The Cosmic Serpent by Victor
Clube and Bill Napier ISBN 0-87663-379-3 299 pages.
1982 Review from
Clube and Napier suggested that the outer planets occasionally divert giant comets (more than 50 kilometers in diameter) into the inner solar system into short-period orbits. Debris from the resultant disintegration of these giant comets can adversely affect the environment of the Earth. Dusting can block sunlight, resulting in globally cooler conditions. Impact events in the super-Tunguska class may result in not only heavy localized destruction but also the occasional "impact winter" or dust veil with global climatological effects.
Clube and Napier identified the progenitor of the Taurid complex as such a giant comet whose injection into a short-period (about 3.3 year) orbit occurred sometime in the last twenty to thirty thousand years. The Taurid complex currently includes the Taurid meteor atream, Comet Encke (the only known currently active comet in the Taurid complex), "asteroids" such as 2101 Adonis and 2201 Oljato, and copious amounts of dust. All ten of the numbered asteroids in the Taurid complex appear to have associated meteor showers and therefore are likely to be extinct comets masquerading as asteroids.
The effects of the disintegration of the Taurid progenitor object in an Earth-crossing orbit should appear in the geological and climatological record. Clube and Napier marshalled evidence for such effects in "The Cosmic Serpent" as well as their later book Cosmic Winter published in 1990. Clube and Napier, following in the footsteps of earlier catastrophists, also sought evidence of catastrophic events in ancient mythology and history. These authors have also written papers in standard peer-reviewed journals about the role giant comets play in constructing a tenable physical theory of coherent catastrophism.
A common criticism levelled against Clube et al's giant comet hypothesis is that it uses a "Velikovskian" approach to mythological and historical evidence as a primary basis. It does not. Even should every single one of the mythological interpretations offered by Clube and Napier in The Cosmic Serpent or Cosmic Winter prove to be incorrect, this says nothing whatever about the correctness of the giant comet hypothesis and coherent catastrophism. The correctness of these depends solely on physical evidence. Mythological evidence might at best be supporting evidence. The same cannot be said of many other versions of non-orthodox catastrophism, e.g., Velikovsky's, which seek to rewrite physics and astronomy based upon ancient myths.
- Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets: The Search for
the Million Megaton Menace That Threatens Life on Earth
by Duncan Steel and Arthur C. Clarke ISBN 0-471-30824-2
308 pages, 1995, John Wiley & Sons.From
Steel estimates that a massive asteroid capable of wiping out a fourth of humanity can be expected to collide with Earth roughly once every 100,000 years. In the immediate offing, he maintains, we can expect smaller cataclysmic impacts similar to the Tunguska explosion of 1908, which devastated a vast expanse of Siberian forest (he believes that an asteroid blew up in the atmosphere above the Tunguska River). Written in clear prose for the layperson, this gripping report advocates the creation of an international search program to detect, intercept and divert Earth-menacing asteroids and comets. Steel, an English astronomer based in Australia, served on two NASA committees investigating potential impact hazards. He endorses the theory that asteroid collisions caused not only the dinosaurs' extinction but also many other mass extinctions during the past few hundred million years. Steel's hypothesis that the Taurid meteoroid stream poses the major risk to Earth is bound to be controversial, as is his speculation that the Taurid Complex of meteor showers produced huge storms and Tunguska-type explosions on Earth around 4500 years ago?and that Stonehenge was built to observe and predict these cataclysms. Newbridge Astronomy Book Club alternate. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Here is a recipe for a fascinating literary dish: Take the history of comet impacts on Earth. Add the latest scientific findings from astronomers and geologists. Stir in related theories about the origin of Stonehenge and the extinction of dinosaurs. Mix well with statistics on the chances of future terrestrial collision and the evidence from the recent comet explosion on Jupiter. Spice liberally with science fiction-like images of catastrophic scenarios. Bring to a simmer with government plans for detection and interception of an approaching "death star." Serve immediately to horrified millions. The result is guaranteed to satisfy the appetite of interested lay readers for all the facts, scientific beliefs, and uncertainties about the danger of comets and asteroids crashing into Earth. The head chef is author Steel, an Australian astronomer and world authority on comet hazards. The appetizer is a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke.
by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, ISBN
0-394-54908-2 398 pages, 1985, Random House.
The Times of London
WHAT ARE THESE GRACEFUL VISITORS TO OUR SKIES? WE NOW KNOW THAT THEY BRING BOTH LIFE AND DEATH AND TEACH US ABOUT OUR ORIGINS?. Comet begins with a breathtaking journey through space astride a comet. Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer Carl Sagan, author of Cosmos and Contact, and writer Ann Druyan explore the origin, nature, and future of comets, and the exotic myths and portents attached to them. The authors show how comets have spurred some of the great discoveries in the history of science and raise intriguing questions about these brilliant visitors from the interstellar dark. Were the fates of the dinosaurs and the origins of humans tied to the wanderings of a comet? Are comets the building blocks from which worlds are formed? Lavishly illustrated with photographs and specially commissioned full-color paintings, Comet is an enthralling adventure, indispensable for anyone who has ever gazed up at the heavens and wondered why.
Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan and Ann
Druyan, ISBN 0345384725, 528 pages, 1993, Ballantine
From Publishers Weekly
In a leisurely, lyrical meditation on the roughly four-million-year span since life dawned on Earth, Sagan and Druyan argue that territoriality, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, occasional outbreeding and a preference for small, semi-isolated groups are elements in a survival strategy common to many species, including Homo sapiens. Yet society's problems, they assert, increasingly demand global solutions and require a dramatic, strategic shift which the authors optimistically believe humankind is capable of achieving. This engaging, humane odyssey offers a stunning refutation of the behavioristic worldview with its mechanistic notion that animals (except for humans) lack conscious awareness. Writing with awe and a command of their material, the husband-wife team cover well-trod terrain while they discuss the evolution of Earth's atmosphere and life forms, the genetic code, the advantages of sexual reproduction. The last third of the book, dealing with chimpanzees, baboons and apes, is the most interesting. Sagan and Druyan find chimps' social life "hauntingly familiar" with its hierarchy, combat, suppression of females and chimps' remarkable ability to communicate through symbols. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Astronomer Sagan is probably the biggest name in popular science writing, a fact that should assure that his latest book--written with his wife, Druyan--will find a wide audience. Sagan's goal is to explain how luck and natural selection combined to produce human beings after three and a half billion years of life on earth. Human behavior, he stresses, results more from similarities with our animal ancestors than from any unique qualities we may possess. Sagan flounders a bit early on in his effort to explain molecular evolution, but he picks up speed later when the focus shifts to primate behavior. Despite a preference for the overly dramatic phrase at the expense of scientific clarity, the argument is coherent throughout. While this is hardly one of the best books on human evolution, it will likely be very popular, especially in public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/92. - Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio, Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Stonehenge Decoded by
Gerald S. Hawkins, John B. White. ISBN 0-8802-9147-8 210
pages, 1988, Hippocrene Books.
A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC, Steven Mithen
0-674-01570-3, 664 pages, 2004, Harvard University
Using an unorthodox narrative device, Mithen explores why, how, and where farming displaced hunting and gathering. Mithen conjures John Lubbock, an English author of a once-popular 1865 history of the Stone Age, and sends him back in time to visit dozens of excavation sites around the world as they appeared when inhabited. Lubbock's transcontinental perambulations permit Mithen (a practicing archaeologist who describes his digs in Scotland) to underscore one causal factor in the agricultural revolution: the fluctuations of climate at the end of the last Ice Age. Weather, sea level, and zones of plant and animal life changed dramatically in the 15,000 years of Lubbock's walkabout, and Mithen explains how environmental volatility is scientifically known as he sketches Lubbock observing the various "living" human communities that have been uncovered. A successful marriage of fact and imagination, Mithen's tome establishes a solid knowledge base with full academic references that will be of primary interest to those considering a career in archaeology. Gilbert Taylor, Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
20,000 b.c., the peak of the last ice age ... the atmosphere is heavy with dust, deserts, and glaciers span vast regions, and people, if they survive at all, exist in small, mobile groups, facing the threat of extinction. But these people live on the brink of seismic change ... 10,000 years of climate shifts culminating in abrupt global warming that will usher in a fundamentally changed human world. After the Ice is the story of this momentous period ... one in which a seemingly minor alteration in temperature could presage anything from the spread of lush woodland to the coming of apocalyptic floods ... and one in which we find the origins of civilization itself. Drawing on the latest research in archaeology, human genetics, and environmental science, After the Ice takes the reader on a sweeping tour of 15,000 years of human history. Steven Mithen brings this world to life through the eyes of an imaginary modern traveler ... John Lubbock, namesake of the great Victorian polymath and author of Prehistoric Times. With Lubbock, readers visit and observe communities and landscapes, experiencing prehistoric life ... from aboriginal hunting parties in Tasmania, to the corralling of wild sheep in the central Sahara, to the efforts of the Guil ... Naquitz people in Oaxaca to combat drought with agricultural innovations. Part history, part science, part time travel, After the Ice offers an evocative and uniquely compelling portrayal of diverse cultures, lives, and landscapes that laid the foundations of the modern world.
Parallel Myths by J.F.
Bierlein, ISBN 0345381467, 354 pages , 1994 ,
From Publishers Weekly
A religious scholar and lifelong student of mythology, Bierlein (The Book of Ages) has done an outstanding job both in tracing the parallel themes of world mythology and then gathering a wealth of information vital to understanding thir importance. He recaps not only the well-recognized Greek and Roman gods but also the lesser-known Norse, Indian, Chinese, Native American and Oceanic gods, detailing fascinating similarities among pantheons. Bierlein weaves spell-binding tales through his examination of creation myths, flood myths, tales of love, morality myths and myths of heroes and the underworld. He devotes an entire chapter to four stories, two of which tell almost identical tales of two brothers-one myth is from the Native American Blackfoot nation, the other from ancient Egyptians. After providing examples, Bierlein ends with a look at how to interpret parallel myths and modern questions of faith and the legitimacy of the supernatural. This enlightening work will beckon not only the newcomer to mythology, but also the reader well versed in Joseph Campbell. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In many ways a worthy successor to Joseph Campbell, Bierlein (The Book of Ages, Ballantine, 1992) introduces and compares myths from many cultures and suggests how we may interpret them to make sense in our world today. Various creation accounts, flood myths, mythological love stories, morality myths, legends of the underworld, and visions of the apocalypse are all sensitively retold in this landmark introduction to mythology. A religious scholar at American University, Bierlein convincingly demythologizes the myths themselves by reminding the reader of their true meaning, both sacred and secular, throughout history. Recommended especially for undergraduates and for informed lay readers in public libraries. Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Ut. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Comets and the
Origin and Evolution of Life by Paul J.
Thomas, Christopher P. McKay and Christopher F. Chyba
ISBN 0-387-94650-0 296 pages, 1996,Springer.
Considers the role comets played in the origins and evolution of life, particularly in light of recent investigations of Halley's Comet, of new insights into organic synthesis in meteorites and comets, and of new results of numerical simulations of cometary orbits and impacts on Earth.
Rain of Iron
and Ice: The Very Real
Threat of Comet and Asteroid Bombardment by John
S. Lewis ISBN 0-201-15494-3 264 pages, 1997, Perseus
From Publishers Weekly
This volume informally yet comprehensively surveys meteorites (which reach the surface of the earth) and meteors (which don't)-their origins, types, consequences and prospects for influencing future events. Author Lewis, codirector for science at a NASA/University of Arizona research center, is passionate and upbeat on the topic. Addressing the general reader, he recounts apt anecdotes in historical context while outlining a commonsensical framework for understanding the scientific scope and nature of the matter that comes to earth from space. Early chapters describe legendary meteorite falls. Subsequent chapters consider, for example, new knowledge from studies of nuclear explosions, cratering on Mars and Mercury, atmospheric effects on Venus and biological signatures of impacts in earth fossil records. Very interesting are results of computer simulations based on the accumulated discoveries, which project what we can expect from future encounters. Overall, Lewis presents an impressively readable and informative digest of current knowledge on the subject. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
News flash: After 200 years of touting the uniformity principle, scientists have discovered catastrophism. Of course, there has always been evidence of destruction coming from the heavens: The Book of Revelations, Charles Fort, medieval astrologers, Christian Millenialists, and Immanuel Velikovsky have all insisted upon it. But now, after centuries of debunking such theories, science proclaims its official dictum: cataclysm is possible, indeed probable. Rain of Iron and Ice traces the history of religious and scientific beliefs about meteorite falls, cometary eruptions, and asteroid near-misses and reviews eschatology (the literature of such catastrophes). Lewis, a noted planetary scientist and impact crater expert and author of Space Resources (LJ, 9/15/87), follows the fascinating study of bombardment on the Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. He outlines the results of computer simulations and the implications for the future of life on Earth, offering suggestions as to "what we can do about it." Lewis does a fairly thorough job of reviling experts for scoffing at superstition and ignoring the vast quantities of eyewitness reports, but he stays within the bounds of establishment science (there are no footnotes to Velikovsky). Following Duncan Steel's more lay oriented Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets (LJ 5/1/95), this scholarly history is suitable for academic libraries and informed science readers in public libraries.?Valerie Vaughan, Hatfield P.L., Mass. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Planet by Bruce Brown and Lane Morgan, ISBN
0-8317-5999-2, 257 pages, 1990, Smithmark Publishers.
From Library Journal
Based on a PBS television series of the same name, this book is a compendium of facts and theories about all facets of earth science. The authors have assembled a tremendous amount of information on geology, paleontology, meteorology, geography, and more for the general reader. They lead off with theories about the formation of the earth and the first appearance of life on the planet; in subsequent chapters, they examine human interaction with the environment and its subsequent destruction. Written in a breezy, readable style and filled with photographs, this book will entertain as well as inform. This is not a work in which to seek in-depth discussion of any particular aspect of the earth sciences, but it is a good place to start. - Randy Dykhuis, OCLC, Dublin, Ohio, Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Echoes of the
Ancient Skies: The Astronomy
of Lost Civilizations by E.C. Krupp, ISBN
0-06-015101-3 386 pages , 1983, Harper Collins
All over the world, through countless centuries, people have looked skyward for inspiration and guidance in their lives and activities. For most of the history of humankind, going back to the Stone Age, the sky has served as a tool. The regularity of the motions of celestial objects enabled our ancestors to orient themselves in time and space, satisfying their need for human order. How vast this heavenly influence was, and how awesome the human achievements it engendered were, are illuminated in this extraordinary work of investigation and discovery. With hundreds of illustrations and photographs, Echoes of the Ancient Skies is a sweeping look at the world of archaeoastronomy from the prehistoric megaliths of Stonehenge, to the medicine wheels of North America, to the Aztec "Calendar Stone."
The intriguing field of archaeoastronomy--the study of ancient peoples' observation of the skies and its role in their cultural evolution--seeks to explore the "universal evidence that people have used astronomy as the model for injecting order and predictability on their behavior and on life." Examining this universal behavior, Dr. E.C. Krupp takes the reader to sites throughout the world (most of which he has personally visited)--from Egypt, China, Babylonia, and Greece, to Turkey, Scotland, Wyoming, and Mexico. He interprets the significance of celestial observation and its relation to the earthly experiences of our ancestors, from practical applications of farming and the measurement of time to philosophical queries into our particular place within the universe. He covers such fascinating topics as how we see the seasons in the sun and stars, possible ancient and prehistoric observatories such as the megalithic Kintraw monument in Scotland, and sky gods and myths around the world and throughout history--from the Egyptian goddess Nut to the myth of Phaethon and the golden chariot of his father Helios. Krupp goes on to examine the ancient parallels between cosmic creation and our lives (as seen in the great pyramids of Egyptian pharaohs) and monuments of transcendental journey (such as the painted rock shrines of California). He shows us that the effects of celestial observation on our ancestors can also be seen in religious vigils--like shamans' transactions with the sky and their access to the sacred--as well as in calendars and clocks used throughout the centuries, mathematics, ancient temples, sources of world order, and the symbols we draw. This edition also includes a new introduction that brings the research completely up to date.
A fascinating and authoritative exploration, this around-the-world survey shows how the sky was woven into virtually every aspect of civilization and opens our eyes to the powers that shaped the human past and continue to influence us still.