November 24, 2004


upernova debris found on Earth (Mark Peplow, 11/02/04, Nature)

Cosmic fallout from an exploding star dusted the Earth about 2.8 million years ago, and may have triggered a change in climate that affected the course of human evolution. The evidence comes from an unusual form of iron that was blasted through space by a supernova before eventually settling into the rocky crust beneath the Pacific Ocean. [...]

When the iron-60 arrived from space, it was evenly distributed all over the Earth. But the signatures are only detectable in crust that has lain undisturbed for millions of years, such as certain parts of the Pacific Ocean floor. This particular crust was taken from an area a few hundred kilometres southeast of the Hawaiian Islands in 1980. It was collected by oceanographers who were investigating the rocks as a potential source of rare mineral ores.

Korschinek estimates that the supernova was between about 100 and 200 light years away and happened 2.8 million years ago, give or take 300,000 years. The explosion can't have been too close to Earth, or it would have delivered enough radiation to cause mass extinctions. Conversely, if the supernova was any further away, more of the iron-60 would have been filtered out by the thin wisps of matter drifting between the stars.

This means the supernova would have been at the right distance to spray out a stream of cosmic rays that could have increased the cloud cover on Earth. Korschinek calculates that there may have been 15% more cosmic rays arriving on Earth than normal for at least 100,000 years. This is not enough to actually kill anything, but was perhaps sufficient to change the Earth's climate.

The increase in cloudiness would have cooled the surface, tying up water as ice at the poles and leading to a dryer climate in Africa. Climate records in rock cores match the dates of the supernova event.

"Some people believe this climate change in Africa was a driving force in our own evolution," adds Korschinek.

Just right...

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2004 4:41 PM

Beginners luck.

Posted by: luciferous at November 24, 2004 4:44 PM

This supernova would have deposited nanograms of iron-60 per square meter of earth surface. Tricky to be sure of any modern measurement.

Posted by: pj at November 24, 2004 8:33 PM

It's inspiring to think of God turning to the Angels and saying, "Now, watch this..."

Posted by: M. Murcek at November 25, 2004 12:37 AM


If you're saying that this event is circumstantial proof of ID, then you're also saying that you believe that a supernova 200 lightyears away substantially changed the Earth's climate.

However, you've also said that setting at least two continents on fire would not substantially change the Earth's climate, i.e., "nuclear winter".

What gives ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 25, 2004 5:28 AM

Michael, do you honestly see *no* intelligence in the existence of the sole known life-filled planet in the universe? (Or the universe, itself, for that matter.)

I've never been a 10,000 year Creation kinda guy; but, when I asked these sorts of questions way back when, I picked up a rock and asked myself how I could believe it could be cooked into a primordial goo and then spontaneously turn into any form of life, especially *intelligent* life.

I didn't believe it, but the real question came down to where the (energy -- matter) came from in the first place.

(And before some wiseacre asks where God came from, unless your name is Bertrand Russell, you will admit that the universe exists, so believing that an infinite God has always been is probable, whereas a finite universe always being is not.)

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 25, 2004 6:49 AM


We couldn't change the climate sufficiently to punctuate the equilibrium. Nuclear Winter was a hoax.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2004 9:35 AM


Assuming an infinitely existing God solves nothing. Nor does presuming an infinitely existing universe.

Do you not see anything completely accidental in the only known life bearing planet in a universe seemingly created for the spectacle galaxies provide to their Creator?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 25, 2004 1:57 PM

When we design video games we make a person the shooter, not a star cluster.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2004 2:47 PM

Randall Voth:

In the first place, I am 100% confident that the Earth is not the only planet in the Universe to harbor intelligent life.

It's more likely that there are hundreds of millions of such planets.

However, the Universe is a staggeringly large place, and so we cannot be sure that humans will ever meet, interact with, or even definitively know of, any other intelligent beings.

The Earth and the Universe are really groovy, but even if we decide that God started everything in motion, it doesn't at all mean that She had to oversee every jot and tittle of formation.

We have been able to demonstrate in the laboratory that by adding energy to a mixture of amino acids, proteins are formed, from which life might be formed.

As for the Universe itself, sub-atomic particles are always being spontaneously created and destroyed in the flux of the void, where we observe hard vacuum; get enough matter and anti- bumping around, and a Universe's worth of energy might be formed.
Or, God might be causing those particles to appear and disappear. We dunno.


But a distant supernova WOULD "punctuate the equilibrium" ??
You profess to believe that weak forces can make a significant difference, and that strong forces cannot. Curious.

We can change the climate enough to kill most of the human race, and we even know what that looks like.
Google "supervolcanoes".

We'd merely be using human tools to imitate what nature has done to us before.

When you write that "Nuclear Winter was a hoax", I have to believe that you have some Orrin-specific definition of "nuclear winter", since even you have to admit that burning down two continents is likely to have some climatic effects.
Effects that would kill more than half of all currently living humans.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 25, 2004 3:46 PM

Michael -- your issue is with the active hand of God, then?

Because none of what you said explains where the "matter" and "anti-matter" came from.

I prefer the "set in motion" idea, myself. Where God is less active than people like to imagine.

But, the original question was about intelligence. Like the kind of intelligence that mixes energy with amino acids with purpose.

And, instead of being condescending, scientists should understand that once someone accepts that God exists, anything is possible for that person. (Even a 10,000 year Creation.)

I think *that* is the reason many scientists must believe there is no God -- because such faith is unacceptable to them. But it forces them to believe in the physical impossibility of a finite source of energy existing forever.

Or, simply ignoring it and calling Christians dolts.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 25, 2004 5:27 PM

Jeff -- I don't know what you think it doesn't solve.

Personally, I believe that the results of Creation are random, not accidental.

God set out to create someone he could commune with. I write a program, or build a table: nice stuff but not very interesting, because I created them. He made a system, not a product.

Out of his random possibilities, some people interest him and he delights in them. The rest are just by-products and cast off.

And, yes, it does solve something. For me it is a reasonable solution to the eternal, philosophical question of where did I come from.

It also explains why Moses knew that energy and light existed before the earth and the stars.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 25, 2004 5:37 PM

If he wanted to commune with, he should have treated us better. Even gods draw more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 25, 2004 10:12 PM

He started with a tribe of hundreds and currently has a following of a couple billion--even Darwin would say He's been selected.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2004 10:14 PM

He's treated me better than I deserve.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 26, 2004 12:58 AM


It doesn't solve the problem of Creation, invoking a Creator only creates a faux answer.

How you can find it reasonable your Creator casts aside some as being "uninteresting" is itself something of a mystery.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 26, 2004 11:50 AM


Seen a tiglon recently?

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2004 3:01 PM

Invoking a Creator invokes an image, which is what people want when they ask "why". An image of a draftsman sitting at his design table with his pencil, compass and T-square crafting out every detail of the universe, from the first dawn of light to the mosquito that will bite you on the cheek while you are driving to work, causing you to slap your cheek, losing your concentration for a moment long enough to plow into the car ahead of you, causing you to ask "why did that mosquito have to bite me just then?".

It has to be a human Creator because the only reason that a human can understand is a human reason. "Why" can only be answered with a human motivation. They don't want "The Truth", they want it explained in terms that take them into account as an individual. It was done for them. The mosquito bite was foreseen and designed into the equation eons ago so that they would learn something important. It is about validation.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 27, 2004 1:43 PM

Randall, as one of his Unchosen People, I cannot say the same.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 27, 2004 2:34 PM


Is that how you imagine the creator of the computer program you use or the creators of the Amerrican Republic or of the economy? There's no other aspect of life where folks petulantly insist on such thorougoing control by designers.

Posted by: oj at November 27, 2004 3:19 PM


Very well said. And it is the height of irony that such religionists accuse materialists of being self-centered.

Whether Islamists in their predestination, or invoking "in God's image" religion really is all about religionists.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 27, 2004 11:09 PM