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Chapter 13: Bang! 
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 Chapter 13: Bang!
Chapter 13: Bang!

Please either use this thread to discuss the above referenced chapter of "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.



Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:51 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
There have been a number of movies about asteroids hitting the earth, but I don't believe any of them included the detailed information Bryson provides us in this chapter.

Bryson opens the chapter with a description of, "the biggest thing that has ever occurred on the mainland United States". It has been determined that, 2.5 million years ago a 2 billion ton comet hit the earth at what is now Madison, Iowa, creating a hole three miles deep and twenty miles across! Today, of course there is no visible signs of the crater.

Bryson provides an interesting description of the earth/comet links that could give one cause for concern. Apparently there are literally millions of asteroids greater than ten meters that cross earth's path as it circles the sun. It has been estimated that there are some 2000 asteroids large enough to destroy civilization and perhaps millions large enough to destroy a city. IT's simply a matter of the earth and asteroid meeting at one particular spot at the same time in their orbits. Fortunately, with the solar system as large as it is, the impacts we experience are most likely to only take place in movie theatres!



Sat Jan 14, 2017 9:33 am
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
Well, despite the fact that a collision with a large asteroid can be called a remote chance, the effect that disaster would have on earth is still sobering, as is Bryson's judgment that, film heroics notwithstanding, we couldn't do squat to prevent it from hitting.

All in all, the chapters on earthquakes, asteroids, and volcanoes, as well as the one on infectious plagues, give me the sense that every new day of living is a gift. The "Dangerous World" section heading is apt.



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Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:11 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
Like this chapter, The earth is loaded with some pretty far out stuff. For instance; iridium, is very hard to come by which is one reason for the importance of the element. The fact that there is a very thin layer of clay loaded with iridium located in rock strata dated to 66 Mya is astounding evidence in favor of the late cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs by a very large asteroid.

After reading Don Prothero's "The Story of Life in 25 Fossils' It occurred to me that the big story of life is the planet Earth itself. The problem was finding a good follow up read to the Prothero book. Bryson is an excellent chronicler of events but its not field level research. I found Walter Alverez whom Bryson writes about in this chapter, has put out some interesting books of his own. The one I have been reading is "A Most Improbable Journey- A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves" The book covers what Alverez calls "Big History" a combination or collaboration between the humanities and sciences to form a comprehensive understanding or multi-disciplined knowledge of the history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity.

Its the geologic component that has my interest right now, how the earth evolved over billons of years is just wonderful and yet there are crackpots who insist that all this wonder is only 6600 years old. Mental discipline is an odd thing, particularly when it seems misplaced. To me its the physical science's that thrash The Book of Genesis.



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Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:37 am
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
Taylor wrote:
The one I have been reading is "A Most Improbable Journey- A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves" The book covers what Alverez calls "Big History" a combination or collaboration between the humanities and sciences to form a comprehensive understanding or multi-disciplined knowledge of the history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity.

Its the geologic component that has my interest right now, how the earth evolved over billons of years is just wonderful and yet there are crackpots who insist that all this wonder is only 6600 years old. Mental discipline is an odd thing, particularly when it seems misplaced. To me its the physical science's that thrash The Book of Genesis.



Thanks for the info on the Alverez book. I just read the description and reviews at Amazon. I will definitely be buying it. And on your other point. Neither can I understand why someone would hold onto these crazy notions about the age of the earth in order to, in part, rationalize biblical myths. As Dawkins says at the conclusion of "The Magic of Reality", "...the truth has a magic of its own. The truth is more magical - in the best and most exciting sense of the word - than any myth or made up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic: the magic of reality."



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Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:35 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
People sometimes depend on myths to anchor their culture, and they're not going to be talked out of them. It seems so incongruous to the rest of us, to see modern people gladly benefitting from the many advances of science, yet holding to a fiction as an explanation of how everything started. But there you have it. This conservatism isn't confined to Christian creationists. There has been antipathy between Native Americans and anthropologists caused by the conflict between tradition and science. The Native Americans (some, at least) don't want anthropologists telling them that they arrived in their ancestral homelands from Siberia 14,000 years ago, or that they only began herding sheep in the 1500s; they claim validity for their own narratives. The fact seems to be that myth has an ability to bind people to their group that science entirely lacks. Sometimes the mythical and scientific can co-exist, each in its own sphere, sometimes not.

Lev V has experience as a teacher with Native peoples in Canada. i wonder if he can comment on any of this.

I did have another thought on this chapter of the book. We've already seen several instances where a consensus of experts turned out to be wrong. In order even to have a history of science, this has to be the case, one theory held as the truth until overturned by innovators. It was heresy for many years to suggest that craters could have any other cause besides volcanoes. Then a few intrepid souls succeeded in proving that meteors had done the damage. These scientists were not even geologists; they had to buck the strong aura of the professional and academic geologists.
I'd like to ask Bill Bryson if in writing the book he formed an opinion about the value of scientific consensus.



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Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:11 am
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
Taylor wrote:
the big story of life is the planet Earth itself. The problem was finding a good follow up read to the Prothero book. Bryson is an excellent chronicler of events but its not field level research. I found Walter Alverez whom Bryson writes about in this chapter, has put out some interesting books of his own. The one I have been reading is "A Most Improbable Journey- A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves" The book covers what Alverez calls "Big History" a combination or collaboration between the humanities and sciences to form a comprehensive understanding or multi-disciplined knowledge of the history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity.

Its the geologic component that has my interest right now, how the earth evolved over billons of years is just wonderful


My top recommendation Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee


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Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:23 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 13: Bang!
Robert Tulip wrote:
My top recommendation Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee


Alvarez cites Ward and Brownlee's "Rare Earth Hypothesis" on page 125 of 'A Most Improbable Journey'. Interestingly Bryson doesn't cite either Ward or Brownlee in his Short History.

Based on my reading of the wiki link, I'm finding the 'Rare Earth Hypothesis' to be very agreeable.



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