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No. 10: Spring 1980

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Cosmic Death Waves

In the language of science, W.M. Napier and S.V.M Clube provide a scenario of cyclic terrestrial catastrophism. Their thesis is that the solar system periodically passes through the regularly spaced spiral galaxy arms every few 107 years. Planetesimals in these arms cra-ter the solar-system planets at these times and also provide the raw materials for new comets, asteroids, satellites, and even planets.

Supporting their theory is the repeating history of geological revolutions with the accompanying extinctions and reflowerings of life. A remarkable feature of this paper is a table of shortlived solar-system phenomena (comets and rapidly evolving staellite-and-ring systems). The tenor is one of episodic catastrophism and a rapidly changing solar system; viz., Saturn's rings evolving in only 104 years.

(Napier, W.M., and Clube, S.V.M.; "A Theory of Terrestrial Catastrophism," Nature, 282:455, 1979.)

Comment. This outlook differs radically from that still disbursed in our schools and colleges.

From Science Frontiers #10, Spring 1980. 1980-2000 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