Besides, I haven't got much else to write about today: and I'm scheduled to post something on this blog today.
The Chicxulub Consensus May Not Last LongFirst, the news and background, all from Space.com:
- "Rock Solid Link: Asteroid Doomed the Dinosaurs"
(March 4, 2010)
- "Dinosaur-Killing Firestorm Theory Questioned"
(December 28, 2009)
- "New Dino-destroying Theory Fuels Hot Debate"
(October 18, 2009)
- "Giant impact near India - not Mexico - may have doomed dinosaurs"
Geology Times (October 17, 2009)
- "Basinward transport of Chicxulub ejecta by tsunami-induced backflow, La Popa basin, northeastern Mexico, and its implications for distribution of impact-related deposits flanking the Gulf of Mexico"
Geology (February 2005)
- "The Chicxulub Crater - Effects"
The Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research Group, University of Bristol (undated?)
"A mysterious basin off the coast of India could be the largest, multi-ringed impact crater the world has ever seen. And if a new study is right, it may have been responsible for killing the dinosaurs off 65 million years ago.It's early days, but my guess is that that international consensus reported in Space.com (March 4, 2010) is already starting to fray around the edges. That's not a criticism: We've known about the Chicxulub event for decades, and this Shiva crater seems to be a relatively new find.
"Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University and a team of researchers took a close look at the massive Shiva basin, a submerged depression west of India that is intensely mined for its oil and gas resources. Some complex craters are among the most productive hydrocarbon sites on the planet. Chatterjee will present his research at this month's Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, Oregon.
" 'If we are right, this is the largest crater known on our planet,' Chatterjee said. 'A bolide of this size, perhaps 40 kilometers (25 miles) in diameter creates its own tectonics.'
"By contrast, the object that struck the Yucatan Peninsula, and is commonly thought to have killed the dinosaurs was between 8 and 10 kilometers (5 and 6.2 miles) wide...."
(Geology Times (October 17, 2009))
What jumped out at me was the apparent coincidence: Two major impact events happening almost simultaneously (maybe), on the geologic time scale.
Let's say that the a five-mile wide hunk of rock, and another one 25 miles across hit Earth at almost the same time - on a historic time scale.
When All Else Fails, Throw RocksDinosaurs and the other big critters on Earth, 65,000,000-plus years ago, don't seem to have been as consistently dim-witted as we once imagined them: But I think it'd snap the willing suspension of disbelief to write a story where they were as smart as we are. Not if the story was supposed to be even vaguely serious.
I'm about as certain as I can be that whatever long shot may have happened when the K-T boundary was created was a natural event.
On the other hand, what if it wasn't.
I know: It's been done. In a Dr. Who two-parter, "Earthshock" (1982), for example. That time the blast was caused by a spaceship hitting Earth.
There are many other options, of course.
Let's try this on for size:
The war had begun long before. Neither side was willing - or able - to surrender. And neither side had a significant advantage over the other: hardly surprising, as they were both descended from the same people. Not that either side's leaders would admit that this was the case.
They had established rules of conduct for the conflict. Both had found that people - intelligent races - were a rare phenomenon. Both believed that intelligence was important, although they differed on how it should be applied.
And so they agreed that their war would not be a threat to any people they might find.
Each side were, in their own way, quite ethical.
Which made the current situation so revolting.
A warm, damp planet had recently been found. It was virtually useless to both sides: The climate was not within their comfort range, and lacked the aesthetic appeal they demanded of their homes.
Besides, even if they had wanted to do so, neither side could settle there. An exploration team had found - not people, but creatures which showed great promise of developing intelligence.
So the planet was declared off limits.
The star this planet circled, however, was ideally positioned for one side to use as a - let's call it a "listening post." Such an installation could easily be placed in orbit around any of the star's planets, or in orbit around the star itself.
Instead, they built installations on a planet. The warm, damp one. Two installations, actually, near the equator but on opposite sides of the planet.
This was a brazen violation of a long-standing agreement: but the installations remained. They had been made self-sufficient, and so blockade was out of the question. They had defenses which were more than adequate to repel the largest force that their enemy could mount.
And the installations were gathering valuable information, which could easily break the long stalemate.
Something had to be done.
Finally, in desperation, the side which was now losing assembled a vast fleet and took control of the space around the damp planet's star. Then diverted two asteroids toward the damp planet, after mounting a formidable defense system on both.
The two installations could have destroyed any missiles directed against them, and were effectively protected from directed-energy weapons by the damp planet's atmosphere, and their own shielding.
The designers of the installations had even built adaptive intelligence into their defenses, so that as the enemy developed more sophisticated weapon systems, the installations could develop more sophisticated defenses.
The designers had not foreseen that the enemy would throw large rocks.
The larger of the two projectiles was already blasting a crater in the planet's surface while its remaining defenses, on the 'upper' side, were neutralizing a formation of missiles directed on its smaller companion.
Both installations were destroyed, of course.
The war ended not long after.
A few research teams returned to the damp planet. Most of the species which their predecessors had cataloged were gone. The researchers studied what was left, made their reports, and moved on to other tasks.
After a while the researchers stopped coming. Some life remained on the planet, small scurrying things which had somehow survived the twin cataclysms: but the species which had shown so much promise was gone, along with - as far as the researchers could tell - all similar creatures.
New creatures emerged, and changed as the damp planet turned cold. Several species of strange animals which could grasp branches with all four feet developed. One of these moved out of the forest, walking on its rear hands: which had lost most of their grasping function.
In time the descendants of this species chipped Troodon fossils out of rocks which had been sand and mud when incandescent waves of rock engulfed lands around the now-forgotten installations.
Okay: It's Not ShakespeareTroodons were smart, sort of: probably about as bright as an ostrich. And they had hands. Again, sort of.
No, I do not think they were people. But there could be people built along the same general lines. We might find that we're the oddballs among this galaxy's races.
Assuming that there are any besides us, of course.
Which is another topic.