Cosmic Tusk Update

22 Feb 2010

Further posts on the AGU Meeting. WC Mahaney et al, in Geomorphology 116: Issues 1-2, page 48-57, due out on March 15th 2010, says that a new group of scientists have emerged and are about to publish their findings which appear to support the YD boundary impact event hypothesis. Evidence this time comes from the Andes in NW Venezuela. A carbon rich black layer encrusted on a sandy and pebbly bed of outwash that was previously thought to be the result of an alpine grass fire but is now being promoted as a 'black mat' correlative with Clovis era sites in North America - and would seem to indicate a possibly much more extensive episode than thought. However, there were no fossils found - or human tools, and the evidence is solely of an impact related bed as the  layer contains carbon, glassy spherules, magnetic micro spherules. carbon 'welded' onto coarse granular material, platinum group metals, planor deformation features in silt sized grains of quartz, orthoclase and monazite (with an abundance of rare earth elements) etc. The search is now on for new sites in South America - and Europe.

University of Wyoming, a press release in December 2009 on the Murray Springs site in Arizona (Clovis period) with a black mat layer. The major magnetic fraction at Murray Springs is maghemite. Magnetic spherules are, it goes on, of terrestrial origin  but also occur as cosmic dust particles. No iridium or radiation anomalies were found and no evidence of massive biomass burning. However, when analysing the sediment profile above and below the layer for radiation it was found that at 3 of 4 sites looked at there was a distinct and inexplicable peak in radiation. Haynes et al said this was probably due to variations in detrital radioactive minerals such as allanite and monazite.

Still at Johan Kloosterman, a speaker at a 2004 SIS Autumn Meeting, has a post at George Howard's web site. He was an attendee at the AGU Acapulco meeting in 2007 and has been looking for sites in Britain that might show the 'black mat layer' of the YD boundary event. In 2004 he claimed there was such a site at a quarry in Pitstone (on the Herts/ Bucks border) and following the 2007 conference he sought to revisit the site - but unfortunately the geologist concerned had in the meantime died (but had published a couple of papers that several members of SIS have procured) (copies). The geological face is now badly weathered and no sign of any kind of black layer exists. It is still not certain that the right face is being looked at as quarrying may have demolished the original workings - that date back to the early 1980s. It seems that 30 years of wind and rain have washed away the evidence so Han was unable to add Pitstone to the list of YD boundary event sites (but there is more hopeful geology in Kent). The problem is that a renewal of the Pitstone face requires permission from the quarry owners (who are currently American) and an interested UK geologist.

Getting back to the Comsic Tusk paper by Han - a polemic against the uniformitarian geological model and it's history, from Leibniz who launched the idea around 1700 to the Intellectual Left, as he describes them, who adopted what was basically a bourgeoise doctrine, culminating in a 100 years of Academic Geology between 1860 and 1960 (and later) that was unable to distinguish between premise (a consensus theory) and empirical data (actual physical research). The parallel with AGW is amazing. 

Leibniz eliminated catastrophe - and Hutton and Lyell adopted the same theme. Han also claims that Hutton's adage concerning the immensity of time as quoted continuously in geology textbooks and at lectures and on courses was very similar to Isaac de La Payrere, a Calvinist nobleman who possibly developed his idea from Jewish tradition in the 17th century. The opposition of both Catholics and Protestants to the vast geological timescale is based upon literal interpretation of the Bible whereas in Jewish tradition, he continues, there was a broader point of view that could live quite happily with such a timescale - as could the Hindus, Maya, Maori etc. Han then moves on to Cuvier and his contemporaries and the idea that history was seen as a series of disasters followed by a paucity of survivors, an abundance of a few species. This happened at the P/ T and K/ T boundaries and in the post-Pleistocene era led to an explosion in human numbers.

Han then moves on to the 2005 Firestone and West breakthrough at the YD boundary which has potentially bigger consequences that the asteroid impact theory of Alvarez at the K/ T boundary. It brings together North American catastrophism (repeated blows during earth history) with that of the British school of Clube and Napier (repeated blows during human prehistory and history). These researchers are aligned to the Halley-Whiston tradition that also began, like Uniformitarianism, around 1700 (following the upheaval of the English and Scottish civil wars and rebellion in Ireland). What was lacking in the Clube and Napier hypothesis, basically an extrapolation of space-age data, is now provided by the Firestone and West hypothesis, geological field and laboratory data. Both Victor Clube and Bill Napier have been SIS speakers, most notable at the 1993 and 1997 SIS Cambridge Conferences - as well as their colleague, Mark Bailey of Armagh Observatory (on two other occasions). Han then said Academic Geology (and it's Uniformitarian proponents in Biology, Archaeology, History and Mythology), ensconced in a powerful position of authority with command of the educational establishments, had the ability to label sceptics as the lunatic fringe - thereby drowning attempts to make alternative views widely known. Han included among such loonies, the Atlantologists, Pole Shifters, Velikovskians etc (the normal culprits branded as junk science). It's amazing the parallels with AGW - the rapid rise to consensus with the opposition silenced by bad mouthing and hysterical notions of looney science. Uniformitarianism, it seems, is in the position of dominance that AGW adherents would like to be - and strived to be. Unassailable - but for how much longer? Han is hoping the Firestone/West breakthrough will gouge a hole in the Uniformitarian shell. The two world views are incompatible he thinks and transcend any one discipline in science. It has been raging for a long time as Plato was a catastrophist but Aristotle was quite the opposite. Leibniz, he decides, was an Aristotelian, and it is the dominating mind-set of today - even when evidence is found contrary to the hypothesis. He gives as an example the discovery in the 1970s of the Chryse Flood on Mars, an oceanless planet. The geology professors made no connection with the earth and categorically claimed such a thing could not happen on our planet. Hence, there was evidence of a catastrophe on Mars (that involved a pole shift) but on earth we are safe in our Uniformitarian cocoon. He might also have used other well known populist examples of instant geology. The Mount St Helens volcanic blast a few years ago that instantly formed geological strata many feet deep or the archaeological discovery of Herculaneum - buried in hot mud  that solidified into a hard sedimentary layer many feet thick.