Sunday, March 28, 2010

Impact Event

The resurrection of a credible theory of catastrophism among scientists during the 1980s to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs was in part, as Doug Davis has argued, made possible by Cold War technology. Davis posits a complex interrelationship between military-scientific work in impact-explosion craters caused by nuclear detonations and impact-extinction theory in geology and palaeontology. The study of bomb craters, for example, enabled the verification of the effects of impact explosions for palaeontologists, while the dinosaur apocalypse reconstructed from the geological record draws its vocabulary of destruction from Cold War rhetoric—“target properties”, “projectiles”, “fallout”, “bombardment”, and so on—as well as providing a plausible scenario of a post-nuclear world. Deep time produces evidence of the future anterior, the will-have-been: “The same regime of signs”, claims Davis, “is at work after a nuclear holocaust in the 1980s as after a catastrophic impact 65 million years ago” (497). Impact-extinction scientists were not funded by the military, yet their findings were inseparable from the work of Cold War science; as such, Davis concludes, the “state of conflict itself enabled the theory’s development” (506; original emphasis).


Davis, Doug. '“A Hundred Million Hydrogen Bombs”: Total War in the Fossil Record,' Configurations 9.3 (2001): 461-508.