Comment: Most of what the reader will find in this article are misinformed opinions and ad hominem attacks directed at those scientists who have the gall to mention the reality of comet catastrophes. This is not entirely surprising given the attacks that other Catastrophists have endured in the past.
The interested reader may want to compare what's written here to the actual evidence amassed by Firestone, et al. described in this article:
The Younger Dryas Impact Event and the Cycles of Cosmic Catastrophes - Climate Scientists Awakening
An elegant archaeological theory, under fire for results that can't be replicated, may ultimately come undone.
It seemed like such an elegant answer to an age-old mystery: the disappearance of what are arguably North America's first people. A speeding comet nearly 13,000 years ago was the culprit, the theory goes, spraying ice and rocks across the continent, killing the Clovis people and the mammoths they fed on, and plunging the region into a deep chill. The idea so captivated the public that three movies describing the catastrophe were produced.
But now, four years after the purportedly supportive evidence was reported, a host of scientific authorities systematically have made the case that the comet theory is "bogus." Researchers from multiple scientific fields are calling the theory one of the most misguided ideas in the history of modern archaeology, which begs for an independent review so an accurate record is reflected in the literature.
"It is an impossible scenario," says Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., where he taps the world's fastest computers for nuclear bomb experiments to study such impacts. His computations show the debris from such a comet couldn't cover the proposed impact field. In March, a "requiem" for the theory even was published by a group that included leading specialists from archaeology to botany.
Yet, the scientists who described the alleged impact in a hallowed U.S. scientific journal refuse to consider the critics' evidence - insisting they are correct, even though no one can replicate their work: the hallmark of credibility in the scientific world.
The primary authors of the theory are an unusual mix: James Kennett, a virtual father of marine geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara; Richard Firestone, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California; and Allen West, an unknown academic from the mining industry who lives in Dewey, Ariz.
"We are under a lot of duress," said Kennett. "It has been quite painful." So much so, that team members call their critics' work "biased," "nonsense" and "screwed up."
Such intransigence has been seen before in other cases of grand scientific claims. Sometimes those theories were based on data irregularities. Other times, the proponents succumbed to self-delusion. But typically, advocates become so invested in their ideas they can't publicly acknowledge error.
A new look at the comet claim suggests all of these phenomena may be in play, apparently creating a peculiar bond of desperation as the theory came under increasing attack. Indeed, the team's established scientists are so wedded to the theory they have opted to ignore the fact their colleague "Allen West" isn't exactly who he says he is.
West is Allen Whitt - who, in 2002, was fined by California and convicted for masquerading as a state-licensed geologist when he charged small-town officials fat fees for water studies.
Comment: According to the link:
An investigation by the Board for Geologists and Geophysicists (BGG) has led to the convictions in San Bernardino County Superior Court of two men on charges of obtaining money by false pretenses (pursuant to P.C. 532(A)). The Board's inquiry concluded that Kevin Lee Jonker and Allen Whitt had practiced geophysics without a license. A third individual, Richard Van Blaricom, surrendered his geophysicist's license on April 25 as a result of the same investigation (see previous Enforcement Action posting).While it certainly sounds like Whitt/West displayed poor judgment, this other document makes it sound like Blaricom was actually the one at fault when he "aided and abetted" Whitt and Jonker "to act as Licensed Geophysicists and/or Registered Geologists in the data collection, interpretation, and preparation of a groundwater survey report." The interaction between these three men is a little unclear making the accusation against Whitt weak at best.
The Board's investigation concluded that in April 1999, Van Blaricom signed his name and stamped a groundwater supply survey report for the Joshua Basin Water District near Palm Springs that was in fact prepared by Jonker and Whitt. Neither was licensed to practice geophysics for others. State law prohibits licensees of the BGG from signing and using their Registered Geophysicist stamp on reports they do not supervise or prepare themselves.
In any case, one should note the desperation of the Scientific Establishment in their attempt to discredit the groundbreaking implications of West's work by such a vague accusation.
After completing probation in 2003 in San Bernardino County, he began work on the comet theory, legally adopting his new name in 2006 as he promoted it in a popular book. Only when questioned by this reporter last year did his co-authors learn his original identity and legal history. Since then, they have not disclosed it to the scientific community.
West's history - and new concerns about study results he was integrally involved in - raise intriguing questions about the veracity of the comet claim. His background is likely to create more doubts about the theory. And the controversy - because it involves the politically sensitive issue of a climate shift - is potentially more broadly damaging, authorities suggest.
"It does feed distrust in science," says Wallace Broecker, a geochemist at Columbia University and an international dean of climate research. "Those who don't believe in human-produced global warming grab onto it."
West is at the nexus of almost all the evidence for the original comet claims. His fieldwork is described in the 2006 book he authored with Firestone, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes.
To show the comet's deadly plume, West collected various sediment samples from 25 archaeology sites across the United States. He used a magnet to find iron flecks reportedly from the comet, scooped up carbon spherules reflecting subsequent fires, and argued that high concentrations of such material at particular sedimentary levels supported their theory.
The team has argued a 4-kilometer comet tumbled into ice sheets 12,900 years ago, leading to the so-called Younger Dryas, when the temperature cooled for more than a thousand years.
The flying debris appeared to answer questions about the Clovis peoples' disappearance that had defied prior explanation. The supposed remnants of the comet hadn't received intense scrutiny by researchers previously probing sediments at archaeology sites. And water from melted ice flowing into the oceans could explain the precipitous temperature drop.
But all these claims have been sharply disputed in a series of scientific articles over the last 18 months. Examples include:
University of Wyoming archaeologist Todd Surovell and his colleagues couldn't find increased magnetic spherules representing cosmic debris at seven Clovis sites. Nicholas Pinter and his colleagues at Southern Illinois University Carbondale argue the carbon spherules are organic residue of fungus or arthropod excrement. And Tyrone Daulton of Washington University in St. Louis and his colleagues reported that supposed nanodiamonds formed by the impact were misidentified.
Speaking of the various reports, Surovell said, "We all built a critical mass of data suggesting there was a serious problem."
Now, Boslough and colleagues have conducted new analysis of purported comet debris samples that raises even more troubling credibility questions.
Comment: Mark Boslough has certainly presented some interesting work modeling comet impact scenarios using supercomputers at Sandia National Laboratories, but can he really be trusted as an unbiased source of knowledge concerning the hypothetical Younger Dryas Impact Event discussed here? His bio on the CSIOP website - an organization known for it's vociferous 'debunking' of any scientific ideas that fall outside mainstream theories - states:
Mark Boslough is a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. His work on comet and asteroid impacts has been the subject of many recent TV documentaries and magazine articles. He believes that the impact risk - at its core - is primarily a climate-change risk, and he has turned his attention to climate change as a looming national security threat. The opinions expressed here are his own.And in this statement, the implication is that he is very much on the "pro" side in the Anthropocentric Global Warming debate. An example would be this CSIOP article where he attempts to defend climate scientists against those pesky Global Warming "denialists."
Given the data we've gathered here on SOTT, it's difficult to see how one could put the risk of man-made 'Global Warming' at a higher level than extraterrestrial impacts, and this calls into question Boslough's objectivity in the matter. Like many American scientists, Boslough seems unable to see the forest for the trees; catastrophic impact events have likely happened on the timescale of human history.
On March 25, Boslough reported that radio-carbon dating of a carbon spherule sample shows it is only about 200 years old - an "irregularity" that indicates is it not from the alleged 12,900-year-old impact time.
This means that a sample from a layer purporting to show a high concentration of spherules at the inception of the Younger Dryas actually only was about as old as the Declaration of Independence.
About two years ago, as his doubts on the theory were building, Boslough contacted West to secure carbon spherule samples for analysis. West sent him 16 spherules, purportedly from the Younger Dryas boundary sediment layer at an archaeology site called Gainey in Michigan - a location with the highest spherule count of studied locations.
Boslough subsequently forwarded the unopened package of spherules to the National Science Foundation-funded radio-carbon laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. There, a dating specialist randomly selected a spherule - the one ultimately found to be about 200 years old. Boslough reported these results at an American Geophysical Union conference in Santa Fe, N.M.
Afterward, Boslough said: "I don't think there is any reason to accept what West reported. I have a serious problem with everything from him."
Did someone salt a sediment layer to increase the spherule count? Or did the 200-year-old sample inadvertently get mixed in somehow? Boslough says he can't provide an answer, but there was some form of "contamination."
But an answer is needed, he said: "I wouldn't sweep it under the rug."
After his presentation, West wrote Boslough that he believed that the questioned sample somehow got mixed naturally over time into a lower sediment layer. Both Kennett and Firestone agreed.
But Vance Holliday, a University of Arizona archaeologist who has studied Clovis sites for 30 years, found this explanation nonsensical. Such mixing of spherules from different eras could invalidate any conclusion that higher spherule counts represented evidence of a comet impact.
"I suspect something very odd is going on," adds Holliday, who also has become a critic of the comet theory.
After the theory was first announced in 2007 in Acapulco, Mexico, Holliday had attempted to collaborate with Kennett to test the idea. But Kennett effectively blocked publication of the study last year after the results didn't support the comet theory.
And those results were blindly analyzed by an independent reviewer selected by Kennett himself. That independent reviewer was none other than Walter Alvarez - an esteemed University of California, Berkeley, geologist and son of Luis Alvarez, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who first proposed an asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico about 65 million years ago, wiping out the world's dinosaurs and most life.
The Holliday-Kennett study has never been presented publicly. The results were obtained independent of the two authors. Holliday then agreed to discuss events; Kennett also answered questions about the study but didn't reach the same conclusions as his colleague.
For decades, Holliday has studied a Clovis site at Lubbock Lake Landmark State Historical Park in Texas, just east of the original location where the Clovis people's distinctive fluted projectile points were first discovered in New Mexico. After a visit there in the summer of 2007, Holliday examined sediments from an exposed section that included the signature of the inception of the Younger Dryas. He then took samples from six sedimentary layers within a 35-centimeter section encompassing the Younger Dryas.
The study then worked like this: Based on analyses of the layers, both Kennett and Holliday sent to Alvarez their predictions on which layer reflected the geochemical characteristics for the beginning of the Younger Dryas. But neither Kennett nor Alvarez knew the order of the sediment layers; not knowing this order would add credibility to their conclusions.
In a surprise, Kennett's analysis included sedimentary counts for what he called nanodiamonds - which his group says were produced by the enormous energy from comet explosion.
Holliday accurately predicted what layer was associated with the Younger Dryas boundary. But Kennett did not. Kennett's selected nanodiamond-rich layer was 25 centimeters above the Younger Dryas boundary - meaning it was about 1,000 years younger than the claimed impact time. To Alvarez, this indicated a comet-impact hypothesis was incorrect.
Comment: Given that the sedimentary counts for nanodiamonds is just one piece of evidence in a much larger hypothesis, claiming that this result invalidates the comet-impact hypothesis is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
After considerable behind-the-scenes arguing, Holliday said, Kennett ultimately complained last summer that the study was "fundamentally flawed" and wouldn't allow him to publish his results. Now, Kennett says, he is continuing to analyze the data.
"It is very peculiar," Holliday said. "They propose an idea, a study contradicts it, then they criticize the scientists or the work."
Both Kennett and Columbia's Broecker, are elected members of the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Science; near age peers, they are also old friends. Years ago, Broecker noted, Kennett published seminal discoveries on ancient climate shifts by studying cores drilled deep into the ocean floor.
Speaking graciously of Kennett, Broecker lauded his friend's early climate studies as extremely important. But when the comet theory came along, Broecker immediately was highly skeptical. Kennett repeatedly called him to lobby for the comet until Broecker cut him off saying he didn't want to hear about the theory anymore.
"It is all wrong," said Broecker, if not "very likely total nonsense. But he never gives up on an idea."
Kennett seems fixated on the Younger Dryas, Broecker added, "He won't listen to anyone. It's almost like a religion to him."
Acknowledging the dispute, Kennett said, "I know he thinks I'm wrong; maybe he'll change his mind someday."
About 20 years ago, Broecker noted Kennett had proposed a similarly wayward theory that a burst of methane from the ocean floor - sometimes called "a methane gun" - warmed the climate, ending the Younger Dyras.
"He pushed the methane-gun theory for years," said Broecker. "He predicted an enormous methane peak would be reflected in ice-core records. But there wasn't one; it was a ridiculous idea to begin with."
Then he switched to the beginning of the Younger Dryas, Broecker added, "He was determined to make a splash; it blinded his judgment."
Ironically, he may be making a different type of impact with his odd-couple collaboration with West.
West has no formal appointment at an academic institution. He has said he obtained a doctorate from a Bible college, but he won't describe it further. Firestone said West has told him he has no scientific doctorate but is self-taught. West's Arizona attorney refers to him in writing as: "A retired geophysicist who has had a long and distinguished career."
In the early 1990s, a new-age business West was involved in Sedona, Ariz., failed, and his well-drilling company went bankrupt. Then he ran afoul of California law in small Mojave Desert towns in a scheme with two other men, with court records saying they collected fees up to $39,500 for questionable groundwater reports.
He originally was charged with two felonies for falsely representing himself as a state-licensed geologist but agreed to a no contest plea to a single misdemeanor of false advertising as part of plea bargain in which state records say he was fined $4,500. Two other men in the scam also were sanctioned.
Acknowledging he made a mistake, West has sought to downplay the 9-year-old conviction. And last September, after his impact theory colleagues learned of it, he went back to court in Victorville, Calif., convincing a judge to void the old plea.
Comment: And what, exactly, does a 9-year-old conviction have to do with any of the scientific data that West has collected anyways? Again, we see that instead of tackling all of the data presented by West, Firestone, et al., they've chosen to discredit the messenger in a ad hominem style attack.
After earlier denying any impropriety with his Younger Dryas work, West declined a recent interview request. Last month, he wrote a letter charging it was "highly prejudicial and distorted" to bring up his legal past in the context of his current studies. He is a member of "a group of two dozen dedicated scientists performing cutting-edge, although controversial, research," he wrote.
Initially last year, Kennett was speechless when confronted with West's history. He and Firestone learned of it because of this reporter's questions. Since then, he has continued to collaborate and publish research with West. Within weeks of learning of West's background, Kennett pushed for news coverage last September of an article contending nanodiamonds in Greenland supported their comet theory. But the article didn't sway critics.
Today, Kennett won't discuss West's criminal past at all - saying West is "wonderful, an absolutely remarkable researcher." Firestone acknowledges West "did some strange things" but continues to defend that his work is above reproach.
Among the theory's critics, there are decidedly differing opinions.
"This is so far beyond the pale - outside of normal experiences in conducting science - you can't ignore it," Southern Illiois' Pinter said. Asked if he would collaborate with West, he said, "I would run screaming away."
And the three years and research dollars spent on the claim leave a bitter memory for some. "My response is not publishable," said Pinter.
Some academic institution needs to thoroughly examine the issue and answer the obvious questions that abound, critics say. Several said they already would have reported the events to administrators at their respective universities.
UCSB is the most likely institution to conduct a review, since Kennett used an NSF grant there on comet studies. But this will mean questioning an esteemed faculty member - Kennett - who is seen as having helped put the campus on the international scientific map.
Among those who believe a formal inquiry should be initiated to determine if there was any misconduct is Jeffrey Severinghaus, an isotopic chemist at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. An inquiry is the first level of such scrutiny; an investigation that could lead to sanctions would follow if the inquiry finds evidence of impropriety. Such probes have sniffed out questionable data from cases such as the rejected cold fusion claim and the false Korean assertion of cloning human embryos from stem cells.
"Wow," said Severinghaus upon hearing of the latest developments in the comet theory, which he initially doubted because of his earlier ice-core studies. "It certainly sounds like there is sufficient evidence to justify an initial inquiry."
Asked if he would seek such a move, he said, "Absolutely. It is really important to maintain the public trust in science. That means if there is a bad apple, it is rooted out and exposed."
Comment: These bozos lost the public trust when they let Climategate pass without demanding an inquiry. Talk about double standards!
Climategate Goes SERIAL: Now the Russians Confirm that UK Climate Scientists Manipulated Data to Exaggerate Global Warming
Climategate: CRU Was But the Tip of the Iceberg
Lobbyists who cleared 'Climategate' academics funded by taxpayers and the BBC
Bruce Hanley, UCSB's director of research compliance, declined to be interviewed, although in an email he wrote that UCSB "is extremely interested in maintaining a high level of integrity" in research, and has a formal process for review of "unacceptable research practices." Such a review is done confidentially.
Meanwhile, the next stop for the comet proponents' road show is Bern, Switzerland. In July, they are scheduled to present research to a major international conference that studies the last 2.5 million years, the quaternary.
With many leading impact scientists in Europe equally skeptical of the theory, their welcome may be as icy as that period often was.