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Re: Extinction scenarios



Jim at jrccea@bellsouth.net wrote:
<Actually, there wouldn't be water vapor from the immediate impact area.  The
kinetic energy at the impact site is enough to break the bond in the water
molecules, and then strip the outer electrons off the atoms, creating a
plasma.
Some water would reform after the plasma cooled sufficiently.>
and
<About 40-45 years ago, there was a really good article on the subject in John
W.
Campbell's "Astounding Science Fiction" magazine.  If I remember correctly,
the
author even placed his hypothetical 1 mile dia. asteroid impact in the Gulf of
Mexico.  He also pointed out that an ocean impact is more devastating than a
land
impact. I think he was also the first guy to postulate that the kinetic energy
applied to the resulting plasma might generate gamma radiation intense enough
to kill anything within line of sight even before the shock wave arrived.>
    Well said, Jim.  I was using water vapor as a shorthand for what would
have erupted out of the impacted Proto-Carribean.  You are right that a
molecular plasma would have resulted, though I doubt that much sub-atomic
plasma (gamma-ray producing) would have been involved.
    Elaborating my thinking a bit if I may:  Some old work in the chemical
synthesis literature is relevant here. If I recall it properly, it was the
Nazi's who first brought us "Synthesis Gas," a complex mix of atomic and
molecular species that may be relevant here (although, their purposes were
much different - no wait - worldwide destruction and extinction, that's the
same purpose, isn't it?).  Anyway, goaded by a lack of fuel reserves, they
sought to turn coal into gasoline.  They did so by heating coal and water to
extreme temperatures and pressures in big pressurized vats.  The resulting
molecular equation went something like:
    C(coal) + H20 => O2 + CH4 + HCO2 + CO + CO2 + small amounts of polymers.
By applying different ratios of starting materials, different pressures and
different temperatures, the ratios of products could be shifted.  They were
looking for hydrocarbons (note the methane) and polymer feedstocks (note the
formaldehyde), which they got, but never in amounts sufficient to allow them
to take over the planet.
    While there was little or no coal at the K-T impact site, there was plenty
of CO2 in the carbonate rocks. Therefore, it is mind-boggling to contemplate
what sort of molecular plasma must have issued from the fireball.  Especially
if you throw in some chloride, sulfide and calcium salts.  Yuck, what a
Hellish mix! Still, my greatest respect goes to the shear VOLUME that these
gasseous species must have represented as they expanded.  This is what leads
me to think of a propagating atmospheric pressure wave of Earth-consuming
proportions.