There’s another round this week to a catastrophism story that seemed once to have all the ingredients for a single, big media splash. It should then have, perhaps, elicited follow-ups moving the ball forward. But like Comet Shoemaker-Levy that broke up and dribbled into Jupiter in near-identical (and spectacular to be sure) pieces, the evidence that a comet burst over or into N. America 12,900 years ago, wiping out mammoths and more, has bobbed up and down looking pretty much the same each time.
It’s getting less attention this time, but a few reporters have it. The Boston Globe‘s Colin Nickerson had it in yesterday (Tuesday May 25), describing the carnage that would’ve been left by the hypothesized force of million of hydrogen bombs lighting off in the atmosphere as the comet or other body broke up and some pieces smacked the earth — or the Laurentide ice sheet. A platoon or two of researchers is behind it. They say it may be why megafauna and the Clovis culture blinked out so fast. The sedimentary evidence is broad and intriguing.
They unveiled the idea last May at a large AGU meeting in Acapulco. The BBC and Observer in the UK jumped the gun with advance stories so the press conferences — lightly attended in any case — generated only a few more pieces. New Scientist also did it about then too. The Washington Post did it a few weeks later. Science magazine had a good news analysis a short while later. Discover Mag had a shorty too. The current attention comes as it’s out again this week in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Absent in nearly all the stories in this string is a strong effort to learn what researchers other than the authors think of this daring piece of evidence stitchery. Nickerson presents the idea well, and gets in one skeptical remark at the bottom. But he treats the story as though it is just now breaking. At least one more news kerplunk is heading our way soon. National Geographic TV has a special on the great American extinction due for broadcast on October 7. Maybe N. Geo will give it a dose of gimlet eye. This is such a cool idea it deserves a deeper analysis in the popular media. So far, it’s been groundhog day.
Other stories this week: Toronto Globe and Mail Anne McIlroy (brief);
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