May 6, 2009

The Garden of Acraman

Ah, the circle of life, via meteorites... or, to extend my title's biblical metaphor, The Big Space Rock Giveth, and The Big Space Rock Taketh Away. Just when powerful figures of questionable intelligence drop bombs like this, evolution finds a way to add mystique to the "where did we come from?" debate: it seems that the aftermath of metoeric impact on earth brings ample opportunity for a "global recovery event," or in the case of the Lake Acraman crater in south Australia, catalyst for the Cambrian Explosion. According to Charles Cockell, of the Centre of Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research, "an increase in [microbial] habitats is likely to be a common effect of impact," and the impact in Acraman could have facilitated the most important step in the evolution of life: the jump to complex, multi-cellular creatures. It probably took more than six days, but hell, it's better than the Adam's rib theory, and makes up for later meteor bretheren that wiped out dinosaurs (and everything else) in the K-T extinction event.

Naturalist writer Chris Cokinos touches on this and much more in The Fallen Sky, a big, comprehensive history of meteorites. (Fun Fact: the Willamette has a recrystallized structure with only traces of a medium Widmanstätten pattern!) He also writes that, during an interminable period he spent hunting for meteorites in the Antarctic, he found some inspiration in Queen guitarist Brian May's recent doctorate in astrophysics--really, who among us hasn't found inspiration in this?--which was based on the mystery and wonder of space dust, including small asteroids. May also co-authored a book titled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, with accompanying Red Special intro. Prince of the Universe, take me to the future of your world!

No comments:

Post a Comment