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No. 61: Jan-Feb 1989

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Celestial Crucible

"Catastrophic extinctions caused by impacts would change the rules governing who is most fit, who becomes extinct, and who survives. 'If much of the patterning of life's history is not set by Darwin's slow biotic mechanisms, then I think Darwin is in trouble. Is catastrophic mass extinction a major agent of patterning?' If so, 'impacts are a quirky aspect' of the process."

Who is speaking within the single quotes above? S.J. Gould, a proponent of the punctuated equilibrium view of the evolutionary scenario. He added:

"'The history of life is enormously more quirky than we imagined.'"

In fact, the geological record shows so many quirk-inducing impacts that there is little room left for slow, plodding, uniformitarian evolution of the earth itself, life-in-general, and humanity. Mammals, for example, may not have survived the postulated (but now assumed factual) Cretaceous-Tertiary impact event simply because they were small in size - not smarter.

(Kerr, Richard A.; "Huge Impact is Favored K-T Boundary Killer," Science, 242:865, 1988.)

Comment. It now seems that Cassius was wrong about the stars when he was lining up Brutus to help assassinate Julius Caesar. And the "celestial" situ ation gets even worse below.

From Science Frontiers #61, JAN-FEB 1989. 1989-2000 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