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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