Archive for June, 2008

Before and After Tunguska (Part One)

Fireball over Siberia

On the morning of June 30th, 1908 at 7.17 AM, over a remote and obscure region of Siberia known as Tunguska, fire rained down from the sky and a detonation with the force of a thousand Hiroshima bombs sent shock waves that reverberated round the globe. In the annuals of scientific mystery this is known as the Tunguska event. The great Tunguska explosion has wider implications that resonate well beyond the obscure geographical locale where it occurred and its dying echoes may well be a reminder of the cataclysmic events that shaped life on Earth, not only in the remote past but, in the relatively recent history of our planet during the infancy of human civilization. The Tunguska blast is also a klaxon sounding a dire warning of things to come for our generation and our descendents. We must heed this call.

Today marks the centennial of the great Tunguska explosion and its only fitting that we look at this event from a wider historical perspective and try to glean from it important lessons that may be of immense importance for the long term survival of humanity. The Tunguska Event of 1908 forces us to ask the question – Does humanity face the prospect of a celestial 9/11?

Our ancestors may have witnessed global catastrophes that, today are lost in the mist of time and only dimly remembered in the myths and legends they weaved to explain traumatic episodes beyond their comprehension. These myths and tales may contain proverbial lessons key to our survival as a species.

In the early 1980s the father and son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez unearthed evidence that sixty-five million years ago the reign of the dinosaurs ended with a colossal bang and ensuing fire storm. Later evidence came to light that violent mass extinctions seem to occur like clockwork throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. But, are impact events solely confined to the remote and ancient eras of terrestrial history before the advent of humanity and its immediate ancestors? The answer appears to be a resounding – No, as loud as the concussion over Tunguska a century ago.

Comets As Universal Portents of Doom

All ancient cultures seem to deem comets as omens of doom. This is a universal fact of anthropological history. The question is – why? Why this worldwide fear of comets? Does it stem from a universal and merely coincidental superstitious fear of seemingly ghostly celestial apparitions that seems to contradict the normal cycles of the heavens? Or do our forbearers have legitimate and first hand experiences that justify this fear? In recent years evidence has come to light that provides justification to the contentious claim that our ancestors had very good reasons to fear comets. Scientific evidence has now emerged that comets have brought with them universal and worldwide calamity at various times in recent Earth history.

A New Scientific Consensus

Now, in the first decade of the new millennium a scientific and archaeological consensus has emerged that impact events may also have had a major role in shaping the course of human civilization. Did some Bronze Age civilizations meet their demise in a rain of fire from the sky? And, was a comet catastrophe responsible for the flood that launched Noah’s ark? Was the prehistoric structure of Stonehenge in fact built as part of an early warning system of impending celestial bombardment and are the so called Long Barrows associated with it prehistoric ‘air-raid’ shelters? Was Stonehenge built to keep watch over a ranging and rampaging celestial bull known today as the astronomical constellation of Taurus.

The Rampaging Celestial Bull

Emanating from the constellation of Taurus in the month of June is the Taurid meteor shower and it is one we must study in detail. The point in the sky from which (to a planetary observer) meteors appear to originate is known as the Radiant. According to Duncan Steel the ancient Britons may have had good reason to keep the radiant associated with Taurid shower under constant watch. For emerging from the eye of the bull comes great calamity. The radiant of the beta Taurid meteor stream lies just behind the eye of the heavenly bull which corresponds with the star Aldebaran (the “Bull’s Eye”).

The Taurids come in two streams that peak in the months of June and November respectively. It is believed the parent comet shattered while passing the Sun 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. The larger “chunk” is now known as periodic Comet Encke. The remaining debris turned into a few very small asteroids, and many meteoroids. The larger meteors pass through the atmosphere creating astounding “fireballs” known as bolides. But, following comet Encke is a trail of debris that the Earth as crossed before with spectacular results.

In the chronicle of Gervase an eyewitness account was given of a massive impact on the eastern limb of the Moon that occurred on June 25th, 1178. Evidence is also coming to light that June, despite our fondness for this month because of weddings and the promise of summer holidays to come, holds potential dangers for humanity.

In 1976 American astronomer Jack Hartung postulated that this impact carved out the lunar crater known as Giordano Bruno—named, ironically, for the Italian heretic burned at the stake in 1600 for professing the existence of inhabited planets other than Earth. It was a narrow escape for Earth, since the bolide, whatever it was, could very easily have hit our planet, a significantly larger target than the Moon. Had it done so, it could have made a crater some seven miles in diameter, like the one it did make on the Moon. The “near Earth object” involved here is calculated to have been about a mile and a quarter in diameter, and exploded with the energy of an incredible 100,000 megatons of TNT. It is easy to see why some historians think civilization could have easily been wiped out in 1178 had the bolide hit the Earth instead of the Moon.
In 2001 Paul Withers of the University of Arizona debunked the Gervase account saying it was nothing more than an optical illusion brought on by a meteor streaming through the Earth’s atmosphere that just happened to be in the line of sight of the moon. Withers contends “that an impact large enough to create a 22-km crater would likely have showered Earth with 10 million tons of ejected fragments — perhaps a trillion bright meteors in all — during the days that followed. “A meteor storm as impressive as this and lasting for a week would have been considered apocalyptic by all medieval observers,” Withers comments. Yet no mention of such displays appears in English, European, Arabic, or Asian chronicles of the era”.

But, is he entirely right? The following evidence presented by Emilio Spedicato of the University of Bergamo in Italy is very intriguing:

1. Introduction

As related by Clube and Napier in their monograph The Cosmic Winter, see [1], in the year 1178 A.D. four wise men of Canterbury were sitting outside on a clear and calm 18th June night, a half Moon standing placidly in the starry sky. Suddenly they noticed a flame jutting out of a horn of the Moon. Then they saw the Moon tremble and its colour change slowly from light brilliant to a darker reddish tone. Such a colour remained for all the time the Moon was visible during that phase. This story is found in a manuscript version of Canterbury annals that was shown to Clube by a medieval English history specialist.

When the hidden face of the Moon was first photographed by a lunar mission, a large and clearly very recently produced crater was visible near the lunar north polar region. It was named the Giordano Bruno crater. Its recent origin is shown by the absence of secondary superimposed craters. The crater is considered to have been produced by a cometary or meteoritic impact with a body of 2-3 kilometres size, implying an energy in the range of hundred of million of megatons. The year of the impact might well be 1178 A.D., thereby explaining the observations recorded in the Canterbury annals, as first proposed apparently by Hartung [2].

Now it is known that cometary or meteoritic impacts do not happen on a purely stochastic way and that almost contemporary multiple impacts are a rather common event. This follows from the fact that the impacting bodies are often part of a stream of objects (comets, Apollo’s,…) produced by the disintegration of an initially larger body, by causes like internal instability or disrupting tidal forces by planets near which the object has passed. While the stream tends with time to expand and dissolve, its existence is nonetheless the reason for a likely multiplicity of impacts (notice for instance that the Wien University geologists Alexander and Edith Tollmann in [3] have given geological arguments for a seven-fold multiple cometary impact over Earth oceans at circa 6500 B.C.) and for an enhanced probability of impacts at the time the Earth is crossing the stream region.

By the above arguments, the following question naturally arises: was planet Earth, whose cross section is much larger than the Moon’s (by a factor about 15), also impacted around the year 1178? Preliminary to this question: was the Earth crossing a stream around 1178? Then, if the Earth was hit, where was the event or the events and which were the consequences?

In the following nine sections we give arguments for likely multiple impacts over the Pacific basin, with dramatic consequences for the people living in that area and some, albeit delayed, dramatic consequences also for the Mediterranean region.

2. Evidence of the crossing of a cometary stream in the year 1178 A.D.

There are at least two pieces of information that indicate that the Earth crossed a cometary stream during the late 11th and the 12th century, with a peak around the half of the 12th century.

The first information comes from European history. Frequent and scaring appearances of large comets were indeed a main factor that contributed to the special psychological climate that led to the Crusades, which were often seen, at least at the popular level, as a means for atonement of sins, the divine wrath expressing itself through the menacing comets. A great comet appeared during a meeting of bishops, where a decision had to be taken for starting the first Crusade, and was a final argument in favour of the Crusade.

The second piece comes from Chinese astronomers, who were routinely recording comets and fireballs. Such recordings have been the object of a study by Clube [4]. They show a very clear peak of sightings around the middle of the 12th century, the peak being over ten times higher than the average background. It is interesting to notice that a similar peak is also present at about half the 6th century, a time when, according to several Byzantine historians quoted by Gibbon [5], e. g. Malala, Procopius and Theophanes, many scaring comets appeared in the sky. That was also the time of the great Justinian plague, which decimated the population of the Mediterranean region, killing up to 90% of the population according to some estimates. This depopulation was certainly a major factor which facilitated the Arab expansion some three generations later.

3. Arguments from New Zealand Maori legends

From New Zealand two arguments come. First we have the Maori legends stating that, several centuries ago, fire came from the sky, burned most of the forests and killed the Moa birds (the Maori adamantly reject the western scholars opinion that overhunting was the reason for the Moa disappearance). Secondly there is the recent finding of a number of shallow and definitely very recent impact craters, named the Tapanui craters, in the South Island. Additionally, layers of soot, datable at the cratering time, have been detected in several places. The Tapanui craters and the presence of soot can be taken as a confirmation that “fire” came from the sky, burned the forests and killed the Moas, as the Maori legends state. The time of the event has been estimated at circa 800 years ago, therefore falling at our proposed date. For more information on the event see Steel and Snow [6] and Pajak [7,8].

4. Arguments from Polynesia

It is known, see Heyerdahl [9] and Fornander [10], that at the end of the 12th century there have been severe disruptions throughout the archipelagos in Polynesia, leading to discontinuities in the local dinasties and to generalized migrations, mainly in the direction from North America to the Hawaiis and to the other islands. Heyerdahl writes (see quoted monograph, pp. 169,170): A. Fornander, a notable early Polynesian genealogist, after a life-long study of Polynesian tribe history claimed that about 30 generations reckoned from the end of the last century bring us back to a period when the aristocracy in almost all groups took, so to say, a new departure. From then on, during a period of a few generations, all royal lines were interrupted and substituted by new ones. A migratory wave swept the island world of the Pacific, embracing in its vortex all the principal groups, and probably all the smaller. Its traces were deep and indelible. It modified the ancient customs, creed and polity. It even affected the speech of the people…. new tutelar gods succeeded the earlier deities, new place names replaced old ones… the construction of the pyramidal stone platforms also seemed to have ceased during this period… traditional narratives show that an early people were found in Hawaii, Cook Islands and New Zealand by the later Polynesians…the later immigrants conquered their predecessors, who were not exterminated but absorbed.} The date of the events can be set between the years 1100 and 1200, see also the work of another Polynesian genealogist, Percy Smith [11], an interval which brackets our proposed date 1178.

To this time it is also possible to relate the migration that, according again to Heyerdahl [12,13], brought a community of Melanesian people to Easter Island, which at that time was inhabited by a completely different type of people (high stature, reddish hair, europoid features) and a more advanced culture, one of whose main elements was the construction of the famous giants. For several centuries the Melanesian people lived as slaves and worked in the quarries to build the statues. Then, probably in the year 1670, they rebelled and killed most of their masters (apparently only one adult male was left alive).

5. Arguments from South America

In South America we first observe, at the time under discussion, the rather sudden demise of the great coastal civilizations (Mochicas, Chimus,…), that, inter alia, had build huge pyramids (the largest of the Tucume pyramid, near the northern Peru town of Lambayeque, had a square basis with a side of about 800 meters; while only about 70 meters high, its total volume was about 30% greater than that of the great Giza pyramid) and a complex system of canals for irrigation. The demise was sudden and without recovery. It was also associated to substantial ruin of the pyramids, by evident erosion by flood (the pyramids were not build in stone but with compacted soil), and of the irrigation system.

Secondly, we observe, immediately following the demise of the coastal civilization, the rise, in the high Andean range, of the new Incas civilization. The Incas, in the course of three centuries, till they collapsed under the Spaniard aggression, probably benefiting to a large extent of the construction techniques previously developed by the coastal people, founded a great empire extending from present Colombia to Chile, well connected by an efficient road system. The Incas royal family claimed a very ancient origin and also differentiated itself from the common people by the use of a special form of language (the royal Quechua). According to a recently found manuscript dated to the year 1611 and containing information attributed to Blas Valera, (see Laurencich Minelli et al. [14]), a Jesuit with a Spanish father and an Incas mother, the Incas royal family traced its origin to the 6th century (quite intriguingly, a time of great cometary activity and of the Justinian plague), when two groups of migrating people are claimed to have reached South America, one from the West (Tartaria) and one from the East, these last people being called Viracochas and being white dressed. A fighting followed their meeting and most of the Viracochas were killed. The royal Incas family descended from intermarriages between the people from the West and the surviving Viracochas.

The development at this time, after the collapse of the coastal civilization, of a civilization of essentially high mountains can be intriguingly explained if the coastal civilization was destroyed by a natural catastrophic event, like a great tsunami, which scared enormously the survivors and the neighbouring people. The coastal area was then abandoned and the civilization restarted on higher, presumably safer, land. Effects of weather changes, e.g. drier conditions along the coast, may also have contributed to this geographical displacement.

Thirdly, analysis of past El Niño behaviour indicates unusual conditions at the time under consideration. Information on past intensity of El Niño can be obtained by analysis of the oceanic sediments, particularly by the relative abundances of certain shellfish which develop only when the water temperature rises above a certain level (the El Niño current is cold, so a strong El Niño wipes out most of this shellfish). Recent analysis, see Heyerdahl [15], has shown that El Niño activity has dramatically peaked around the middle of the 12th century. An unusually strong El Niñno not only would result in a disruption of the normal local Pacific fauna, but would provoke very strong torrential rains over the usually dry Peruvian coastal region. This may have been the main cause of the observed strong erosion of the Tucume pyramids and a factor for disruption of the local irrigation system. We however suspect that the demise of the coastal civilization has to be related to a very dramatic and killing tsunamic wave.

6. Arguments from Central America

The fifth argument comes from Central America, relating to the origin of the Aztec civilization and to some extent explaining the Aztec obsession with human sacrifice.

When Cortes reached central Mexico, he met there the stronghold of the Aztects, who were living in a rather small region west of the great Popocatepl–Ixtacihuatl volcanic range, in a bowl shaped region of circa 2.000 square kilometres, completely surrounded by mountains, the local rivers sending their waters not to the ocean but to a marshy lake at the centre of the region, lake Texcoco (now almost completely dried up). In the middle of the lake, on a number of small islets, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan was build, counting at Cortes time possibly over one million people (in one of his letters to Charles 5th, the Spanish emperor, Cortes, see [16], claimed that over 400.000 persons in the city had died of the epidemics, smallpox, brought by the Spaniards; due to the ferocity of the fighting possibly more people died of wounds and several thousands survived the destruction).

It appears from geography that the Aztecs had chosen to live and in particular to build their capital in a region whose main feature, from the point of view of the presently discussed scenario, was to be well protected, thanks to its elevation and to the surrounding mountain ranges, by a possible rise of the ocean, or a possible tsunami wave.

Now it is known from several sources, particularly from one of the few surviving codices, namely the so called codex Ramirez, see [17], that the Aztecs were not native of central Mexico, but had reached that region only a few centuries before Cortes’s arrival. Their original place, named Aztlan, was located on the Pacific coast, probably near the present city of Mazatlan, some 300 km. north–west of Guadalajara. According to studies by Vaillant [18] and Brundage [19], their migration started around the middle of the 12th century, Brundage actually proposing the date 1168, which is amazingly close to the date we are considering (and since this date is an estimate, one cannot exclude that the correct year was indeed 1178).

Why did the Aztecs move from a coastal region to a high land? We conjecture that, similarly to what happened to the coastal region of Peru, also the Pacific coastal region of Mexico was affected by a huge tsunami. The surviving people were immensely scared and took refuge up to the Mexican plateau in the marshes of Lake Texcoco. Probably they interpreted the catastrophe in religious terms as a punishment by their gods for not being sufficiently pious. Thus they adopted a policy of strong piety, meaning in their religion a policy of human sacrifices, which scandalized the Spaniards, but whose roots can probably be traced in the reenactment of past catastrophical events in the solar system…

7. Arguments from Japan

Around 1178 there is an important political discontinuity in the Japanese history, given by the passage of the political power, after a period of intense fighting, from the southern Taira dynasty (with capital Miako, now Kyoto), to the northern Minamoto dynasty (with capital Kamakura, near Edo, now Tokyo). Termination of the fighting is around the year 1182. This political event may certainly be a chance occurrence in our context, save for a possible hint to unusual meteorological conditions. A major event of the war was the unexpected destruction of the southern fleet by a very violent typhoon. This too could be a chance event, but the similar fate meeting not many years later the Chinese–Mongolian fleet sent by Khubilai Khan to attempt the conquest of Japan, as related by Marco Polo, may be taken as suggestive of unusually irregular and strong typhoons in the north-west quadrant of the Pacific basin, thereby parallelizing the unusual behaviour of El Niño at that time around the coasts of Peru.

8. Arguments from northern China

The 12th century is a critical time in northern China. From a political point of view the corrupt and decaying regime of the late Song dynasty leads to social unrest and widely spread rebellions, so graphically described in the great Chinese classic novel The Water Margins (probably written later, but there is no consensus on either the author or the time of writing). Northern China was occupied by Juchen tribes from Manchuria in the second half of that century. Additionally natural disasters at unprecedented level affected the region, among which main was the flood of the Huang He (the Yellow River). So catastrophic was this flood that the previous northern Song capital, the great city of Kaifeng, was almost completely destroyed and, moreover, the river changed its exit into the sea, moving it in 1194 from a location north of the Shandong peninsula to one south of it, hundreds of kilometers away (the river has returned to its previous exit in 1852 after another severe flood). Whether the natural disasters at this time are a chance event or are correlated with the other observed events, in particular with a possible modification of the typhoon regime and the strong increase of El Niño, is a question that deserves further study.

9. Arguments from Mongolia

In the annals of Khubilai Khan, the Yuan dinasty emperor of the second generation after Gengis Khan, well known as the host of Marco Polo, it is written that “my great ancestor Gengis Khan saw a sign of change in the sky … and arose in the North”, as in the annals translation made by the Eastern Cultures curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and available in the library of that museum (the above sentence is actually readable in a poster in the room devoted to China). Now Gengish Khan, firstly named Temujin, is believed to have been born in 1165, hence in 1178 he would have been 13 years old. He might have observed one of the great fireballs or falling comets or asteroids, which were recorded with unusually high frequency at that time by Chinese astronomers.

The conquest of the greater part of Asia and even of part of Europe by the Mongolian horsemen in the space of one generation is one of the great events of history. The extraordinary personality of Gengis Khan, a man with enormous intelligence, will, long range planning and additionally shamanistic powers, was certainly a main factor behind the Mongolian expansion. In the Secret History of the Mongols, see [20], the Mongolian drive tends to be explained in terms of avenging wrongs, including the destruction of the family of Gengis Khan (he survived by hiding himself in the waters of a river) and the wrongs that his tribe suffered by the nearby ( Christian Nestorian) Tayichud and Kereit tribes. The attack of the Mongolians against Persia, then a huge empire, under Selgiuchid sultans control, stretching from Anatolia to Central Asia and including Afghanistan and part of India, which led to some of the worst massacres in history and to such a devastation of Central Asia that these countries have not yet recovered, is similarly explained in terms of a vengeance against the sultan Jalal–ad–Din, who had ordered the murder of peaceful Mongolian merchants, see Ata Malik Al Juvaini [21]. However behind these personal and very classical motivations there are probably other more objective reasons that made it almost necessary for the Mongolians to leave their original land (a high plateau with continental climate and very cold winters, particularly in the region where Gengis Khan was born, north-west Mongolia, partly now belonging to Siberia) for other lands with a better climate. Here we suggest that the main reason was indeed an unexpected and dramatic change of climate in Mongolia, with winters much colder and more snowy than usual, the snow cover probably not melting during the summer, thereby making the normal pastoral life almost impossible. An indication that such was the case, and that the deteriorated weather conditions lasted for about two generations, can be found in the quoted work of Ata Malik al Juvaini. This Persian author, born in a Khorasan family, became governor of Persia after the conquest by the Mongolians. He wrote a rather monumental history of the Mongolian conquest, around 1260, after the Alamut fortress, the stronghold of the Ishmaelites (the Assassins), was taken (the Alamut castle had one of the greatest libraries of medieval times; most books were burnt, but Al Juvaini personally selected a number to be saved. Which ones…..? Maybe here is the origin of maps like the Piri Reis map, and of exoteric books upon which Blavatsky claimed to base her ideas). In his history Al Juvaini states that at about the time of the fall of Alamut it had again become possible to grow apple trees in Mongolia, a fact, he explicitly notes, which had not been possible for two generations. This is a definitive indication of a very severe weather deterioration in the Mongolian plateau starting from about our date 1178. Apple trees are indeed resistant to very cold temperatures, at least in many varieties cultivated for ages throughout Europe and Asia. In 1979 a cold wave swept throughout Russia, temperatures dropping to –50 centigrade in Moscow (water pipes inside the building of the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences froze and exploded; thus no water was available for sanitation…. fortunately my arrival there was at the beginning of May, when temperature in one week passed from freezing to over 40 centigrade…). In Kirov, some 600 km. north–east of Moscow, temperature dropped to –55 centigrade. Apple trees survived in the Moscow region, but were killed in the Kirov region.

If a severe weather problem was behind the Mongolian expansion, a similar reason may have been behind other great migrations and wars involving the pastoral people, e.g. the Huns and the Scythians. In particular there are arguments that this may have been the case concerning the great Scythian invasion of Middle East and Egypt, referred to by Diodorus. In a future paper we will argument that the Hyksos who invaded Egypt at the time of Dudimose (Tutimaios in Manetho), just after the Hebrew escaped under Moses leadership, as Velikovsky argued, see [22], and Rohl [23] has confirmed, were Scythians, as wild and destructive as the Mongolians at the time of Gengis Khan, and that their name means exactly it the clan of the horsemen.

10. Arguments from Europe

Apparently there are no particular discontinuities in Europe in the second half of the 12th century, a period of rather intensive economic growth, a fact therefore indicating that, if a catastrophe hit the Pacific basin, it did not affect the opposite hemisphere. However at the beginning of the 14th century Europe is affected by the great Black Death epidemics, usually attributed to the bacterium of plague ( bacillus pestis ), which, albeit certainly not as destructive as the Justinian plague, still killed an estimated 30% of the total population (this percentage varying from place to place, Bohemia quite intriguingly escaping almost completely). The plague seems to have started in Mediterranean ports, involved in trade with the East, and along the caravan roads leading to central Asia. While Hoyle and Wickramasinghe [24] have suggested that the agents of the plague were bacterial material arrived from the sky and brought by comets (and that was a time of intense cometary activity….) the general consensus is that the plague came from Mongolia, where bacillus pestis is a common host in a variety of rats (and, be careful if you want to caress them, in Californian squirrels too…). In our proposed scenario of a severe weather disruption in the Mongolian region, it may be surmised that the bacteria became more virulent and/or had easier access to a population immunologically weakened by famine and other difficulties. Or, and here we take the Hoyle et al. suggestion, the bodies impacting in the Pacific region, including the northern China and Mongolian region, may have brought a fresh resuppy of bacterial material, possibly characterized by mutations. Such bacteria may have again found their usual host, the rats, and attacked more easily a population weakened by climate changes, famine and war and not yet immunized against the new mutation.

11. Final conclusions

In the previous sections we have given a number of intriguing arguments supporting the hypothesis that around the year 1178 the Pacific basin was subject to catastrophic events, of a probable extraterrestrial origin:

a — political discontinuities (in Peru, Mexico, north-east Asia, Polynesia, Easter Island)

b — abundance of unusually strong “signs in the sky “, in the Maori legends, the Chinese astronomers records, the Mongolian annals

c — unusual weather conditions, very strong El Niño, probable irregular behaviour of the typhoons near Japan, catastrophic flooding in Northern China and unusually severe cold in Mongolia.

The above evidence has not been collected via a systematic study of the people of the Pacific region at that time, but has come via rather casual readings; hence a systematic survey of the possible sources is almost certainly bound to provide further confirmation. For instance, the rather sudden and puzzling disappearance of many of the pueblo people in the southwest of northern America, which can be traced back to that time, might be associated with the global catastrophe that apparently affected the Pacific region.

12. Acknowledgments

The author is deeply indebted, for stimulating discussions and the provided information, to Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, whom he was allowed to visit in his beautiful mansion in Guimar, Tenerife, to professor Victor Clube, whom he visited in Oxford, and to professor Dixon, whose wide range and deep critical knowledge in so many areas has been a driving factor behind his work in this area.

This work has been partially supported by the University of Bergamo funds.

If the above is true, some eight hundred and thirty years ago the pacific basin found itself in the midst of an aerial fire storm raining from the heavens, from which the Europeans were spared.

The Taurid meteor stream is the progenitor of both the Tunguska fireball and the object that created the blast recorded by Gervase, and lurking in its wake may be more potential disasters to come.

Author’s Note: In the coming weeks I will present more evidence from the fields of archaeology and the physical sciences that our ancestors bore witness to the wrath of the heavens. In the following weeks I will also discuss the need for a new mandate for NASA to deal with potential threats that may lay ahead for humanity.

In the meantime enjoy the entire fourth episode of Carl Sagan’s landmark television series Cosmos: “Heaven and Hell”. Of the all the thirteen episodes this has to rank as one of my most favourites. It was from this episode that I learned about the eyewitness account of a lunar impact seen by Canterbury monks on June 18, 1178 that some researchers believe resulted in the formation of crater Giordano Bruno. This event was recorded in the chronicle of Gervase. Another topic covered in this episode was Tunguska explosion of June 30, 1908. Some researches such as Bill Napier and Victor Clube have linked these two events together as being a by product of the Beta Taurid meteor shower; both events coincided with a peak in that shower.

Some researchers have linked the Beta Taurid meteor shower to the collapse of late Bronze Age civilizations and some feel that lurking in its wake are more potential disasters to come. Imagine a Tunguska sized fireball exploding over New York City. The video segment below outlines just such a scenario very vividly.

Fighting Joel

What. A. Suckup. Have a read of this Age article on our Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. How many beers did Fitzgibbon have to buy Paul Daley for such a puff piece? But its good to know we have such a highly qualified Minister:

Fast forward and enter Joel Fitzgibbon, a no-bullshit former auto-electrician from Cessnock in country NSW. He has a turn of phrase that could make Belinda Neal blush — the product, perhaps, of knocking about with tradies, cock-fighting through the NSW Labor Right and playing first-grade rugby for the Cessnock Goannas.

Fitzgibbon spent the first few months of his tenure bagging Brendan Nelson and the Liberals for ordering the Super Hornets. Then completely changed his tune when the RAAF explained to him what the aircraft could actually do. Surely Kevin Rudd can find someone better.

Target Earth

In commemoration of the Centennial of the Great Tunguska Explosion of June 30th, 1908 I am posting Greg Easterbrook’s interview with Atlantic monthly concerning the threat posed by Earth crossing asteroids and comets. Mr. Easterbrook’s recent article ‘The Sky is Falling’ makes for some interesting and eye opening reading. In it he asks the question ‘The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10. So why isn’t NASA trying harder to prevent catastrophe’? Why indeed?

All this month I will be posting a series of articles entitled ‘Before and After Tunguska’ that explores the evidence from the fields of archaeology and the physical sciences that that our ancestors bore witness to the wrath of the heavens. In the following weeks I will also discuss the need for a new mandate for NASA to deal with potential threats that may lay ahead for humanity.

Brendan does good

The 7% swing against the government is good news for Brendan Nelson and the coalition. It should keep Nelson leader for a while longer. It appears the proposed fuel excise cut was a big winner for the opposition and there was considerable hostility to the alcopop tax and emission trading. However this was a safe National seat so a win is unsurprising. However Alexander Downer may resign soon bring an by-election in Mayo, a much more interesting seat. Nelson better win that if he wants to keep his job.

Update: Could the wheels be coming off the Rudd wagon already? According to this report the government’s school computers policy is falling apart.

Why I shop at Best and Less

Below are two examples of male fashion that have been presented at the Paris Fashion Show. I’ll stick to jeans and t-shirts.

Mark Steyn wins one

Heres some good news, MacLean’s magazine and Mark Steyn have had the complaint against them dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. However it ain’t over yet as the B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal has yet to make a decision:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint against Maclean’s magazine over a controversial article on the future of Islam, magazine officials said yesterday.

Meanwhile, a decision from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over the same issue isn’t expected for several months.

The Canadian Islamic Congress launched the dual complaints over an article by Maclean’s journalist Mark Steyn.

The article, The Future Belongs to Islam, came under fire by Muslim critics who claimed it spreads Islamophobia.

Earlier this month, closing arguments were made before B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal over the article, which appeared in Maclean’s in October, 2006.

I hope never have similar situation here.

Arctic ice cap to melt

Looks like Santa Clause could be flooded out. According to this report the Arctic ice cap could disappear this year.

THE Arctic ice cap, damaged by a record melt last year, is at good odds to disappear altogether this northern summer, polar scientists have warned.

The ice edge shrank to within about 1100km of the North Pole last year.

The scientists say the chances of an ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50-50 because of last year’s melt and the fact that thick ice has been blown way in recent years……

The good thing about the prediction is we should know the result in a few months. Will the Arctic soon be available for water sports? Or is it a case of alarmist scaremongering? We should know soon enough.