#32: The Cataclysm no one knows about

Episode brief:

I’ll be up front with you. This is a sensationalist headline. I generally despise headlines like it, but there is good intent behind this one. I needed to grab your attention, so hopefully my efforts have paid off, and you are reading this. Now that you’re here, I can elaborate on what I truly meant by “cataclysm no one knows about”.

The “cataclysm no one knows about”, is, in fact, a cataclysm that a select few people do know about. Predominantly scientists and Internet back alley surfers like myself. This is all in reference to the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis. A mounting pile of evidence, for the explosion of a large foreign body (comet or asteroid) in Earth’s atmosphere, some 12,800 years ago. An event which allegedly wreaked havoc in the Northern hemisphere, and plunged the whole planet into a “mini ice age”.

In the interest of objectivity, I must make it perfectly clear, as I did so in the episode, that no scientific consensus on the matter has been reached yet. It is a disputed topic, but the evidence is, indeed, beginning to stack up in favour of the claim. This is why I chose it as a centerpiece for this episode about the importance of human planetary defence efforts.

Be it far less likely, a large asteroid or comet impact remains the only cataclysm more threatening to life on Earth than global heating. Yet as things stand today, there is nothing we can do to prevent one. This must change.

Cataclysm notes:

[00:06:22] –

Indeed, Dawn has now passed into legend. If you’d like to learn about some other glorious engineering triumphs turned permanent space garbage, you can check out our legacy episode #5, which focuses specifically on such dead spacecraft… And also Gene Simmons. Just don’t ask! You have to listen to understand. We’re like that sometimes.

[00:12:22] –

As I mentioned, there are two main sources of information, regarding the amount of NEAs currently registered. An ESA website, and its more up-to-date NASA counterpart.

[00:16:40] –

The movie in question, is 2013’s These Final Hours. It’s about a man who, on the way to an end of the world party, comes across a little girl whom he has to decide whether to help or abandon. Spoiler alert: he helps her reach her destination, but that’s not the end of the movie. If my opinion is worth anything, I’d say it’s worth a watch.

[00:20:18] –

Pedro hit the nail on the head with his description, and the term I was searching for was circumstantial evidence.

[00:27:45] –

The proto-Indians I’m referencing represented the Clovis culture.

[00:28:06] –

The three main academic papers on the matter are as follows:

2007 – Firestone et al. – [CLAIM] –
Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling

2009 – Surovell et al. – [REFUTATION] –
An independent evaluation of the Younger Dryas extraterrestrial impact hypothesis

2012 – LeCompte et al. – [REFUTATION OF THE REFUTATION] –
Independent evaluation of conflicting microspherule results from different investigations of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis

[00:34:14] –

George Howard’s website dedicated to the YDIH, is called The Cosmic Tusk, and is a must visit for anyone wanting to get intimately acquainted with the topic. Mr. Howard is also a member of the Comet Research Group. A party of scholars, whose goal is to definitively prove the validity of the YDIH claim as scientific fact.

[00:35:20] –

Pan-STARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, and is based off of the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii. Aside from the consolidated NASA-managed effort, Pan-STARRS is also part of the local Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, better known as The ATLAS Project.

[00:35:20] –

The Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), is run by the University of Arizona, and operates out of the Mt. Lemmon and Mt. Bigelow observatories, both in the vicinity of Tuscon.

[00:37:28] –

Here’s Richard Kowalski’s Wikipedia page. It doesn’t do him justice one bit, but it gets the job done in delivering the most important facts about him. Here’s a list of his three special asteroid discoveries:

6 October 2008 – Kowalski discovers asteroid 2008 TC3, 20 hours before it enters Earth’s atmosphere over Sudan. Shortly thereafter, in a world first, Dr. Peter Jennkinsens leads a party which recovers fragments from the resultant meteorite.

1 January 2014 – Kowalski discovers asteroid 2014 AA, 21 hours before it enters Earth’s atmosphere over the Atlantic ocean. Recovery is impossible.

2 June 2018 – Kowalski “strikes again” discovering asteroid 2018 LA, mere 8 hours before it lights up the skies over Botswana, disintegrating into an unknown number of fragments. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Jennkinsens repeats the 2008 procedure, by leading a party which eventually succeeds in recovering fragments from the resultant meteorite.

[00:45:40] –

Here’s some more info on the Deep Impact spacecraft, and its target- comet Tempel 1.

[00:46:27] –

The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, AIDA, is a joint ESA/NASA venture, which will see the American DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft smash at hyper-velocity into the smaller asteroid of binary asteroid system 65803 Didymos. Several years later, the European spacecraft, called Hera, will enter orbit around Didymos, and study the changes caused by the collision, to the asteroid’s moonlet.

[00:55:04] –

News broke just last last week, that Planetary Resources has been acquired by blockchain firm ConsenSys, adding further uncertainty as to the future operations of the venture which had been in financial trouble for a while. There is a possibility that under this new ownership, PR might shift its focus to delivering low-cost low Earth orbit assets for the parent company’s decentralisation needs, ignoring asteroid mining altogether.