Moderator: In introduction, I just should say that Victor is the author of two extremely intriguing books. The first is The Cosmic Serpent which was published in 1982, and the second is The Cosmic Winter, published in 1990 in collaboration with astronomer Bill Napier. And I think that today Victor is going to present a talk illustrated by slides which will continue along the lines that he developed in The Cosmic Winter, which is a book that I urge all of you to read if you can.

Victor Clube.
What I propose to do this morning is kind of take advantage of the few things I talked about last night, and go on from there. But there was a slight hitch with the overlay, which got chopped in half, and I thought as a result of some of the comments that were made I would kick off with a few slides, straight away this morning to, perhaps, just give you a little more of a feel for the things that I'm talking about.

I actually take a little time to gravitate in the community that I'm not familiar with, and I do realize that the need to talk of catastrophism in terms of planets kind of takes you away from the starting point which I perceive to be more important; namely, the smaller bodies, the meteors, the meteoroids, which I talk about. And I thought, perhaps, therefore, a few illustrations might just put you in a slightly better frame of mind for receiving what I'm talking about. So if I may have the slides, please. Indeed, I can't really claim much for any of these pictures, but this is an illustration of the zodiacal cloud.

This is the disk of dust in the inner solar system which, if you're in a good observing site you may be fortunate enough to see. I come from England. We never see it, so it's rather a dramatic thing to show a picture where you actually can see this cloud projecting away from the Sun, below the horizon, into the plane of the ecliptic.

Zodiacal Light Cloud
This was seen in the East long before sunrise. It is caused by sunlight reflecting off dust in the plane of our solar system. (10mm wide angle lens 5 minute exposure)

That dust is cometary and partially asteroidal material. It is a decay product built up by comets over longish periods of time in the inner solar system. Next slide please.

Meteor Shower
©Sirko Molau
The Perseid Meteor Shower

This is familiar to you all. This is just a meteor shower. The objects producing these meteors are typically a gram or so, maybe a tenth of a gram, maybe ten grams. These are breaking up, or burning up, at high altitude in the atmosphere 100 kilometers, and they are not dangerous.

That picture I showed you a bit of yesterday, and this is really just the painting illustrating that some people, in the past at least, perceived something looking like meteors as being capable of causing damage; indeed sufficient damage to be described as "the end of the world." And to some extent part of our problem in modern science is whether we should believe this kind of version of history.

We do know that large meteoroids, ones as large as 10E11, 10E12 grams, or larger - that's the mass of the Tunguska object - so anything which I would call Tunguska or super Tunguska is capable of producing this kind of damage. It's usually things that explode above the level of the ground, maybe five or six kilometers in the air. They are smaller than comets. And on the whole, we can't see any of them. They're out there. There are telescopes now detecting such sized objects, but really it's not an active, ongoing business.

Much of my talk is actually about meteoroids between Tunguskas and meteors. And they're objects with masses of the order 10E6, 10E8, 10E10 grams. These are the objects which produce what I call fireballs in the atmosphere, and I showed you that the Chinese were recording these large meteoroids, fireballs, down the centuries, and it was they that dramatically changed in numbers as the years went by. You must not get the impression that we in Europe were unaware of fireballs.

The fact is, we just didn't have an organized observatory, anywhere, doing the job, so we weren't really quite as an advanced civilization as the Chinese. Nevertheless, people in the seventeenth/sixteenth century were trying to come to terms with the phenomenon they obviously observed. And this is merely a theoretical picture, if you like, illustrating what a fireball was.

Hamburg Fireballs

Here are the frightened folks down below. There are the fireballs coming down. And there is the source - some kind of clash in the sky; slightly more modern than gods fighting each other, armies shooting each other and the fireballs a stray shot, if you like. Well, some theory, but at least somebody is clearly thinking about it.

Fireballs Basel 1566
©Samuel Coccius
Basel, Switzerland, 1566

This is back to front, but it doesn't matter, it'll serve. This is actually a satellite. I forget its name (Geos II, or something like that), which was measuring dust particles out of the atmosphere above the Earth, well into space, and some twenty/thirty years ago. And it was one of the experiments that began to give us a little more insight into what was around out there. None of this we could see.

This satellite was fitted with dust fences and it went up to check if the zodiacal cloud was there, as we saw it. And the interesting thing was that the prediction, from what we observed, roughly turned out to be right. And it's that heap of particles of a certain size, up to about a hundred microns. We're looking at the larger particles on the right. And that sort of normal shape and histogram is, in fact, the expected zodiacal cloud particles which this satellite was meant to measure.

The surprise in the experiment was that there were a lot more dust particles, of smaller size, in fact occurring with time intervals between them which were very small. And the number of dust particles which you see there is actually comparable in size to the number in the zodiacal cloud. These dust particles could only be understood as being the fragmentation products of larger objects, the debris of which the satellite was passing through.

What we discovered, in fact, from this experiment was that meteoroids, the objects that produce fireballs, were also breaking up at a very high level above the Earth. And there were objects of masses like 102 through to a million grams. They would, if they could hold together, produce fireballs at a low level.

But, because they are so weakly constituted they break up at very high level and produce, really, micron/submicron dust that then floats down through the atmosphere, undetected. So the message I want to give you is that it's not all zodiacal dust that's making up the material that arrives in the atmosphere. It's actually breaking up from meteoroids.

Much of my talk this morning will relate to what I mentioned yesterday-a thing called the Taurid meteor stream, and, again, I want you to know that the Taurid meteoroid stream is not something that we, as it were, learned about fifty or sixty years ago from meteors and we've simply been checking that result ever since.

The remarkable thing about the space age is that it has actually revealed more and more things in the Taurid meteor stream which is actually built up from interpretations of all these modern observations that were simply not available at the time, for example, when Velikovsky was writing Worlds in Collision.

So, essentially, what I'm describing to you is a scientific story based upon the very latest evidence from space. And this is merely illustrating one example of the kind of surprises that came our way.

The Apollo astronauts planted seismometers on the Moon, primarily to measure Moonquakes. But they got diverted from their business by the discovery that objects, which they didn't expect at least, were hitting the Moon. These seismometers regularly recorded large bodies hitting the Moon like the meteoroids which I've just been describing. And this diagram is an illustration of the record of the incidence of these meteoroids, integrated over a period of about seven years until NASA switched the machine off- in exasperation, apparently, because they didn't think it was telling us anything very interesting.

Nevertheless, for seven or eight years they accumulated this data, and what you see here is the integral result of the observations, per day, through the years, throughout the whole of this seven or eight year period. And, of course, it looks a little like the skyline of Oxford, where I come from, but never mind, the prominent thing is that you see one remarkable peak in the middle which is, in fact, centered on about the 30th June. And all that peak, in fact, coincides with the products of one year's observing. So in that one year, 1975, in fact, we had a flood of objects hitting the Moon, which actually were also hitting the Earth, and they all were present, apparently, in the same stream, as was responsible for the Tunguska object in 1908 which, as you recall, also arrived the end of June. In fact, this end of June is an interesting time. It's the time when we pass through the Taurid stream, going in one direction. And the other direction is, in fact, the beginning of November, and you can see some signs of that in this same diagram.

This observation was a unique observation of a great swarm of fireballs, or meteoroids, that nobody had ever observed before and has never observed, properly, since. And yet it's there. And interestingly enough, though I just said we've never seen it, there are signs of it in the meteor observations if you start scouring through them, and with care. We know that there is a huge swarm of this material in the Taurid stream, which is moving around in what is called the "mean motion resonance." That is, Jupiter strongly influences it's orbit, and there is every reason to believe that because all this material is in this huge resonance, there is some huge source that has been feeding these meteoroids into it, down through the millennia.

That you could not have known before 1975. But, in fact, the results have gradually become clearer and clearer to us in the last twenty years. This is just to remind you of a picture you have seen already, I'm sure, of the Tunguska event, the sort of thing it does. It is a dramatic type of explosion. It doesn't extinguish dinosaurs because it's localized. But it's easy enough to picture an object which is, let's say, two or three hundred meters in size rather than the fifty to one hundred meters which we believe the Tunguska was, and recognize that it will obliterate a very, very broad area indeed. In fact, its' effects would be quite dramatic and certainly might wipe out a small nation, and seriously perturb a civilization.

What you're looking at here is an illustration of the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, but I'm superimposing on it some orbits of some objects in the Taurid meteor stream, just to give you a feel for what's going on. There is the stream. It's an elliptical stream. The period is typically about three and one third years. It includes the well-known comet, comet Encke. And Jupiter, which doesn't appear on the diagram is just off.

The orbit, if you like, embraces the picture. The Taurid stream then reaches out to almost as far as Jupiter. And so we have a bulk of material circulating in this very, very broad stream. It takes a couple of months, at both intersections with the Earth's orbit, for us to cross. And there it is at the top at the beginning of November, and coming away from the sun at the bottom at the end of June.

If I might just put the picture of the fireballs back on which you were looking at yesterday, we'll try and get it all onto the screen, and I'm going to leave it up because I want it to get embedded into your gray cells as one of the more revealing diagrams, as to what is going on in the inner solar system. All you really ought to look at is the top right hand diagram. The bottom right hand one is just an improvement of it. It shows the sudden surges in the fireball flux, which lasts for something like fifty years, which I was describing to you yesterday. Now these surges have correlated with them an increase in the flux of Tunguska sized objects. So where the normal flux of Tunguskas, which is related to the background or subordinate level in that plot, is something like one every century or so, the rate goes up to like one a year or so for these periods of time. And there's nothing wrong with the sense that the world is in some kind of danger, under those circumstances, in order to over-exaggerate it because any one country, no doubt, would escape. In fact, many countries would escape.

The danger, nevertheless, is unpredictable and given the fact that we now live in a global village there's no question we would all be aware of this kind of event in our locality, as people indeed were in the past, and they feared it.

The interesting thing is to look at the left hand diagram, which is a plot of the same fireballs, per month, per century. And the important point to note is that it's not uniform across the board. When you get the peaks you see it concentrating in mid summer and early November. The actual peaks are related to enhancements of the hub of the meteoroids in the stream that I've been talking about, the Taurid stream.

And the broad picture is that in spite of your preconceptions in this business there are Shoemaker-Levy type events occurring which influence, or affect, the Earth. And the debris, instead of all piling into the planet in one go, in this instance, runs around the orbit for several circulations-maybe a dozen or so-and the planet is at risk, as it were, again, and again, and again. And with that kind of situation you do get conscious of your environment and some of the possible dangers that it might carry.

I'm gong to follow my script a little at this point, if you don't mind, and because I tend to meander when I talk and I want to try and fit as much as I possibly can into the available time.

I want to summarize the meaning of this diagram, which I'm going to ask you to gaze at, endlessly. Chinese fireball observations indicate that there is a great swathe of disintegrating dark debris circulating in the inner solar system, occasionally producing Tunguska and super-Tunguska bombardments.

This is a picture that is unlike the one that you believe you know has been going on for the last two millennia, which are within recorded historical time rather than, let's say, mythological and protohistorical time. It's meant to be the bit of history we understand.

This swathe cuts across the Earth's orbit around mid-summer and Halloween, in a huge elliptical torus, reaching out short of Jupiter, as I have described. And its further disintegration is responsible for the system we know of as sporadic meteors, which all lie close to the ecliptic and the zodiacal dust, as I've described.

It is hardly possible to understand all this material steadily disintegrating into dust except in terms of a once very massive comet at the heart of the Taurid electrical torus, with an orbital period of about three and a third years. Indeed, if this torus were now visible you would see it like a huge additional Milky Way in the sky, slightly inclined to the ecliptic and for all the world in a configuration like one that was described in Plato's Timaeus , in his account of God's construction of heaven and Earth. I don't know how many of you recall or are familiar with this, but what he does describe is Earth and heaven being made in the form of a circular belt which is cut into two strips, and God then places one strip in slight inclination to the other. And the theorists then get in a bit of a 'tizz trying to explain this as an earlier account of the ecliptic and the equator.

In fact, the account makes it very clear that we're talking about material things in both cases, and in fact is more plausibly-much more plausibly- related to the Taurid stream in a more visible state, as it would have been in two or three thousand, and more, years ago. Heaven would be the home of the gods-being the Taurid torus-while Earth would be the home of the planets, being the plane of the ecliptic.

People in the past, of course, have suspected these slight shifts of name for the ecliptic and an individual planet. In fact, we can see some reason behind other descriptions that are on offer to us, where we have some part of the cosmos described as a glowing cavern carved out of the cosmos.

Early pictures seem to describe heaven in this way and it may well, again, be that they were describing early sightings, if you like, of this Taurid stream. I do want to get the message to you that in spite of your being unfamiliar with it, and in spite of it being so difficult to see, it is a very massive system. It does correspond to the material of a comet, a hundred kilometers or more in size-far, far larger than anything that we are normally familiar with but, of course, we do see these things further out in the solar system.

This kind of picture, my colleague, Bill Napier, and I, were describing in the book that Irving kindly mentioned, The Cosmic Serpent, twelve years or so ago, and that was a time when we were actually predicting that this stream would have asteroids in it. Of course, that was not known at that time; they had not been observed. But we now live in a time when many asteroids have now been discovered in the stream. So the kind of logic that led to this picture has really been firmed up considerably by the fact that we now see the very things that we thought must be there.

So, it is now the home of about a hundred Earth-crossing asteroids, not all of which, of course, we have yet seen, and these are just part of the dark but disintegrating debris. It's not too much to suppose these were all once dying cometary gods. Within the stream is one known comet-comet Encke, which I've mentioned, and this is getting steadily fainter. And if you wanted to transfer this two or three thousand years ago, you might like to think of this as a dying cometary god.

I'd like to remind you now that one of these peaks that you are looking at here-the 1601 occurs round about 1640 through 1680, and it coincides with the end of the Thirty Years War in Europe, and the Civil War in England. I mentioned this briefly last night. Cromwell, and others of that time-I only name him because, of course, he's a familiar name to you, but there are many others-described all the upheaval of the time, in millennarian terms, as due to "God's revolution" only a century after Copernicus' De Revolutionibus.

My point here is that the word "revolution" is popularly used nowadays in a social sense. It didn't have that at the time Copernicus was writing; it acquired it. It acquired it at the time of the English Civil War. And it was because of the perception that things in the sky were driving things, terrible things, that were happening on the ground. Only three hundred and fifty years ago, then, mankind was still in the era of an invisible sky god from a once visible heaven associated with angels, fallen angels, and dangerous demons hurling thunderbolts.

We have to get rid of the idea that our ancestors thought that space was empty. They didn't have [the] specialized astrophysical knowledge that has allowed me to build the Taurid stream for you; they just knew it was there. That's really rather a remarkable thing. We've had to unlearn that knowledge in the last three hundred and fifty years in order to put ourselves in the state of rediscovering it.

So, what was The Enlightenment only forty years after Cromwell? It was the pragmatic English decision to get rid of all the angels and demons, invisible sky gods, and a once visible heaven. It was the decision to stop worrying about the evidence of fireballs and the supposed behavior of comets. It was a decision to reconstruct the cosmos without heaven in the solar system and put it in the ether or outside the cosmos altogether of infinity al la Bruno. It was the decision to create a purified, less frightening cosmos in much the same way as Aristotle did after Plato. On both occasions we shifted from astrology to physics, and from a sky of foreboding to a sky of inspiration, from prison and terror to freedom and hope.

Indeed, the cry of the revolutionary periods of 1640 to 1680 and 1760 to 1800, the time of the American War of Independence, was the cry of freedom from heavenly oppression, demons, and fireballs.

For the last two hundred years of Enlightenment we have been rewriting history so that the cry of freedom is from earthly oppressors. No wonder the world has gone wrong and the astrophysicists today cannot come to terms with the Taurid torus. I'm really trying to say that this is just not an astrophysical discovery that we are talking about. Everything has got to, sort of, turn around in order to come to terms with what is being said. And this, in a way, is rather like what Irving was describing beforehand. There is a paradigm shift involved in recognizing that it's not just ancient history we have got wrong-it's all history.

So, what is my point? My point is that you do not have to dabble first in mythology and prehistory and geology, as Velikovsky did, in order to understand the sky. You first take the modern sky accessible to science, especially during the Space Age, and you look at its' darker debris with a view to relating its behavior to the more accessible human history which we can, in principle, really understand. And by this approach you discover from the dynamics of the material in space which I'm talking about that a huge comet must have settled in a Taurid orbit some 20,000 years ago, whose dense meteor stream for 10,000 years almost certainly produced the last Ice Age.

(Missing Text due to change of tape)

The chance of a collision with Kronos, as with any other comet was, in fact, remote. And mankind settled into a Golden Age. But some time at perihelion, around 3,000 B.C., it is likely that Kronos ran very close to Venus and split, like Shoemaker-Levy. And a trail of new, dazzling comets circulated around the Taurid stream-evidently, for centuries. Somewhere in this array still was the Kronos remnant; less bright, perhaps. And a new leader, Zeus or Marduk, perhaps, much brighter, together with a new serpentine Milky Way, the home of chaos.

By 2,000 B.C., due to an orbital precession, things got worse, for the trail was now crossing the Earth's orbit and mayhem ensued. The Sumerian civilization came to an end under a barrage of Tunguskas, thunderbolts, all over a period of a couple of centuries and we were now in a sky of foreboding. Then passed another 2,500 years with Zeus in decline and Kronos already barely visible, while the latter's orbit precessed until we come to the next intersection with the Earth's orbit around 500 A.D. when mayhem again ensured. This time the Roman civilization collapsed and the dark age was in place. And it was Plato and the Christians, of course, with their knowledge acquired from the Magi who had predicted this "end of the world."

In the medieval society which then emerged, it was natural that they should first invoke the world of demons and foreboding. But eventually it seemed that the danger was passed, and by the twelfth century the Europeans were changing back to the Aristotelian picture of inspiration and supposed enlightenment. The Taurid and probably the Kronos remnant, are still there, of course.

And the next crossing of the Earth's orbit will be around 3,000 A.D. There's no guarantee of avoiding additional bombardments before then, and, of course, there may be another Jesus Christ.

I'm going to come to an end and possibly leave no time for questions, I'm afraid. But I am told that I'm going to be up here again.

What, then, should Velikovskian's make of all these additions to our cosmic environment? Well, my first point, I think, is that we do not need to move the planets around to get catastrophes. Super Tunguskas will do it all.

Point two-everything we say makes no challenge to conventional physics, or astrophysics, for that matter.

And point three-everything we say, as Velikovsky would have wished, does make a challenge to conventional history.

The new picture is one of punctuated peace. It is the picture, I would suggest, enunciated by both Spengler and Toynbee (not the world's most favorite historians nowadays), one in which new cultures emerged from chaos, with a shout, to become civilizations which then stagnate or decline, slowly. Only with a fresh cosmic crisis do they climb to new heights or collapse altogether, providing us with a new paradigm shift.

The picture I am describing is, again, rather like the one that Irving Wolfe was describing previously. I would like to follow Irving Wolfe here, and suggest that we are, indeed, approaching the position now when we can reconstruct catastrophic history and demonstrate it as evidence for the controlling influence of one giant comet over the last 20,000 years of evolution.

There is nothing very arbitrary about introducing giant comets to do all this. The fact is, that we see them around. The idea that giant comets dominate evolution is very much in keeping now with the discovery, further out in the solar system, of objects like Chiron which are known to come into the inner solar system. The dynamics do it. They are bound, some of them, to settle in the way this other object that I have been talking about, has been.

These objects are also found among the long period comets from the Oort Cloud, and astronomers are perfectly capable of constructing perfectly respectable physical pictures of how these giant comets are transferred from the remote Oort Cloud down into the central solar system, almost as a matter of regularity. Thus, we argue that the perturbation of the Oort Cloud determined the long-term arrival rate of giant comets attacking the Earth. If so, due to the Sun's motion up and down in the galactic plane, we can predict the periodicity in terrestrial evolution.

This periodicity is certainly now observed and correlates exceedingly well with the Sun's present position in the galactic plane, and with its motion up and down in the galactic disk. All of these things are kind of rather well known and understood by astrophysicists. The period also fits the dark matter which we now believe to be in the galactic plane and which we infer from other kinds of observations altogether.

In fact, too much is now hanging together in this wide range of information that I am giving you, to really doubt that it's got the bare bones essentially there. And we may now be in a very interesting position of being able to say something about the dark matter itself. It could, indeed, be cometary material of some kind, and it could be the very material that makes the stars that we see being made in the spiral arms in the galactic plane. What I'm trying to say is that through grasping at some of these complexities associated with our history-and we have learned more about comets than we would otherwise have done from pure physics alone, carried out, if you like, in its very pure laboratory. The historical findings, I would maintain, and I'm sure Velikovsky would argue in a very similar way from his picture (not perfectly correct as it was) ...

The historical findings, in other words, are highly relevant to astrophysics. They're a sort of way of integrating all this knowledge. It has a completeness which a former picture did not have.

Thank you.

(Question and answer period follows)

Questioner 1: Victor, I see some irony in the statement that we don't have to move around the ... I don't know, maybe we don't have to, but I just want to remind you that you have ... of course.

But two issues of Scientific American ago, mainstream astrophysicists ... the idea that the Moon was created out of a clash of the Earth and Mars, so we have here, somehow, intriguingly, a movement out of mainstream ... scholars to planets being moved around, and even clashed, to create the Moon. And then we have more or less a near-catastrophist approach which is rather not cautious to make ... it's just a statement, not a question.

Clube: Right. No comment then.

Moderator: That's the Oxford debating experience!

Questioner 2: (question not asked from microphone) ... kind of an intellectual construct in bringing echo(sp)-physical evidence that a field of cometary material was ... out beyond our solar system, as the source of comets?

Clube: Well, I know the comet. I don't really believe it at all. We do see the Oort Cloud. What we observe are the comets from the Oort Cloud. And it's understanding how these comets could come to us to be seen that leads us to build sensible models of the Oort Cloud. OK, it's a construct.

But then, perhaps, so too, is a hydrogen atom. It's one of the more plausible constructs of astrophysics, if I could put it that way. It is much more solid than many of the things we heard criticized a little while ago in the cosmos at large. It's a fact!

Van Flandern: On that part not all astronomers agree that the Oort Cloud is a plausible construct. But my question for you is- you argued that at the end of 500 AD there probably was some involvement with the Taurid stream and the decline of the Roman Empire. Now, inside recorded history we have details of how the Empire came to an end, but I don't recall any details ... that influence that.

Clube: That is correct and it's certainly worthy of a lecture in its own right. I have written a little on this, and I think the thing that one has to address is that it is well known that this was a period, first of all, when people thought the end of the world was coming. OK? And I pointed, already, to you the evidence that there were fireball flux, which is free for interpretation and would guide you to this view.

Now, one of the problems with the management of the Roman Empire was the fact of what is called "deserted lands." Great tracts of land were apparently deserted and people were on the move. It was a period of migrations, as you know. And it was the management of this that was, clearly, a severe problem- increasingly a severe problem for the Roman Empire from round about 200 AD onwards.

And one can formulate, I would submit, an interpretation of all that was going on in terms of this problem getting more and more acute until you come to the time of the initial Dark Age in Britain, by which time chaos was almost intervening. We have very good records, in Britain, at least, of survival really going back to subsistence level for two generations. And some very interesting evidence from famous author Gildas, who described the fire of righteous vengeance which came down and caused a great catastrophe in England in 441 AD.

Now, what I'm really getting at here is that everybody knows about this catastrophe. There are endless attempts to explain it. None of them are normally in terms of the obvious-the one that described the astronomical event.

What I am trying to say is that there is evidence for Tunguska events throughout that period. It's simply put aside as not relevant because the historians are guided by astronomers who would never think of such a thing.