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Sun's rays to roast Earth as poles flip
The Observer (U.K.) ^ | 11/10/2002 | Robin McKie

Posted on 11/09/2002 5:59:37 PM PST by Pokey78

Earth's magnetic field - the force that protects us from deadly radiation bursts from outer space - is weakening dramatically.

Scientists have discovered that its strength has dropped precipitously over the past two centuries and could disappear over the next 1,000 years.

The effects could be catastrophic. Powerful radiation bursts, which normally never touch the atmosphere, would heat up its upper layers, triggering climatic disruption. Navigation and communication satellites, Earth's eyes and ears, would be destroyed and migrating animals left unable to navigate.

'Earth's magnetic field has disappeared many times before - as a prelude to our magnetic poles flipping over, when north becomes south and vice versa,' said Dr Alan Thomson of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh.

'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon.'

For more than 100 years, scientists have noted the strength of Earth's magnetic field has been declining, but have disagreed about interpretations. Some said its drop was a precursor to reversal, others argued it merely indicated some temporary variation in field strength has been occurring.

But now Gauthier Hulot of the Paris Geophysical Institute has discovered Earth's magnetic field seems to be disappearing most alarmingly near the poles, a clear sign that a flip may soon take place.

Using satellite measurements of field variations over the past 20 years, Hulot plotted the currents of molten iron that generate Earth's magnetism deep underground and spotted huge whorls near the poles.

Hulot believes these vortices rotate in a direction that reinforces a reverse magnetic field, and as they grow and proliferate these eddies will weaken the dominant field: the first steps toward a new polarity, he says.

And as Scientific American reports this week, this interpretation has now been backed up by computer simulation studies.

How long a reversal might last is a matter of scientific controversy, however. Records of past events, embedded in iron minerals in ancient lava beds, show some can last for thousands of years - during which time the planet will have been exposed to batterings from solar radiation. On the other hand, other researchers say some flips may have lasted only a few weeks.

Exactly what will happen when Earth's magnetic field disappears prior to its re-emergence in a reversed orientation is also difficult to assess. Compasses would point to the wrong pole - a minor inconvenience. More importantly, low-orbiting satellites would be exposed to electromagnetic batterings, wrecking them.

In addition, many species of migrating animals and birds - from swallows to wildebeests - rely on innate abilities to track Earth's magnetic field. Their fates are impossible to gauge.

As to humans, our greatest risk would come from intense solar radiation bursts. Normally these are contained by the planet's magnetic field in space. However, if it disappears, particle storms will start to batter the atmosphere.

'These solar particles can have profound effects,' said Dr Paul Murdin, of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. 'On Mars, when its magnetic field failed permanently billions of years ago, it led to its atmosphere being boiled off. On Earth, it will heat up the upper atmosphere and send ripples round the world with enormous, unpredictable effects on the climate.'

It is unlikely that humans could do much. Burrowing thousands of miles into solid rock to set things right would stretch the technological prowess of our descendants to bursting point, though such limitations do not worry film scriptwriters. Paramount's latest sci-fi thriller, The Core - directed by Englishman Jon Amiel, and starring Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart - depicts a world beset by just such a polar reversal, with radiation sweeping the planet.

The solution, according to the film, to be released next year, involves scientists drilling into Earth's mantle to set off a nuclear blast that will halt the reversal.

Given that temperatures at such depths rival those of the Sun's surface, such a task would seem impossible - except, of course, in Hollywood.

robin.mckie@observer.co.uk


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: catastrophism; geomagnetism; georeactor; jmarvinherndon; poleshift
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And the liberals and Euro-snots will blame this on President Bush.
1 posted on 11/09/2002 5:59:37 PM PST by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
France just surrendered.

Yay, I got it in first.
2 posted on 11/09/2002 6:00:48 PM PST by Mike Fieschko
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To: Pokey78
Women, minorities hardest hit.
3 posted on 11/09/2002 6:01:53 PM PST by GodBlessRonaldReagan
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To: Pokey78
Will this impact school lunch programs?
4 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:10 PM PST by shadowman99
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To: Pokey78
And the evil corporate giants.
5 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:44 PM PST by fleur-de-lis
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To: Pokey78
An AHHHHHHH. WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!! bump
6 posted on 11/09/2002 6:03:57 PM PST by Tribune7
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Pokey78
I'm waiting, BREATHLESSLY for Algore's reflection on this. Wasn't he the one who wanted to put a big nirror/satellite in space so that we could observe our world? Maybe we could add a couple of big solar-powered electo-magnets above the poles to stabalize them? Time for the tin-hat brigade!
8 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:14 PM PST by SES1066
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To: Pokey78
Maybe an asteroid will slam us first.
9 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:52 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Pokey78
I guess it is time to pack up and leave this stinkin rock.
10 posted on 11/09/2002 6:07:55 PM PST by KevinDavis
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To: Pokey78
CURSES - Editorial correction to Nirror!
I'm waiting, BREATHLESSLY for Algore's reflection on this. Wasn't he the one who wanted to put a big mirror/satellite in space so that we could observe our world? Maybe we could add a couple of big solar-powered electo-magnets above the poles to stabalize them? Time for the tin-hat brigade!
11 posted on 11/09/2002 6:08:24 PM PST by SES1066
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To: Pokey78
Heh, anyone with a simple understanding of electricity and magnetism could debunk this garbage. Its amazing how often it crops up though.

Leave it to a brit to write about it.
12 posted on 11/09/2002 6:11:03 PM PST by DaisyCutter
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To: Pokey78
I just got over the Global Warming scare & now THIS! Rozanne Rozanadana was right "its always something".
13 posted on 11/09/2002 6:11:55 PM PST by Ditter
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To: Pokey78
Hell, sleep next to a nuke reactor for a year:
http://lokibob.bravepages.com/greenland.html

Thats when you need the tin foil and lead lined BVD's.
14 posted on 11/09/2002 6:12:37 PM PST by Lokibob
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To: Pokey78
All due in fact to Hillary's magnetic personality. If we put her on one pole, and Bill on the other, all would stabilize.
15 posted on 11/09/2002 6:13:51 PM PST by blackdog
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To: Pokey78
'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon.'


Really,Reversals happen every 250K years but it has not happen in the last million. Boy that makes sense.
16 posted on 11/09/2002 6:14:34 PM PST by Rodm
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To: Pokey78
Dang it, I warned you people about Y3K, but was anybody listening? Noooooooo....
17 posted on 11/09/2002 6:15:05 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Tribune7
Tin foil hat time, I always suspected that Atlantis is under one of the poles due to a pole flip. There is an accurate map that was found detailing the actual land mass that is buried under the miles of ice on the north pole (the actual land mass looks nothing like the ice sheet that covers it). The map is hundreds of years old and scientist weren't able to verify accuracy of the map until this century. It is an unsolved mystery how the map could exist. So, maybe crust flipping is not so strange afterall.
18 posted on 11/09/2002 6:16:06 PM PST by BushCountry
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To: Timesink
OOH! OOH! let me guess.

Is it because the satellites are not in the upper atmosphere? Could it be that the satellites are in orbit above the upper atmosphere and thus exposed to those cosmic rays and operating still?

Will Earth survive?
Will Kevin and Fiona be married before they find out they are brother and sister, separated at a young age when Fiona was stolen by a roving band of crazed DUers?

Film at eleven.

19 posted on 11/09/2002 6:16:53 PM PST by woofer
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To: Pokey78
OK. Should I buy, or sell stock? I always get confused when the poles flip!



20 posted on 11/09/2002 6:18:32 PM PST by lawdude
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To: VadeRetro
If we get lucky. I, for one, will be stocking up on foods packed in tin cans. Two birds with one stone.
21 posted on 11/09/2002 6:18:57 PM PST by lizma
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To: Pokey78
It's more like the earth develops several poles (some measurements show as many as 8 poles in the past) during the reversal. It doesn't go away completely. Just fear mongering. I'd worry about gravity reversing polarity - then you have problems!
22 posted on 11/09/2002 6:19:38 PM PST by Gary Boldwater
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To: VadeRetro
"...Maybe an asteroid will slam us first..."

I say we should start shooting nukes at the other planets in the solar system now, while we still can.

Yeah... Mark 'em up... F*** 'em up good...

Let any alien space-trash who wander by after we're gone know that we were some mean mofos...

Yeah, and leave a booby-trap for them too...

23 posted on 11/09/2002 6:19:46 PM PST by DWSUWF
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To: Ditter
I just got over the Global Warming scare & now THIS! Rozanne Rozanadana was right "its always something".

And the piece de resistance:

This doomsday scenario is BACKED UP BY COMPUTER MODELS!!!!

I laugh! I spit in their faces! Computer models indeed. Ha! Ha ha! ha ha ha!!

Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

It's finally penetrating even to the dullest media persons and to some of our "scientists" that the global warming computer models are garbage. Now we have Pole Reversal Models which also will be garbage.

Has anyone notified Poland about this?

24 posted on 11/09/2002 6:20:59 PM PST by Ole Okie
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To: Pokey78
You need AFSBRRS.

Time to breakout my aluminum foil space blanket radiation reflection suits.
25 posted on 11/09/2002 6:21:09 PM PST by MedicalMess
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To: BushCountry
north pole

Ummm... South pole. :-) There is only water under the north pole. That map was the Piri Reis map.

26 posted on 11/09/2002 6:23:41 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Pokey78
Tin foil can protect you.
27 posted on 11/09/2002 6:25:10 PM PST by Principled
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To: Pokey78
Im buying sun-tan lotion stock
28 posted on 11/09/2002 6:25:51 PM PST by woofie
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To: Pokey78
Yep, and scientists thought the world was flat, too.
29 posted on 11/09/2002 6:28:19 PM PST by gramho12
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To: Rodm
Really,Reversals happen every 250K years but it has not happen in the last million. Boy that makes sense.

That's what I was thinking...we must be about 750,000 years overdue for one...

30 posted on 11/09/2002 6:28:50 PM PST by Amelia
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To: Pokey78
For Sale: Compass

Located in North South Dakota.

31 posted on 11/09/2002 6:32:10 PM PST by FreedomFarmer
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To: Pokey78
In addition to the pole flipper we also have to deal with this:

Big Super V Coming Soon About 2007 or so ....

Scary stuff indeed. Yawn. Oh, well, me thinks I'll get me a beer.

32 posted on 11/09/2002 6:33:20 PM PST by ex-Texan
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To: Pokey78
"On Mars, when its magnetic field failed permanently billions of years ago, it led to its atmosphere being boiled off."

Did you say, "Boiled off"? This is serious.

Maybe we could construct a large, heat resistant plastic cover in the stratosphere, covering the entire earth like a giant beach ball. Then we could erect a gigantic air conditioning unit to keep the temperatures down. That might do it.

33 posted on 11/09/2002 6:36:19 PM PST by Savage Beast
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To: Pokey78
I just checked my magnet. Damn! It's spinning around! Oh woe is me. A world where Democrats become Republicans, reversing their polarity!
34 posted on 11/09/2002 6:36:28 PM PST by Arkie2
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To: Pokey78
"'Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon.' "

Is it me, or are geologists just not very good at math? :-)

35 posted on 11/09/2002 6:36:52 PM PST by Lloyd227
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To: ex-Texan
Oh, I'm sorry, didn't post the best link.

Super V Another Site Yep. 2007 is the date.

Pop! Ummmm. Good Beer. Burp.

36 posted on 11/09/2002 6:36:58 PM PST by ex-Texan
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To: Gary Boldwater
Would just like to point out the sun is an uncontrolled fusion reaction that spews its waste products at earth. You have a better chance of getting cancer from an 8 hour over exposure to the sun than living next to Three Mile Island for 8 lifetimes. Go eco! Go solar! hahahaaaa!!!
37 posted on 11/09/2002 6:37:14 PM PST by Gary Boldwater
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To: RadioAstronomer
Thanks, sorry it was the coast of Anartica. The Piri Reis map suggests according to the Hab theory that the crust shifts every 6000 years.

Quick frozen mammoths found in the permafrost, upright with undigested tropical grasses, and still edible. : )

38 posted on 11/09/2002 6:37:39 PM PST by BushCountry
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To: Pokey78
And then there are those who think Mother Earth is a nuclear reactor. Who knows. Though the evidence for the ancient natural Oklo reactor is generally accepted.

From Giant Nuke May Run Earth's Magnetic Field

United Press International  PHIL BERARDELLI, UPI Deputy Science and Technology Editor   06/06/2002

Jun 05, 2002 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Thousands of miles beneath our feet, a giant nuclear reactor seems to be at work deep within Earth's core, and preliminary research suggests it may be the mysterious power source behind the planet's magnetic field and thermal energy, upon which all life on the planet depends for its survival, scientists told United Press International.

New data analyzed by J. Marvin Herndon, geoscientist and president of Transdyne Corporation, of San Diego, Calif., and Daniel F. Hollenback, a nuclear engineer and criticality expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., show the reactor -- a ball of uranium about five miles in diameter and located at the center of the core -- may have been operating nearly since the formation of the planet.

Herndon told UPI he has been searching for evidence of the deep-Earth reactor for more than a decade. In 1992, he published a series of papers on planet-sized nuclear reactors based on the discovery, 20 years earlier, of the remnants of a large, natural reactor located at the Oklo uranium mine in the Republic of Gabon in western Africa.

French scientists had discovered the Oklo reactor and determined it had operated for tens of thousands of years some two billion years ago, Herndon said, "but at the time of its discovery there were too many pieces missing to know what that really meant."

Nuclear reactors operating inside planetary cores might explain some mysteries that have puzzled scientists for years, Herndon said. For example, since the 1960s, astronomers have known Jupiter radiates nearly twice the energy it receives from the Sun. But up to now, they have not been able to explain the phenomenon in a way that makes sense, he said.

Earth's magnetic field is an even bigger mystery. Some mechanism obviously generates the field, and many scientists think the field is formed from fluid iron in Earth's main outer core acting like a giant electric dynamo, or motor. The geomagnetic field, as it is called, shuts down periodically and sometimes reverses its polarity -- with the North and South poles exchanging their magnetic charges.

The energy sources previously thought to power the dynamo are unable to decrease and then increase again, Herndon explained, so scientists have had to resort to assuming the dynamo mechanism is inherently unstable. But a nuclear reactor can decrease power output -- and even shut itself down -- and come back to life again, increasing to its full operating power, he said.

Current knowledge of the structure of Earth's interior is derived mainly from seismic data and chemical analyses of common meteorites, Herndon continued. Based on that data, scientists estimate about 30 percent of Earth's mass comprises an outer core, he said, which is thought to consist of iron and maybe one or more lighter elements such as sulfur.

The solid inner core is much smaller -- less than 2 percent of Earth's mass.

Still, current popular geophysical models cannot explain, from an energy standpoint, a planet-sized magnetic field that operates like Earth's -- with its varying power levels and periodic shutdowns, Herndon said.

Herndon said he received a major insight when he studied a different type of meteorite. Enstatite chondrite meteorites, as they are called, have chemical compositions similar to Earth's interior. Unlike more common meteorites, enstatite chondrite meteorites contain most of their uranium in the part of the meteorite that corresponds to Earth's core.

It was one of the clues Herndon needed, he said. Uranium is the heaviest natural element. It makes sense that, over time, solid uranium particles would rain out from Earth's fluid core at high temperatures. Because of their high density, they could collect at the very center of the Earth. After enough uranium collected together, a nuclear reaction would begin, and that appears to be what happened very soon after the formation of the planet.

In 1997, Herndon teamed up with Hollenbach at Oak Ridge. The laboratory has unique computer programs that can analyze the performance of different types of nuclear reactors.

"Dan showed me those numerical simulation programs could be applied to a nuclear reactor at the center of the Earth," Herndon said. "We used data about the uranium content from the meteorite discoveries to generate simulations at varying power levels."

A highly persuasive clue arrived in the form of physical evidence of a nuclear reactor at Earth's core. Recently analyzed samples of lava rock from deep-source volcanic "hot spots" in Hawaii and Iceland contained tiny amounts of the isotopes helium-3 and helium-4.

Although scientists have known about the helium-3 for some time, they have thought it was left over from Earth's formation some four-and-a-half billion years ago. But no known physical process could produce helium-3 except for nuclear fission, Herndon said, and the proportion of the two helium isotopes matches the prediction of the Oak Ridge simulation. This is strong evidence that the geo-reactor is at work, he said.

Based on the simulations, and the helium evidence, Herndon and Hollenbach theorize a five-mile-wide ball of uranium has been operating as a nuclear reactor for about 4.5 billion years. Its output is an awesome 4 million megawatts. Much of the energy it produces is heat, and that might be what powers the mechanism that produces the geomagnetic field, Herndon said.

Perhaps more interesting, the Oak Ridge programs suggest the reactor is a breeder -- that is, it actually produces more nuclear fuel than it consumes, which is why it has been able to operate over a time frame that spans nearly the entire existence of the planet. In addition, the reactor's power level varies in intensity over time and it shuts down periodically.

A nuclear reactor continuously produces lighter elements, such as strontium or barium, as the uranium fuel fissions -- or splits apart. Those fission fragments would begin to absorb neutrons -- the subatomic particles naturally emitted by the fissioning uranium and responsible for the chain reaction -- thereby preventing them from splitting other atoms.

"One might imagine instances in which the rate of production of fission products exceeds their rate of removal by gravitationally driven diffusion," Herndon wrote in a recent paper on the subject. If so, he explained, "the power output of the geo-reactor would decrease and the reactor might eventually shut down, thereby diminishing and ultimately shutting down the Earth's magnetic field."

Over time, as the lighter elements moved away from the uranium core, the reactor would restart.

The research is "certainly going to be a major contribution to geophysics," Hatten S. Yoder, Jr., director emeritus of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., told UPI. "They have developed an explanation for (Earth's) magnetic field and the fact that you can turn it on and off."

One of the most remarkable aspects of the planetary core reactor, Yoder said, is "it only takes a (five-mile) ball of uranium. That's only 65 percent of all the uranium on Earth."

The reactor's existence, if proven, solves the problem of delayed geothermal cooling and explains the observed heat flow, Yoder said. Without a continuing power source, he said, the heat dissipation would have ended long ago. But "if you have a ball of uranium at the center, it would continue to put out heat."

Herndon said he next plans to search lava samples for traces of radioactive elements that might have been produced by the geo-reactor and be light enough to have escaped the core and reach Earth's surface. Lithium, beryllium, boron and neon are possibilities, he said.

"It's not an easy task because both rock data and nuclear data are needed, but it certainly is important," Herndon said.

Yoder agreed. "High-temperature and high-pressure experiments are needed to test the composition and melting characteristics of the core," he said.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

39 posted on 11/09/2002 6:37:40 PM PST by pttttt
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To: Mike Fieschko
This could be series!
40 posted on 11/09/2002 6:40:10 PM PST by MHGinTN
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To: Pokey78
Will my 401k be the same or will I owe the same as it will be a recriprocal? Please to help me with a person with experiance of this!!!!
41 posted on 11/09/2002 6:40:30 PM PST by Atchafalaya
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To: MedicalMess; Principled

42 posted on 11/09/2002 6:41:58 PM PST by fone
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To: 2sheep
Having another beer ....>

Talking Beer Opener Saves the Day!

Pop ! Glug... glug. Burp.

43 posted on 11/09/2002 6:43:48 PM PST by ex-Texan
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To: Atchafalaya
96% of mutual funds have had tragic losses. All my broker buddies crashed and burned. By 2007 we may all be toast anway. Check the SuperV link above.

I suggest you stop worrying and have a beer.

44 posted on 11/09/2002 6:49:05 PM PST by ex-Texan
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To: fone
Oh yeah! fone comes thru with the tin foil Hurley!
45 posted on 11/09/2002 6:52:00 PM PST by Principled
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To: Ole Okie
I laugh! I spit in their faces! Computer models indeed. Ha! Ha ha! ha ha ha!!

Indeed, reminds of the old saw about computer simulation...it's just like masterbation; you know the outcome over time...

46 posted on 11/09/2002 6:52:53 PM PST by Atilla_the_Hun
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To: BushCountry
"Quick frozen mammoths found in the permafrost, upright with undigested tropical grasses, and still edible."

Whats still edible, the mammoths or the tropical grasses?
47 posted on 11/09/2002 6:55:36 PM PST by dalereed
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To: DWSUWF
Let any alien space-trash who wander by after we're gone know that we were some mean mofos... I know just the man for the job:

Spaceman Spiff! Spaceman Spiff! Earth Needs You !

48 posted on 11/09/2002 6:56:25 PM PST by Skooz
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To: Pokey78
In addition, many species of migrating animals and birds - from swallows to wildebeests - rely on innate abilities to track Earth's magnetic field. Their fates are impossible to gauge.

But... won't they evolve?

49 posted on 11/09/2002 7:02:48 PM PST by IncPen
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To: blam
bump to BLAM.
50 posted on 11/09/2002 7:03:40 PM PST by LostTribe
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