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No. 98: Mar-Apr 1995

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A Unified Theory Of Geophysics

It takes a lot of nerve to propose a theory that can unite such a fragmented field as geophysics. H.R. Shaw makes a try in his new book: Craters, Cosmos, and Chronicles: A New Theory of the Earth. Shaw's ideas have recently been reviewed in Science News and our item is based on that article.

Shaw contends that cosmic projectiles -- asteroids and comets -- have controlled almost all features of the earth's evolution. For example:

Of course, for two centuries, other catastrophists have proposed similar dire consequences of giant impacts. But Shaw does introduce three ideas that are worth recording here.

Large impact craters occur in swaths. Although this has been suggested before, Shaw has mapped out several swaths where large craters of about the same age are located. His "K-T swath" includes the Chicxulub crater (Yucatan), the Manson crater (Iowa), the Avak crater (Alaska), and three more in Russia -- all of which were gouged out about the time of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. Shaw has plotted several other swaths of different ages.

The application of chaos theory to solar system debris. Shaw hypothesizes that nonlinear gravitational effects channel asteroids and comets into the inner solar system in intermittent bursts. The bursts are then captured by the earth and other inner planets, with some of these objects grouped in like orbits.

Gravitational feedback occurs from earth to orbiting debris. Shaw believes that the uneven distribution of mass inside the earth -- due probably to the impact that created the moon -- influences where asteroids and comets impact. In turn, these large objects keep smashing into the same regions and their cumulative effect contols the flow of material inside the earth. Then, this change in mass distribution feeds back to change orbits and impact swaths.

The above is just a taste of what is revealed in Shaw's book of 600+ pages. It cannot fail to be controversial.

(Monastersky, Richard; "Shots from Outer Space," Science News, 147:58, 1995.)

From Science Frontiers #98, MAR-APR 1995. 1995-2000 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