[meteorite-list] My reply to Peruvian bolide post #5

From: Matson, Robert <ROBERT.D.MATSON_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 17:27:57 -0800
Message-ID: <A8044CCD89B24B458AE36254DCA2BD070321B664_at_0005-its-exmp01.us.saic.com>

Hi All,

While this was originally a private reply to Randall, I have no
to sharing it with the list since it's a continuation of our exchange.
This was sent today a little after noon:

- - - -


Please try to look at this from a disinterested (my) perspective. I
have no vested interest in proving you right or wrong. I'm letting
the evidence and science speak for itself. You are claiming that a
100-meter crater was created by a meteorite fall, and that the
evidence for it is the crater itself, witness statements, a columnar
dust cloud, and a 4.0 seismic event. (By the way, I've also read lower
estimates of 3.5 and 3.8). What I'm telling you is that it is not
physically possible to create a 100-meter impact crater without a
much more spectacular set of events preceding it. Deafening sonic
booms, a much more significant seismic reading, a fireball brighter
than the sun, a gigantic bolide dust trail, not to mention that it
would have been observed by U.S. Department of Defense satellites
(and if it had, I'd know about it). With all these factors in mind,
science and Occam's Razor require me to discount the "crater" as
evidence of an impact. It is simply too large not to be accompanied
by corresponding evidence of an equally fantastic nature.

As a _scientist_, then, and in the interest of determining the true
nature of the event that occurred, I would move on to the only
testable piece of information that I immediately have access to:
the seismic recordings. If you really want to get to the bottom
of things, this is what YOU should be doing. And if you don't know
how to do it, you should ask someone nicely if they would be willing
to help you out. Instead, you write:

"First you doubt that seismic stations recorded the event and then you
criticize me for the data I sent you. You discredit the witnesses. You
doubt the polvera by saying it was a dust devil, (that's unscientific).
Similar to the people that said the impact site was a volcano cone and
bomb crater. Jeez. You doubt people felt the tremor. As a matter
of fact, you doubted just about everything and the underlying tone to
your messages has been what I feel to be veiled ridicule. You claim
to be a scientist... But don't claim objectivity."

First of all, I had no idea that what you were going to send me was
simply a bunch of raw data. At first I honestly thought it was a joke,
but then I realized you were serious. Yes, I'm smart enough to know
how to decode the data, but that doesn't make it a trivial task. It's
a fair amount of work that you are asking me to undertake to attempt
to prove or disprove YOUR theory. If presented to me in the right
way, I'd have been happy to devote a few hours of my time to decode
and analyze the data.

Moving on to the witnesses. Witnesses will be able to tell you that
an event occurred, and may even be able to describe it in general
terms. But when it comes to SCIENTIFIC USEFULNESS, eyewitness
reports are far from reliable. This isn't a slam against Peruvians,
it's true of witnesses the world-over. Any witness statements having
to do with angles, distances, velocities, durations or directions
are almost always inaccurate. People simply are not trained to be
scientific observers.

Next the "polvera". As this is not an English word, I did the best
I could interpreting your description of it - a columnar dust cloud.
You didn't (initially) provide a description of the width, only the
height, which is why I offered the alternate explanation of a dust
devil. I've seen gigantic dust devils in the Mojave Desert that
extend a couple kilometers into the sky and have widths the size
of small tornados, so I didn't think that was such a bad alternative
explanation. I didn't say it WAS the explanation; I offered it as
an alternative. It is certainly a more plausible explanation than
a vertical dust cloud caused by a bolide. (By the way I'm *assuming*
that the polvera was vertical based only on your description, but
you haven't actually said that it ~was~ vertical. If it wasn't
vertical, then that is a critical piece of information that should
have accompanied your description.)

You accuse me of being, in essence, a Doubting Thomas. Well, I
wear that label as a badge of honor, and it has served me well in
my life. I am a scientist. I don't take ANYTHING on faith. Let
me ask you this: Do you think that if you presented your hypothesis
and evidence to date to a peer-reviewed journal that it would be
accepted? No, of course not, because the nature of your evidence
does not support your hypothesis, and the evidence itself has
alternative interpretations. You need to do a lot more work.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. You haven't
produced any meteorites as evidence, and there is no video or
photographic record of the bolide. The only hard piece of evidence
you've got ("evidence" in the sense that it is TESTABLE) is the
seismic record. You've got to start there.

I happen to believe based on everything you've told me that a bright
bolide did indeed occur, that it probably experienced a terminal
burst at some altitude, and that there are probably meteorites on
the ground somewhere waiting to be found. The seismometers likely
recorded that terminal burst (the only other explanation being an
earthquake), and if so they will tell you the latitude and longitude
of the sub-burst point, and an approximate altitude of the burst.
When this information is combined with some of the witnesses'
statements about flight direction, you will have a rough idea of
where to search on the ground for any meteorites. But I'd forget
about any crater - that's a red herring.

If you can work on getting the latitude, longitude and altitude of
the seismic stations, I am willing to assist in reducing the raw
seismic data into interpretable end products.

Received on Fri 02 Mar 2007 08:27:57 PM PST

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