post Magazine.

--

I have to post up here in the kit a fragment of the fascinating and very lucid boodle post from ScienceTim (for those of you unfamiliar with the boodle, see "Comments"):

'Meteors definitely do not blow up a little bit on the way to the ground. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. The meteoroid suffers ablation of its surface during entry, essentially being sandblasted by hypersonic atmospheric molecules. Most of the glow that you see in the sky is from superheated gas within the atmospheric shockwave, with almost no emission from the meteoritic material, itself. If the meteoroid is very strong, it reaches the ground relatively intact and KABOOM! makes an impact crater. A messier event is the airburst. As the meteoroid punches a hole through the atmosphere, it reaches a level at which the atmospheric density is great enough that the pressure from ramming into the air at many times the speed of sound exceeds the mechanical strength of the meteoroid. The meteoroid begins to deform and spread out, which increases the total pressure even more. These processes build on each other and within a tiny bit of time (I'm guessing microseconds), the impactor is reduced to atoms, releasing all of its kinetic energy of motion into the atmosphere all at once. Since a reasonalbe-size impactor (few meters diameter) carries a kinetic energy of motion that is equivalent to a decent-size nuclear weapon (10's of kilotons or more), this makes for a bad day for anything beneath the event, essentially creating a non-nuclear explosion of nuclear-weapon yield.

'The last I read about it, the winning argument for the Tunguska event remains a stony asteroid of about 10 meters diameter, airbursting at a kilometer or so above the ground. A fluffier object might have yielded more energy (if it were bigger), but airburst at much greater altitude. That could lead to relatively gentle effects on the ground (no explosion), but still produce a flash of heat that would be highly noticeable.'


--

Also, just for the record, here's an excerpt of an email today from David Morrison, explaining why the Younger Dryas impact idea doesn't make sense to him:

"The authors of this work hypothesize that a shower of comets struck North America equivalent to thousands of Tunguska-size atmospheric or surface explosions. As described in the three news stories following, it is suggested "They would have seen a brilliant flash followed by others in quick succession. The sky would be a canopy of fire, and shock waves would flatten trees. Miniscule diamonds would drizzle over tens of thousands of kilometres, a third of the way around the planet."

"The problem is that there are no craters or other evidence of large-scale impacts. The concept of a comet shower focused on North America makes no sense to me. A large object, whether comet or asteroid, would be expected to reach the ground, not explode in the atmosphere. Even if we imagine a loosely bound comet braking up in the atmosphere a few seconds before impact, the lateral dispersion of the fragments would be only of the order of the thickness of the atmosphere, or about 100 km. There is no known way to break up and disperse an incoming comet thousands of kilometers before it hits the atmosphere. If instead this were part of a general comet shower filling the inner solar system, then the evidence would not be limited to North America, and in addition we would still see the dynamical evidence of the remnants of this comet shower. There should also be a clear signature of this event in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores. So whatever happened 12,900 years ago, the hypothesis put forward by these authors does not seem viable. One could add that the size of this proposed impact would make it a one-in-several-million year event, and hence not something we would have expected within the past 13,000 years. "


--

From blogger Jon Swift here are the best blog posts of the past year, as selected by the bloggers themselves. I will confess that I've never read most of these blogs, or even heard of them. I did find the James Fallows selection interesting.

--

James Hansen writes a letter to Obama.

--

Drudge had a link this morning referring to the "D-word" being uttered by Kathy Griffin on CNN as she sat next to shark-bait anchor Anderson Cooper. But, um, what's the D-word? Took me forever to figure it out. You just have to see the YouTube. (Link via Mike Allen.)

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 2, 2009; 10:51 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Fireballs In the Sky
Next: Samuel Huntington

Comments

I'm going back to get the rest of the gang.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 2, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The Constipation Theory? Never heard that one before. Sounds like something Dr. Eugene Weingarten, Ph.D., would come up with.

I kinda like it though, especially on days when I think everybody's full of crap and I'm dealing with various domestic crises.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

If we are talking about "Our Gang" Mudge,I want to be Alfalfa,I sure have the hair for it this morning.....Yikes!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

My favorite crackpot theory is that the male dinosaurs got too heavy to do their masculine duties, Joel.

After all, a beer gut has NOTHING on a saurian cycad gut. Especially a constipated one.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know of any actual news we can put in the paper? We're in the market for some.

Posted by: joelache | January 2, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

JA -- You can put Nelson Hernandez on the story. I have never seen such demoralization among PG public school parents ever. Teachers and adminstrators, too.

Would be nice if the story were done with some care and attention to detail. Tired of the PG schools are in the toilet....so what and who cares.

Having said that, woah Nellie! I am saddened and shocked at the extent of the malaise.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

JA in the good news department, lots of extremely cool and useful biotech stuff at UMCP, including

smart bandages made of left over chitosan from the crab shelling industry AND some amazing efficient enzymes that look to crack the cellulosic ethanal nutshell....

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Checkbook journalism???

*"Home Alone" hands-to-cheeks shocked look*

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I recognize about ten of those blogs including Wonkette, Firedoglake, and Whiskey Fire.

Our beloved Jennifer [last name with too many vowels to spell correctly] is represented with Cocktail Party Physics.

Last week I had done some hit and run sampling of the Swift List and there is some great stuff in there. A lot of great blogs are being written, once again reinforcing the apocryphal Vonnegut observation that we have all the writers we need, what we could really use are better readers.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

How's about a nice deathwatch. You can sit at the end of my couch. BYOB and pick upsome Kleenex if you're coming.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 2, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

You could always interview more outgoing Bushies and let them tell you what a heckuva job they did. There seems to be a two article a day quota on those stories.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

JA, if you want to follow up on Hansen's letter to the OBamas about climate, etc. I can put you to the architects of the FIRST carbon tax bill that was entertained briefly in the first Clinton admin. Connects to John Holdren, imminent sciCZAR. Interesting story from back in the day, when I had to explain climate change to my family and friends. "Tell us again what you study and write about, CqP? Carbonization? So, you lobby for the soda industry/"


Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Boko,
Whatchya dyin' of and is is contagious across the interwebs?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Poor Boko. *Faxing extra-soft facial tissues and chicken soup*

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

There is, I suspect, another reason why so many people resisted, and still do resist, the concept of catastrophism. It imposes a limits on our ability to predict the future.

If our world is guided by nothing but laws that remain the same throughout time, then there is a chance that we can understand these laws, and hence predict what is to come next.

Catastrophism throws a wrench into all that. It is the ultimate uncontrolled variable. It's like those websites that estimate the date of your death based upon your current health and age. Yet these sites fail to take into account that drunken fool in his F150.

Catastrophism means that, as a practical matter, the distant future will always remain unknowable. And for some of this, that kinda bites. Because, you know, after 3 December 2054, I'm not likely to be around to see it first hand.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Boko but I would avoid Ottawa right now. It's darn cold and it snows. The city is overrun by Junior hockey players and their retinues. Hotels are burning. Public transit is on strike. Politicians will be back soon for the next Parliament session. Snow locusts and boils should be next.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 2, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Having trouble posting this -- we'll if it works this time:

If the carbon in the nanodiamonds is from cometary material, vs. processed terrestrial material, then carbon-dating will do you no good. It turns out that the carbon-14 inventory on Earth is created by cosmic-ray transmutation of nitrogen-14. A neutron whacks the nitrogen, it spits out a proton, and carbon-14 is what gets Left Behind by the Rapture of nucleosynthesis. You have to have substantial amounts of nitrogen, and a continual exchange of carbon with the nitrogen-rich background, in order to have carbon-dating. It turns out that this creates some interesting problems in dating things from the deep ocean. On the other hand, materials formed from local carbon *will* have some carbon-14, so you can use it to date ash from the widespread firestorm that Joel describes (I haven't read the whole article yet, but I'll be getting there later), even though the nanodiamonds, which would have to have been formed from cometary materials in the impact event, should appear vastly older due to the lack of carbon-14. If they have any carbon-14 at all, then they would have to have been formed locally, I hypothesize.

(brief lexicographic sidebar:
meteor -- n., a bright trail of light seen in the sky
meteoroid -- n., the thing that is making the meteor
meteorite -- n., a meteoroid that is no longer making a meteor. That is, the residual object found on or in the ground.
meteoritic -- adj., a term describing stuff created by mechanical or chemical processing of the meteor: e.g., nanodiamonds, dust deposits, trace atmospheric gases, and so forth. Not to be confused with the meteorite, which is the unprocessed residue of the meteoroid.)

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 2, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Part 2:

The style of impact depends on the composition of the meteoroid, the velocity of the impact, the angle of impact, and the composition of the impactor. With that many variables, there can be considerable wiggle room in how an impact might play out.

Meteors definitely do not blow up a little bit on the way to the ground. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. The meteoroid suffers ablation of its surface during entry, essentially being sandblasted by hypersonic atmospheric molecules. Most of the glow that you see in the sky is from superheated gas within the atmospheric shockwave, with almost no emission from the meteoritic material, itself. If the meteoroid is very strong, it reaches the ground relatively intact and KABOOM! makes an impact crater. A messier event is the airburst. As the meteoroid punches a hole through the atmosphere, it reaches a level at which the atmospheric density is great enough that the pressure from ramming into the air at many times the speed of sound exceeds the mechanical strength of the meteoroid. The meteoroid begins to deform and spread out, which increases the total pressure even more. These processes build on each other and within a tiny bit of time (I'm guessing microseconds), the impactor is reduced to atoms, releasing all of its kinetic energy of motion into the atmosphere all at once. Since a reasonalbe-size impactor (few meters diameter) carries a kinetic energy of motion that is equivalent to a decent-size nuclear weapon (10's of kilotons or more), this makes for a bad day for anything beneath the event, essentially creating a non-nuclear explosion of nuclear-weapon yield.

The last I read about it, the winning argument for the Tunguska event remains a stony asteroid of about 10 meters diameter, airbursting at a kilometer or so above the ground. A fluffier object might have yielded more energy (if it were bigger), but airburst at much greater altitude. That could lead to relatively gentle effects on the ground (no explosion), but still produce a flash of heat that would be highly noticeable.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 2, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

JA-Time for some serious coverage of "Indian Country." No rehashing of past injustices continuing to the present, there's plenty of that. Follow the money-from waste and paternalistic BIA policies to corruption in just about every tribal government. (I'm in a bad mood, "just about every" could turn out to be hyperbole, but I doubt it.)

You can start with shootouts between tribes and non-tribal law enforcement with calls for repeal of PL 280, and pull out Pulitzer worthy features out from under nearly every rock.
http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/living/health/36748359.html

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 2, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Thank you ScienceTim for fully living up to your handle. That was great. It shows that there are many variables involved, indeed.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

SCC-extra "out" in that last sentence. Pull out the one that makes me look less in need of remedial English courses.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 2, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I gotta lovely multifunction Seiko here, Boko...

Hey, it's a BokoSeiko! *patent pending*

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Boko, you crack me up.

kb, thanks for the explanation about the karma pome. I figured that's what it was, but thought maybe some of your original post had been chomped.

The weather people scared us with predictions of snow overnight - I dreamed about snow - but woke up to no snow and glorious sunshine instead! Caloo, calay.

Posted by: seasea | January 2, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. Hot news tips for Joel.

"The Shame of No Free Coffee for Hard-Working Civil Servants Continues."

Mebbe not.

"Anonymous Obsessive Boodler Has Now Burned Through More Than Half His Life-Expectancy."

Nah.

Mebbe just this.

"World Still Hasn't Ended Yet."

This, to me, is always good news.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Coming back round to catastrophes, I've been chuckling about this lede on WaPo.com all morning:

"Advisers Reflect on Bush Years

Joshua Bolten, Stephen Hadley express frustration over inability to improve president's popularity."

I would suggest that it would have been more productive to try to improve the President hizownself rather than just his popularity.

But, that's just me.

bc

PS Please note that I didn't mention polishing *anything*.

Posted by: -bc- | January 2, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Have a great weekend everyone. I know that for most the New Year only really kicks in come next Monday.

Going to head home early, and pick up my new glasses. The ones I need to wear while driving at night.

Oh well. I can think of far worse things to happen to my aging body.

Cheers

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Hi all, here's some news: Speaking of death watches, my dear dad is still with us. The doctors will no longer make predictions regarding Dad's actual demise. We are all so mentally drained from the whole thing but also a bit proud that our dad is so darn strong when having been with no food and practically no fluids for nine days. Talk about weird.

Posted by: Windy3 | January 2, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

*not mentioning that RD_P gets prescriptions filled @ the Sunglass Hut*

*cueing up the Corey Hart CD*

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Why, I do believe there are several hints here that RD should receive felicitations and hopes of many happy returns of December 2!

Let me be the first to offer just those.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Um, just wanted to add that my dad is on plenty of relaxation and feel good meds...less anyone get the wrong idea.

Posted by: Windy3 | January 2, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

No wrong ideas here, Windy3, but lots of empathy for you and your Dad.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Glad all is calm windy3.

And to tie in the current topic with last night's poetry cafe:

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

A little cliche, but it seems to fit the subject at hand.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

If we're talking Doomsday, Yeats has this famous poem:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

yj, here's the sort-of-on-topic Brautigan poem I didn't post yesterday but will now, in response to your Frost:

Richard Brautigan - The Fever Monument

I walked across the park to the fever monument.
It was in the center of a glass square surrounded
by red flowers and fountains. The monument
was in the shape of a sea horse and the plaque read
We got hot and died.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 2, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year!

CqP, responding to your question, I’m unfamiliar with the rigidity of the European education track system, but I think our system is probably the same as yours (from what I know of it). High school courses here generally have three levels, only one of which will be accepted by universities. A late bloomer is recommended to re-do his or her most previous course(s) at the higher level if the more challenging track is later sought.

Hey Wilbrod, put The Ancestor’s Tale on my list for Xmas and received it - interesting reading so far.

Great poetry day yesterday. Frosti, I had to read aloud The Charge of the Light Brigade but sadly could not summon any bodily functions for dramatic effect as you did. It would have improved the performance.

re catastrophes. Both super-efficient hunters and impacts seem implausible for the disappearance of N.A. megafauna, with the former somewhat less so.

re news request- other than Gaza, I got nuttin’.

Posted by: engelmann | January 2, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Looks like interesting reading here:
http://www.edge.org/q2009/q09_index.html
"WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?
"What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?"

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 2, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The kind of catastrophism that Lyell banished seems to have been fairly wacky. I suspect people were taking Noah's flood as a prototypical Catastrophe.

The gradualist mindset did run into problems. The notion of vast basalt flows seems to have gone over OK. For example, Siberia, the Deccan in India, and a mini-version in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon that sent Idaho lava pouring into the Pacific via the Columbia River.

There was reasonable speculation that a big basalt episode gassed the dinosaurs.

On the other hand, in the 1920s, J. Harlan Bretz proposed that catastrophic floods had created the "channeled scablands" of Washington State. He didn't get a good reception. What finally did the trick was satellite imagery, which showed the massive effects of the great floods very convincingly.

The slowness to accept Bretz's notion of great floods is remarkable if you consider the obvious existence of a water source (glacial Lake Missoula, as in the Montana college town) and the floods' effects. Rocks were carried all the way into the Willamette Valley, which flooded as far south as Eugene. The city of Portland has vast gravel beds from the floods and areas that were scoured out. The very shape of the Columbia River Gorge, with its steep walls, is due to the massive floods. Looking back, you wonder how anyone could miss something so obvious.

The gravity faults of the Beartooth Plateau (from Cody, Wyoming north into Montana) are a bit catastrophic. Sheets of sedimentary rock slid like the top layer might from a layer cake. Weird, but it happened.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 2, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, SciTim, for that background. It made the kit and discussion more intelligible for the likes of me.

Got a book on humor by Sam Ervin for Christmas. It was published in 1983 - amazing how much has changed in our assumptions about men and power since he was in the Senate (1954-1974). He was so terribly wrong about civil rights, despite being a brilliant jurist and lawyer.

Joel, I hope you find some news and don't have to manufacture it. I'm for having slow news days once in a while. We need the rest from all the terrible things that happen on normal news days.

Eighteen days, folks, just 18 days till January 20, 2009.

Posted by: slyness | January 2, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I got bags of smells
for a sniffing newshound to
newspaper the lawn...

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Canary on stool
Singing of evil deeds done
for greedy banks' sakes--
Toss some seed and listen...then
Write bird notes into stories

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I love ScienceTim's boodling today. I put part of it in the kit, fyi.

Posted by: joelache | January 2, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Deep Tweet's placed highly
In a presidency called
"business-friendly"

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Windy, you have my sympathy for what you're going through with your dad. I flew across the country when the doctors said my dad would not last long - as it turned out, he lived about another 6 months. My sister nearly went nuts because the hospital would call her (she lived nearby) when they thought the end was near - she finally told them it was ok if they waited till he was gone. Death is not an easy thing. (Duh - I mean, even when it's expected and after a good, long life.)

Posted by: seasea | January 2, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Aw, news is for birds
Take day off and go for walk
Maybe meet... people?

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, thanks for that corroboration of the Cliff's notes versions of what I'd Boodled last night re. meteoric/cometary airbursts, carbon dating, etc.

Good to know LiT and others were on track, too.

Sometimes my Strunk & White-y brevity works against me, but I'm OK with that.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | January 2, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Yes fanastic summary, SciTim. What happens when a meteor explodes in the air, by the way?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

What happens to the pieces, I mean? Total vaporization?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Mike Wilbon is spot on with his column today about the death of New Years day bowl interest. Yello's dip would be worthy of note any time, but when it is the absolute highlight of what was once the biggest college football day of the year it truly is time for the PE to see if he can influence the sad state of the BCS.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010200840.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 2, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Having observed that his meteor commentary is meatier than most, one might say meteorites and meteors are SciTim's metiers.

But a question lingers: if nanodiamonds are so troublesome to some scientists, would they be star-mangled bainers as well as examples of our dawn's gnarly blight?

Sorry. I just hadda do that.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 2, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, the rockets' red glare and the rocks bursting in air would have to give proof of that, Mudge.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

new kit!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 2, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Yes Wilbrod, the meteor is mostly gone into it's individual atoms. Wear your ray bans and duck&cover under a table if one is coming down. A few Joules will be released.
If the meteor was of a rocky type the impact zone gets enriched in the constitutive elements of the meteor. The geologist tag the type of meteor that way if a meteorite can't be found. At the Pingualuit crater the impact zone (7km) is about twice the size of the central crater. The central crater is a vestige of the plastic movement of the rock masses caught in the impact zone. If you've seen super-slow motion films of drops falling into a liquid that should give you an idea, the rim is the bounce back after the impact; a mass of rock doing the wave and caught in time.

This guy has been at the Pingualuit by plane and on the ground.
http://ottawa-rasc.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Odale-Articles-Pingualuit

Laval has the best pic:
http://www.cen.ulaval.ca/pingualuit/index.html

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 2, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

So, a meteorite created diamonds ? If it is good for the Jews, then it must be good for the gentiles too.

Thanks for the re-enforcing my previous doomsday conditioning. It's been nearly two-weeks since Dick Cheney or Al Gore have mentioned an end of the world scenerio. I am starting to feel insecure without catastrophism prognastification. I am a junky for bad news We need more darkness


That's it I am going Goth this year. Wake me up in time for the Bright White Flash natural or manmade. Otherwise party on dudes and dudettes like it's 1999 all over again.

Posted by: truthhurts | January 2, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

It is much more entertaining to predict the end of the world, or a catastrophic ending than to predict one's own ending which is absolutely certain and much less that 12,000 years away.

Posted by: georgegarrett | January 2, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company