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No. 8: Fall 1979

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Brontides Become Respectable

The mystery of natural detonations (Barisal Guns, mistpouffers, etc.) was probed by several scientific groups following the recent episodes of off-shore booms. This paper by Gold and Soter, from Cornell, would have warmed the heart of Charles Fort, for he made much of natural detonation: or "brontides," as they are termed in the early literature. Gold and Soter review the long history of brontides, noting that brontide activity is often associated with earthquakes, but not always. Natural booming noises, they contend, may be due to eruptions of natural gas. This would square with the rare observations of earthquake lights. Interestingly enough, the recent off-shore detonations were occasionally accompanied by luminous phenomena.

(Gold, Thomas, and Soter, Steven; (Brontides: Natural Explosive Noises," Science, 204:371, 1979.)

Reference. Brontides and other "water guns" are collected in GSD1 in Earthquakes, Tides, Unidentified Sounds. Details on the Catalog volume here.

From Science Frontiers #8, Fall 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987