FURTHER THEORETICAL EXPLANATION
Several issues related to Ben's Antipodal Impact Theory
require additional explanation. This chapter will explore some of those issues.
IMPACT IN WATER VERSUS IMPACT ON LAND,
AS ARGUING THE NUMBER OF LARGE IMPACTS
There is a big
difference between a large impact that occurs on or near land and an impact
that occurs in deep water. Water tends to dissipate much of the impact effect
and deep water covers 50% to 60% of the planet.
The issue of whether an
impact occurs on or near land as opposed to deep water needs further
clarification for two reasons:
1. To establish the validity of this
argument, especially in the light of counter-assertion.
2. To explain
the number of large impacts that have had a truly devastating effect, as
opposed to just the total number of large impacts (impacts in deep water would
have a much smaller effect).
There are two specific arguments to rebut.
These arguments are:
1. ARGUMENT #1Impacts on land are LESS
likely to cause antipodal damage than impacts in deep water. A paper by
Jonathan T. Hagstrum in 2004 argues that large-body impacts could cause
antipodal hotspots, as well as hotspots at the original impact site (hotspot
pairs). Hagstrum's paper argues that there is a 99% confidence level that
antipodal hotspot pairs are not due to chance. Furthermore, the paper states:
"Because continental impacts are expected to
have lower seismic efficiencies, continents possibly acted as shields to the
formation of antipodal hotspot pairs." 6 pg 1
ARGUMENT #2There are too few extinctions to attribute them the effects of
cosmic impacts. A paper by Rosalind V. White in 2002 notes that:
"Statistical examination of craters on the Earth
and Moon demonstrates that Earth should receive a crater as big as Chicxulub
(180 km in diameter) on average every ca. 31 Myr (Hughes 1998)." 2 pg
Therefore, if big impacts produce big extinctions,
why have we only seen six major extinctions in the past 510 years, when we
should have seen approximately 16?
PROVIDING AN EXPLANATION
answers to these arguments are related, so I will address them both at once. I
believe that the answers to these riddles lie in the fact that more than 70% of
the surface of the Earth is covered with water (with 50% to 60% of the Earth's
surface covered with deep water) .
I believe that when a cosmic object
hits the water instead of the land, the water would absorb a significant amount
of the shock. Therefore, many of the impacts would not have transmitted as much
energy to the mantle, nor would they have caused as much energy transfer damage
at the antipodal area of the earth.
Certainly a large cosmic strike in
the ocean would produce some kind of crater and it would produce a prodigious
mega-tsunami, but mega-tsunamis still only cause regional damage. They don't
usually lead to extinction. It takes massive and persistent volcanism with its
attendant decades and centuries of volcanic winter to lead to massive
extinction. An interesting recent comparative example for the difference (on a
much smaller scale) between water (a loose substance) and rock (a hard
substance) is the story of the British army on the beaches of Dunkirk in France
At that time, Hitler's army had surrounded the British army
and was ready to drive them into the sea
with the possible loss of
almost all of Britain's trained troops. However, Adolf Hitler (prodded by his
air marshal, Herman Goering) ordered his Panzer tank divisions to stand down,
while the German air force bombed the British troops to pieces.
Unfortunately for Hitler, the loose sand absorbed much of the blast
effect from the bombs. Although many of the British troops were covered with
sand, relatively few were injured. The great majority of the British troops
were able to escape back to England on a jury-rigged flotilla of ersatz troop
Although Jonathan Hagstrum might believe that impact in water
would be more likely to form a hotspot at the antipode, I respectfully
disagree. Water has an amazing ability to reduce the impact effect of an
object. Water will direct much of the force in all directions (especially into
directions of least resistance), reducing the impact effect at the specific
impact point. For smaller impacts, a cosmic collision object wouldn't even
shock the ocean floor if it hit the Earth in deep water.
dissipating effect of water can best be understood by reading the following
report from www.loadammo.com. This report relays the results of U.S. military
testing of bullets fired directly into water in order to see if downed airmen
could escape the effects of enemy aircraft strafing at sea by diving under
water. The report focuses on .30 caliber armor piercing rounds (assault rifle
equivalents) and. 50 caliber armor piercing rounds (truly brutal high powered
bullets used primarily in devastating mounted machine guns and high-powered
"The Bureau of Ordnance conducted a series of
tests to determine depths of water required to give protection against .50
caliber and .30 caliber AP bullets fired from a few inches above the water. A
target of 1-inch pine boards was suspended at various depths with their surface
at right angles to the line of fire. The Complete penetration of a board was
considered a lethal impact. "When the .50 caliber bullet was fired vertically
downward, the critical distance for complete penetration was found to lie
between 4 ft. and 5 ft. Firing at oblique angles of 45 to 60 degrees from the
vertical reduced the lethal bullet travel by approximately 1 ft. When the .30
caliber bullet was fired vertically downward, complete penetration was observed
at 1 ft. but not at 2 ft. Based on these observations a person must be
submerged at least 5 ft. to feel reasonably safe from .50 caliber machine gun
fire and at least 2 ft. for .30 caliber machine gun fire." 7
Earlier in the report, it noted that soft-nose bullets
(the bullets tested in the report above were full-jacketed military bullets) do
not penetrate as well. Soft nose bullets also expand (and slow down some) and
Many or most of the large Earth impact objects would be more
similar to soft nose bullets than full-jacketed military bullets.
has strong stopping power, even from full-jacketed military bullets that are
aerodynamically shaped. Two feet of water can provide reasonable protection
from an assault rifle! And water is especially effective in slowing down soft
nose (like most impact objects) bullets coming in at an angle (like most cosmic
While most large cosmic impact objects hitting in deep water
would still have a big effect on the planet Earth, I don't believe that they
would be able to transfer enough energy to the antipode of the impact to cause
a major extinction event.
I believe that 50% to 60% of the large cosmic
impacts on Earth in the last 510 million years probably hit water that was deep
enough to effectively stop a major extinction event. Therefore, instead of
approximately 16 major extinction events, we would expect six to eight major
extinction events from the Cambrian to the present day.
science texts list six:
1. Cambrian 510 MYA
Ordovician 440 MYA
3. Devonian 365 MYA
4. Permian 250 MYA
5. Triassic 202 MYA
6. End-Cretaceous 65 MYA
OTHER ANTIPODAL THEORIES
book is not the first to name geological activity at the antipode of an impact
as a possible effect from a large cosmic object. Several scientists have noted
the convergence of earthquake forces at the antipode and have suggested that
this could cause geological activity.
However, none of those scientists
have been able to link antipodal impact activity to a major impact event in a
convincing manner (I hope to end that drought).
Nevertheless, there are
two groups of scientists who have brought a special insight into the subject.
Back in 2003, Dr. Michael Martin-Smith proposed the "Bullet Theory."
This theory posited major volcanic activity at the antipode of the Chicxulub
impact, as a result of the shock effect transmitted through the lithosphere and
As an intriguing sidelight, Dr. Martin-Smith (a medical
doctor who is a life-long amateur astronomer) noted that on the planet Mercury,
there is a large region of jumbled hills at the exact antipode of the huge
Caloris impact basin (1385 km in diameter). Dr. Martin-Smith also points out
the fact that Mercury has not had any volcanism for at least three billion
the region of hills (the size of France and Germany) is "ascribed
to a concentration of shock waves emanating from the Caloris Basin impact."
8 pg 4
I had to wonder: If a planet like Mercury (with no
liquid core for effective hydraulic energy transfer to a thin shell) could
uplift a portion of its crust at the antipode (albeit from a huge, huge
impact), then what could be uplifted on planet Earth, with its much more
inviting composition of a small, hard outer shell and a semi-liquid mantle?
The concept of using impact pressure to change the shapes of objects is
not new. It has long been used in metal fabrication, going back to blacksmiths
and even before that.
In particular, the screws, nuts, bolts and nails
that are commonly sold in hardware stores are formed by impact pressure (mostly
during the creation of the heads, but in the case of nuts, during the shaping
of the blank).
More apropos to the question at hand, the fastener
industry also uses special machines called "impact headers" to extrude metal at
the antipode of the impact by the hardened punch. And, in these cases, the
heading machines are moving solid steel, not just a thin (relative to the size
of the impacting force) layer of rock.
A major problem with the
position taken by Dr. Martin-Smith was his assertion that the Deccan traps were
located at the antipode of the Chicxulub impact within one degree. He made this
assertion with no acknowledgment that virtually all models and standard
accepted theory showed the Deccan traps as being located approximately 4000
miles away from the antipode.
Dr. Martin-Smith submitted his idea to
Scientific American, but they declined publication.
Looking back on his
work, I can see that he had some of the important factors identified, but
lacked a model that dealt with the Standard Theory's dispute of the location of
India. He also lacked a mechanism that was geologically viable.
David C. Weber, Tim S. Bennett and Charles E. Weber have done
useful work in the area of antipodal impacts, both on Earth and on other
planets. This trio wrote a paper entitled "A Theory for the origin of volcanoes
on Mars" in December of 2008. This paper hypothesized the proposition that:
the plateaus and volcanoes of Mars were
generated by the focusing of seismic waves from asteroid impacts on the exact
opposite side (antipode) of the planet. These impacts resulted in mechanical
waves that traveled concentrically outward from the impact and converged and
converged on the exact opposite side of Mars, which then caused major uplift
and eruption of magma on a large scale." 12
They find that the fact that the two biggest craters on Mars are antipodal to
two large bulges on the surface is too much to be just a chance occurrence.
This paper adds to the evidence for uplift on other planets as cited by
Going further, Charles Weber posted a paper entitled
"Lava Flows and Traps from Antipode Disruption by Meteorite Impacts."
The paper notes that the "association of lava flows opposite meteorite
impacts would require an extremely improbable coincidence." This paper also
states that there is much confusion regarding trenches and plate tectonic
movement. 13 Also noted in the paper is the fact that antipodal
impact effects have been bruited about since 1975:
"It has been proposed by David Weber that
concentration of seismic waves from a meteorite impact at the antipode
(opposite side of a sphere) on the Earth could be the cause of many of the
massive lava floods of the past. Schultz and Gault proposed antipodal
disruption on the moon by impacts as early as 1975. Hughes, et. al, believe the
affects are more violent in a liquid planet (Hughes). Antipodal disruption was
proposed as possible by Watts, et. al. in 1991 (Watts) and Boslough, et. al.,
wrote of simulations of that process in 1995 (Boslough). The strong correlation
of the bulges and associated volcanoes on Mars and Mercury with large impact
craters on the opposite side makes this hypothesis very credible."
A recent (3/28/10) paper by David Charles
Weber is entitled "Meteors, focused quakes, core plumes, super-volcanoes and
extinction 65 Ma."
This paper makes the case that the antipode of the
Chicxulub impact was just off the northern coast of Australia, near its eastern
edge. As the Australian continent moved north, it moved over the antipodal
hotspot of the Chicxulub impact. This hotspot then created the string of
volcanoes and lava fields that run down Australia's eastern side.
reasoning given for the location of the antipode of the Chicxulub impact is
startlingly similar to my own. We even come up with reasonably similar antipode
positions (mine 21ºS, 132ºW in my conservative version and the same
after land displacement in my speculative version: his 37ºS, 143ºW).
However, there is a significant difference in the mechanisms that we
used to determine the movement of the North American plate so that the
Chicxulub impact ends up in the right place (besides the much bigger factor
that my antipodal hotspot creates the Deccan traps and the Indonesian Islands,
while his antipodal hotspot stands still and has eastern Australia pass over
Weber says that there has been a slowdown of the North American
plate as illustrated by the volcanic calderas of the Yellowstone hotspot as the
North American plate passes over it. The older distances between the
Yellowstone calderas showed a much faster moving (in a westerly direction)
North American plate.
Weber's position assumes that hotspots are
stationary and plates just move over them. I don't assume this. My assumption
is that both plates and hotspots move and, furthermore, hotspots can move more
slowly as they grow long in the tooth.
Therefore, in my opinion, the
Yellowstone hotspot may not be telling us much.
Weber and I also have
some disagreement about the nature of the forces that cause the hotspots. I see
the forces as a two-step process. The first step involves the focusing of
earthquake waves at the antipode of the impact. This focusing effect pulverizes
the lithosphere in that area and eliminates any need for upwelling lava to
spend any energy shearing the rock. The rock has already been sheared and
The second step involves a strong pulse of pressure on the
liquid material in the mantle at the boundary of the mantle and the core.
The incredibly strong shear waves will cause the mantle material to
temporarily lose its frictional resistance, allowing the liquid material to
shoot to the underside of the lithosphere. If the impact is big, but not too
big, the pressure will find relief in creating a plume.
If the impact
is really big, the pressure can find relief only by additionally uplifting a
continent, as well as spewing forth lava at the antipode (but that's a subject
for the more speculative section of this book).
Weber also sees the
force as waves. These waves transfer pressure and focus it at the antipode. As
he states in his hypothesis:
"The volcanoes occurred at the antipode of the
Yucatan impact by the focusing of mega earthquake waves, which both cracked the
crust and created a core plume 14 pg 1 However, Weber
is not able to present a mechanism that would account for the plume shooting up
to the underside of the lithosphere. His version of a hotspot is static and not
Again, he sees the hotspot as moving along the coast
of Australia in a southeast direction and then suddenly moving to the
south-southwest down the Great Dividing Range before bleeding out in the West
Victoria plains. More properly speaking, he sees the hotspot standing
stationary while the continental tectonic plate move over it in this manner. He
does not see the Chicxulub impact as the cause-and-effect creator of the Deccan
MICHAEL RAMPINO & GEORGE WILL
Other well-known figures have looked at impacts, extinctions and
Michael Rampino of New York University has cited
volcanism as a big player in major extinctions. However, he has concerns about
whether the volcanism is truly connected to the impacts. Specifically, he is
concerned that some of the volcanism at the Deccan traps predates the Chicxulub
impact event. 34
It is true that there has been some basalt
lava found to the north of the Deccan traps dating to 72 MYA and some near the
Deccan traps dated to 68 MYA. Nevertheless, the vast outpouring that makes up
the Deccan traps dates to 65 MYA, the same time as the Chicxulub impact.
With an area as vast as the Deccan Traps, it is not
surprising that there was some volcanism near it or in it in the preceding
several millions of years. Few large areas on Earth are free of all volcanism
over a five or ten million year period.
Even noted columnist George
Will has written about the controversies surrounding the impacts and
extinctions in a column on 12/31/09. He focuses on a possible 300 mile wide
crater called Shiva that is located off western India and could have accounted
for the sudden surge of the Indian plate movement to 15 to 20 centimeters per
year. However, there are questions as to whether Shiva is even a crater and, if
it is, is it 65 million years old?
Although I have developed a
completely different scenario for India's rapid movement and its starting
location (again, to be explored even more fully in Section II), George Will's
comments about India's sudden increase in speed led me to look at the
possibility of India being located at the antipode in a different way
way that involved directional energy. 35
THE NATURE OF THE VOLCANISM
The basic nature of the volcanism at the Deccan traps is what is called
flood basalt lava. Flood basalt lava is not considered to be explosive. It is
not usually associated with high levels of toxic fumes or clouds of ash.
The volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands were created by a hotspot. The
usual volcanic lava that comes out of the Hawaiian Islands is flood basalt
lava. It is pretty tame lava.
One of the objections to the idea that
volcanism at the Deccan traps was the prime cause of the End-Cretaceous
extinction is based upon the fact that the lava at the Deccan traps is flood
basalt lava. How could this wimpy, tame lava be responsible for a major mass
There are several factors to consider in analyzing this
seeming paradox. But first, let's remember the vast nature of this huge lava
field. The volume of basalt lava at the Deccan traps originally covered as much
as 600,000 square miles (that's a rectangle 600 miles long and 1,000 miles
wide) and contained 12,275 cubic miles of lava. The eruption at Mount St.
Helens produced less than half a cubic mile of lava.
Therefore, the factors to consider are:
1. The Magnitude of the Eruptions - There was
25,000 times more lava produced by the Deccan traps than by Mount St. Helens.
That's more than four orders of magnitude difference. This was a truly
2. The Power of the Eruptions - The initial eruptions had
so much energy behind them that they could not have been the sedate, smoothly
flowing streams of flow basalt lava that are seen in Hawaii. Even normally tame
flow basalt lava would have been spewed thousands of feet into the atmosphere.
3. Water - The proximity to the ocean and the severely cracked rock
near the antipode could have let water seep into the lower reaches of the
upwelling. Once water, which can violently transform to steam, is introduced,
eruptions can become truly spectacular.
of these three factors provide plenty of reasons for suspecting that the lava
flows at the Deccan traps spread massive amounts of gas, ash and rock into the
and it continued in a furious manner for 100,000 years, with
still strong eruptions continuing for as long as one million years.
PRINCETON WEIGHS IN
who still have doubts that the persistent volcanism from the Deccan traps was
the cause of the End-Cretaceous mass extinction, Gerta Keller of the Department
of Geosciences at Princeton University has some telling analysis, as explained
in an article entitled "The Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction, Chicxulub
Impact and Deccan Volcanism." She writes:
"Data generated from over 150
Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) boundary sequences to date make it clear that the
long-held belief in the Chicxulub impact as the sole or even major contributor
to the KT mass extinction is not supported by evidence. The stratigraphic
position of the Chicxulub impact ejecta spherules in NE Mexico and Texas and
the impact breccia within the crater on Yucatan demonstrate that this impact
predates the KTB by about 300,000 years." 114
Writing about the Deccan traps, she continues: "The main phase of eruptions
occurred rapidly, was marked by the longest lava flows spanning 1500 km across
India, and ended coincident with the KT boundary. The KT mass extinction may
have been caused by these rapid and massive Deccan lava and gas eruptions that
account for ~80% of the entire 3500 m thick Deccan lava pile." 114
I can't help but note that the truly explosive aspects of the Deccan
traps may not have come initially. The more explosive part of the eruptions may
have occurred a few hundreds of thousand years later, when water-soaked crust
that was subducted in the path of the moving continent at the Deccan traps
finally came into play (just like, on a smaller scale, the mega-supervolcanic
eruption of Lake Toba 74,000 years ago). This spectacularly explosive result
may have been the vehicle that created a volcanic night lasting for millenia,
choking off the light from the sun and plunging the earth into a brutal period
of cold lifelessness.
Even more telling is a story entitled "Global
wildfires Did Not Kill the Dinosaurs" in spacedaily.com on Dec. 11, 2013, which
reports on research by a team from Royal Holloway, University of London and
members of the Canadian Geological Survey and University of Calgary. This story
says that new analysis shows that the Chicxulub impact could not have killed
the dinosaurs by means of excessive thermal radiation. At first, scientists
assumed that the impact would have raised ground temperatures to around 1000
degrees centigrade, igniting global forest fires and killing most of the land
animals. However, new NERC funded research shows that there is no ash layer
evidence supporting such a conclusion.
Team leader Claire Belcher
"The research we have carried out suggests that
the amounts of thermal radiation released by the impact of an asteroid with the
earth 65 million years ago, were not as significant as previously thought, and
the energy component of the K-T event was not responsible for the extinctions
seen at this time." 128
The article concludes:
"Belcher hopes that research may now focus on addressing other hypotheses,
which may explain the extinction patterns and disruptions seen at this time,
including the death of the dinosaurs." 128
Well, if they want
a new hypothesis, I just happen to have one right here!