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Extinction Oscillator

06/30/2009 12:58 PM

Here is an intriguing concept I have not encountered before, that idendifies a 62 million year extinction cycle, and associates that with our position in space with respect to the plane of the Milky Way. Sound far-fetched? Maybe. But, even though the article is apparently written by a reporter rather than a scientist, there does seem to be some reasonably sound mathematics behind this.

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_extinction_oscillator/

Anyone else come across a reference to this? Any opinions on the potential validity of such a concept?

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Guru
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#1

Re: Extinction Oscillator

06/30/2009 3:47 PM

The movie '2012, Science or Superstition' takes a look at this from the perspective of the end date of the Mayan calender, 12/21/2012. At that point our solar system will eclipse the dark matter at the center of our galaxy. It is also the end of the Piscean era, and the beginning of the Aquarian age. There seem to be many cycles, depending on what paradigm you pursue. Each cycle is called a kalpa, with many kalpas making a Great Kalpa, hence the 62 million year cycle. Just what astronomical/astrological significance this has is well represented in the movie by some well informed scientists and historical archaeologists. I'm not talking about the latest disaster flic, which will have the paranoid fundamentalists heading for the hills. No conclusions were drawn in the movie.

I didn't read the article, but it is not news to me, nor to a lot of other people who have kept quiet for the last 40 years or more.

Enjoy every day you find yourself on the right side of the dirt.

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Guru
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#2

Re: Extinction Oscillator

06/30/2009 5:34 PM

It's an interesting hypothesis. If nothing else, testing it will no doubt lead to some interesting new knowledge about the galaxy.

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Guru

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#3

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/01/2009 4:09 AM

Interesting concept.

Author says that:

Our sun is not only circling the center of our galaxy (1 rotation in 200 Myears),

it is also oscillating up and down the galactic symmetry plane with roughly 65 Myears period.

If up, then the next (big) cluster of galaxies is in this direction.

The shock wave from movement into this direction (two different high velocity gas clouds of very low density but 200 Km/s differential velocity) will generate particles and x-rays that might contribute to life extinction of species.

My thinking:

Gas and clouds merging with high velocity (200Km/s is not really high in astronomical sense) will not have enough impact and only low energy ions generated.

But any outside supermassive black hole - with its two jets of particles streaming out with roughly 2/3 of the velocity of light may be a massive threat if "we" pass below this shower.

May be other similar accelerators too will threat life.

Other extinction mechanisms are not excluded by this. (Merging of neutron stars in our galaxy).

RHABE

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#4

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/01/2009 7:19 AM

But, even though the article is apparently written by a reporter rather than a scientist

He may not be a paleontologist but.... from the bottom of the article....

Adrian Melott is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Kansas

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#5

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/01/2009 3:18 PM

The oscillation of our solar system through the plane of the Milky Way means that our solar system feels gravitational effects of the very large mass of the Galactic plane about every 31 million years. The discovery of the Chixalub asteroid evidence of the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago brought into focus the idea that large asteroids could be responsible for some of the known number of extinction events in past Earth history.

The article mentions cosmic rays as one possibility for a mechanism. A better possibility is perturbation of the orbits comets and asteroids at the outer edge of our solar system. Galactic gravity may well be disturbing their orbits every 31 million years, leading to a cyclical pattern in extinction events. If Galactic gravity tosses some comets or asteroids into the inner Solar System, then the possibility of an Earth hit rises. The entire cycle is 62 million years, and in each cycle, the Earth passes twice through the Galatic plane. Of course, some passings may not result in an asteroid hitting Earth, but during the 540 million years since life left the oceans, the pattern becomes visible. In like manner, the Earth passes through the path of debris from Comet Enke every November and June. Just as an example, the Tunguska event in Siberia occurred on June 30, 1908, and astronomy guys watch for meteorite showers during these two months. Thprobablilty of a hit like Tunguska, which fried 1200 square miles of forest and everything in it, rises every November and June, about a 6 month cycle.

If you are interested in these kinds of events, I recommend the Jet Propulsion Laboratory web site, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov I volunteer as a Solar System Ambassador for JPL. There are SSA's all over the world, and you might find one in your area by using the JPL site list.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/02/2009 11:04 AM

Good answer, Robert. An additional bit of information: The meteor collosions with earth that appear to occur every 60 to 65 million years also seem to produce periods of vulcanism that continue for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. Many species not killed in the initial impact event are killed during the massive eruptions and the severe climate changes produced.

And a personal theory of mine: One reason so many species die out during these climate fluctuations is because they have evolved in stable environments for sixty million years and therefore they have lost the ability to adapt.

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Bill Morrow
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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/02/2009 12:09 PM

I agree, the vulcanism is an excellent point. Thanks for adding that fact, since there is ample geologic evidence that it has occurred, especially in the largest mass extinction 420 million years ago when approximately 96% of all living things went extinct. Earth is somewhat like an egg, with a thin shell and lots of liquid lava underneath. Crack the shell and the lava come out in quantity.

I think Darwin would have liked your comment, as I did, recalling his famous quotation (approximately, from memory), "It is not the smartest or the strongest species who survive, but rather those species that adapt the most quickly to changes in their environment."

I like our chances since humans can build environments.

By the way, are you familiar with asteroid Apophis, due to make a near earth pass on Friday, April 13, 2029, and a possible though not too probable Earth strike on Friday April 13, 2036? (I'm not joking, it's actually Friday the 13th. Amazing.) Google the name "Apophis" for some interesting stories.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/02/2009 12:19 PM

I remember when Apophis was first discovered. For a while it was thought the probability of impact with earth was about 50%. That was scary.

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Extinction Oscillator

07/02/2009 4:18 PM

Hi,

your theory about stable environment and lost flexibility looks good.

Although this was never so stable if you look at the subdivisions.

What I am not sure: is survival by mere chance: between all the many species there are some that can survive in the new situation? Or are these really adapting very fast?

The volcanism I suspect has different origins as for the last one (60 to 65 M years ago) that formed the "Deccan Traps" in India was happening as the slowly drifting hot spot (that is now near the Seychelles) was below an oceanic crust fault line. This situation will extremely boost the amount of material that is brought to the surface. Maybe the other mass extinctions that are linked with volcanism have similar coincidences.

What is the probability that this is a coincidence that seems to be related but has different origins?

RHABE

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