Both the popular press and scientific publications geared to the educated, but not specialist, public continue to focus on natural phenomena including asteroids and earthquakes. Several recent books have featured material on asteroids hitting earth; both on evidence for past hits and the potential for future ones. The April 1997 issue of Earth describes a relatively new addition to the theories about the asteroid which hit the Yucatan area around 65 million years ago and may have contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs. Though the effect on the dinosaurs remains debatable, the reality of the asteroid hit and consequent major damage is generally accepted. The addition to the previous theory is that the asteroid arrived from the southeast, crashing at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees. This angle of impact is suggested to explain the shape of the resulting crater which was buried and only recently discovered, and the fact that most of the consequent damage was located in North America. Plant extinctions are said to have ranged from 30 to 100 percent in different parts of North America. After the hit, ferns apparently almost totally took over a large area, as they were the first to repopulate the area devastated by the volcanic eruption of the Indonesian island of Krakatoa in 1883.
The February 1, 1997 issue of Science News has an article on the spectacular extinctions which hit life in many areas at the end of the Permian period. Marine life was especially devastated. A variety of theories are described, and Erwin of the Smithsonian suggests that several might have contributed to the drastic results. Possibilities include a hit by an asteroid, with Retallack offering evidence that it occurred in the southern hemisphere. There is more solid evidence for a major drop in the oxygen in the oceans reaching from the tropics to the poles and from the depths to the shallow waters. Other postulates include a widespread drop in temperatures, an increase in carbon dioxide, massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia, changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns, etc. Many of these potential events might be interrelated, reinforcing each other. Scientists all agree that more research is needed to clarify the picture.
Scientists commonly extrapolate past patterns into the future to make tentative predictions. The same February 1, 1997 issue of Science News suggests that more hurricanes are coming in the near future. Gray and his colleagues in Colorado State University study weather patterns, including sea temperatures in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and air and stratosphere temperatures in Africa and Singapore among other areas. They say that we had less hurricane activity in the Atlantic from 1991 through 1994, but that we may be currently shifting into a more active period similar to the mid-1940s and the 1960s. Even if this forecast is wrong and there are fewer hurricanes, that does not imply security. There were only 4 hurricanes in 1992, but one of them was Andrew, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
The December 14, 1996 issue of Science News forecasts increased droughts in the Great Plains of North America. Studies of the area’s climate patterns for the last 2,300 years by Laird of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario have identified long-lasting droughts prior to the last 750 years. Dry spells included 200 to 370, 700 to 850, and 1000 to 1200, and some affected large sections of North America. Since the droughts were associated with somewhat warmer temperatures, theorists suggest that global warming may increase them in the future.
A somewhat more cheerful forecast is offered in the February 22, 1997 issue of Science News. Californian seismologists Jones and Hauksson in Pasadena think we are in a quiet time for earthquakes in southern California, having fewer magnitude 3 earthquakes than we did 10 years ago. As with hurricanes, major quakes can still occur in relatively quiet times, but if the future repeats the past, Jones and Hauksson think we are less likely to have another large magnitude quake until sometime between 2002 and 2007. Should we tell Scallion?
The previously cited April 1997 issue of Earth has a small article on earthquakes suggesting that the forecast of a huge quake during the battle of Armageddon in the Book of Revelations is more about history than the future. Geophysicist Nur of Stanford University says that the ancient city in Israel was destroyed at least 27 times over a 5,000 to 7,000 year period by earthquakes rather than battles. The city sat in a strategically important gap between mountains and “the faults that created Armageddon’s strategic import are responsible for its repeated destruction.” p. 18
Meanwhile, the dates for humans in the Americas keep being pushed back. The March-April 1997 issue of Archaeology has an extensive review of a new book about a site at Monte Verde, Chile. The reviewer, Brian Fagan, remarks that few general readers will plow through the detailed monograph of some 1080 pages published by the Smithsonian for $155, but that both the research and the careful analysis of it sets a standard for archaeologists. Tom Dillehay of the University of Kentucky is the author and head of the research which has continued for some 20 years. The current monograph is the second published by the Smithsonian on his work, following an initial volume in 1989. Carbon dates place the artifacts from the main occupancy period to between 12,300 and 12,800 years ago. A much earlier layer studied only to a limited extent dates to between 32,840 and 33,900 years ago. More work will be needed to confirm the material in this layer as human artifacts.
The same issue of Archaeology has an article on ancient seafarers. A joint Dutch-Indonesian team is claiming that humans were contemporaries of stegodons, an extinct, elephant-like animal. Stone flakes and stegodon bones have been found on the island of Flores in deposits located just above a reversal of the earth’s magnetic field dating to 730,000 years ago. If the evidence holds up, humans learned to cross the seas a long time ago.
The ancient seafarers undoubtedly used the sky as a compass, and modern humans are still looking to the sky for meaning. The February 26, 1997 issue of The San Diego Union-Tribune quotes from the official Xinhua News Agency that a meteor hit China’s coastal Shandong Province four days before the death of the country’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping. The meteor was said to be only the fifth known to strike China since the communist takeover in 1949. It would be interesting to know the dates of the other four, and whether any major political events occurred around the dates.
The last quarterly bulletin of the Center for Archaeoastronomy offers very brief summaries of material discussed in several conferences devoted to the interface of astronomy and archaeology. To protect their scientific standing, most scientists use the word astronomy though they know that prior to the last few hundred years of materialism, the word astrology is more accurate. Among the topics is a survey by a group led M. Hoskin that lists many stone monuments on Mediterranean islands which have correlations to the horizon arc of sunrise. Others have found similar horizon orientations for sites in mainland Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries dating as far back as 4500 B.C., and similar results have been reported from classical Greece. The editor of the bulletin also notes that a recent book by “English Heritage” has published the data from all twentieth-century excavations related to Stonehenge. The book establishes a new sequence of construction, and supplies greatly improved radio-carbon dates. For those on the “Net,” several World Wide Web sides are listed where additional information is available.
phanes@CRIS.COM (David Fideler) lists sources for material on Hypatia of Alexandria at: http://cosmopolis.com/people/hypatia.html
A cyberspace celebration of the summer solstice is reported at: http://www.superscape.com
Views of Stonehenge etc. are available from:
Library information from the Royal Astronomical Society is in a site under construction: http://www.ras.org.uk/ras
The Linda Hall Library has an exhibit of celestial atlases and constellations:
Aboriginal Native American Indian Astronomy is at:
Ptolemy’s star Catalogue is available in ASCII format via ftp at:
Switching from our ancestors to modern mind power, the March 1997 issue of Fate magazine has the first of a two-part description of on-going research in parapsychology by physicists at Princeton University. I may have mentioned this work before, since it has been continuing for years, led by Robert Jahn, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Jahn and others have shown that human intention can influence machines without any physical contact. The influences are slight but replicable, so after years of work, their statistical significance has become astronomical. Also, they continue to invent new ways for the mind-machine interaction to be demonstrated. Of course, the true believers in materialism simply ignore their results. When they cannot find fault with the math or the techniques, they assume fraud. Their motto is “I know the truth—don’t confuse me with facts.”
I recently acquired the latest book by Whitlely Strieber, a best-selling author of works on “alien” contacts. His book Breakthrough was published in 1995 by Harper Collins. Strieber’s descriptions of his own experience with the “aliens” makes it clear that they are either basically psychic in nature or have psychic powers to be able to go through walls, or through the ceiling. But he also believes that he physically touched at least one of his “visitors.” He still alternates between feeling that they intend to be helpful and becoming very fearful or angry at times. One of the most interesting sections of the book, for me, is his discussion of the government policy of secrecy, including some of the disinformation tactics used by the government to make the field of UFO research look absurd.
I also finally took the time to watch a couple of videos acquired last November at the Whole Life Expo in Los Angeles. They are called The Moon/Mars Connection, narrated by Richard Hoagland, whose interest is the field was initially stimulated by the so-called “face” on Mars. Obviously, I can’t do justice to three hours of video, but the gist of Hoagland’s theory is that objects visible in NASA photos of Mars are the remains of artificial constructions built by conscious beings, whatever the nature or source of the builders. He followed up the analysis of Mars’ photos with a detailed analysis of shots of the Moon which he believes show the remains of a grid that extends miles into the sky that was once a dome with some sort of “glass” panes covering a city. You have to see the videos to take the claims seriously. At the moment, and in light of the rest of the deception and secrecy practiced by our government, Hoagland could be right.
The March 1997 issue of Discover has several interesting articles, as usual. There is a cautionary one on melatonin which is being promoted as curing sleep problems and keeping us young. Research by Benita Middleton at the University of Surrey in England found that the effects on sleep varied depending on the individual’s current “biological clock setting.” When the melatonin was taken at the same time by several individuals, some slept better and some, who were on a different daily rhythm, had more disturbed sleep. The moral of the story is that we are individuals. Beware of panaceas.
As bacteria and viruses become resistant to our “wonder” drugs, there always seems to be a new one on the horizon. The latest comes from a newly discovered form of bacteria found in soil-dwelling microscopic worms called nematodes. John Webster has been studying the nematodes for 20 years and has found that these particular nematodes are hosts to a form of bacteria which kills other bacteria. Someday, they will turn into a new drug.
A review of a new book, The Literary Mind by Mark Turner, sounds as if the author has recognized one of the primary keys to how our minds work. Though he hopes to find their source in the physical brain, (which we think is a vain hope—the mind is more than the brain), he has recognized that our view of the world is more like fiction than fact. We continually put together mini-narratives to form meaningful patterns, connecting things and events in time and space. We formulate and explain the world in what are essentially parables, projecting familiar stories onto unknown situations. Turner calls the conceptual meeting points between a parable’s component stories “blended spaces.” So “knowledge” comes from the sparks of stories striking each other. It is inherently unstable and literary rather than final and factual.
My motto: I don’t have final truth, but am having fun looking for more.