Kerr Watch

Elapsed time since Richard Kerr failed to inform his Science readers of the confirmation of nanodiamonds at the YDB: 6 years, 2 months, and 5 days

Skeptic Press Release: Daulton, Pinter and Scott publish finding NO diamonds in Younger Dryas Boundary layer

Impact hypothesis loses its sparkle
Shock-synthesized diamonds said to prove a catastrophic impact killed off North American megafauna can’t be found

Link to Press Release from the Washington University in St. Louis

About 12,900 years ago, a sudden cold snap interrupted the gradual warming that had followed the last Ice Age. The cold lasted for the 1,300-year interval known as the Younger Dryas (YD) before the climate began to warm again.

In North America, large animals known as megafauna, such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-tooth tigers and giant short-faced bears, became extinct. The Paleo-Indian culture known as the Clovis culture for distinctively shaped fluted stone spear points abruptly vanished, eventually replaced by more localized regional cultures.

What had happened?

One theory is that either a comet airburst or a meteor impact somewhere in North America set off massive environmental changes that killed animals and disrupted human communities.

In sedimentary deposits dating to the beginning of the YD, impact proponents have reported finding carbon spherules containing tiny nano-scale diamonds, which they thought to be created by shock metamorphism or chemical vapor deposition when the impactor struck.

The nanodiamonds included lonsdaleite, an unusal form of diamond that has a hexagonal lattice rather than the usual cubic crystal lattice. Lonsdaleite is particularly interesting because it has been found inside meteorites and at known impact sites.

In the August 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists led by Tyrone Daulton, PhD, a research scientist in the physics department at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that they could find no diamonds in YD boundary layer material.

Daulton and his colleagues, including Nicholas Pinter, PhD, professor of geology at Southern Illinois University In Carbondale and Andrew C. Scott, PhD, professor of applied paleobotany of Royal Holloway University of London, show that the material reported as diamond is instead forms of carbon related to commonplace graphite, the material used for pencils.

“Of all the evidence reported for a YD impact event, the presence of hexagonal diamond in YD boundary sediments represented the strongest evidence suggesting shock processing,” Daulton, who is also a member of WUSTL’s Center for Materials Innovation, says.

However, a close examination of carbon spherules from the YD boundary using transmission electron microscopy by the Daulton team found no nanodiamonds. Instead, graphene- and graphene/graphane-oxide aggregates were found in all the specimens examined (including carbon spherules dated from before the YD to the present). Importantly, the researchers demonstrated that previous YD studies misidentified graphene/graphane-oxides as hexagonal diamond and likely misidentified graphene as cubic diamond.

The YD impact hypothesis was in trouble already before this latest finding. Many other lines of evidence — including: fullerenes, extraterrestrial forms of helium, purported spikes in radioactivity and iridium, and claims of unique spikes in magnetic meteorite particles — had already been discredited. According to Pinter, “nanodiamonds were the last man standing.”

“We should always have a skeptical attitude to new theories and test them thoroughly,” Scott says, “and if the evidence goes against them they should be abandoned.”

  • Walter Radtke

    This is a forum comment from Dennis Cox, US Army blast damage photo recon interpreter, who is working closely with Richard Firestone in identifying global cometary impact sites from high res satellite photos. His findings deliver important and compelling evidence for a Shoemaker-Levy 9 type impact from the Taurid meteor stream that wiped out North American megafauna. This was an impact “shower” lasting perhaps an hour and completely resurfacing the Earth from Central Mexico to Northern Arizona. More on his contribution at:


    Dennis Cox writes:

    Some brief reasons why the Daulton et al paper is inept:

    1. They did not collect from the YDB layer at the Arlington site that was used in the two Kennett et al papers, but from layers that contained “carbonaceous particles”, mostly charcoal – there are no diamonds in charcoal and it is not clear that they even sampled the YDB.

    2. They did not collect or at least process the YDB sediment at Murray Springs, which contains most of the nanodiamonds in the YDB as loose nanodiamonds – probably too much work because the work is labor intensive – need to separate kilos of material. The diamonds average about 50 to 100 ppb and you need a lot of diamonds, processed by the correct separation protocol.

    3. Yes, we saw graphene, graphane and chaoite, but these are not diamonds.

    4. They analyzed microcharcoal and glassy carbon for diamonds and found none, neither did we! These “carbon particles” were made outside the constrains for diamond production and survival.

    5. Two reviewers for the Kennett papers are world class shock and diamond experts – they had no problem.

    6. One independent stratigrapher who read the Daulton paper was astonished at the “complete ineptness of field protocol and sample characterization”. Of course, you and others can judge for yourselves.

    7. The Greenland paper will appear in September and there are sufficient diamond data in this paper (STEM, HRTEM, RAMAN, EELS, etc.) to prove once and for all that diamonds do, indeed, occur in the YDB.


    Walter Radtke replies:

    What is bothersome about the paper in question is that it finishes with a bit of propaganda about theories that are not proven, saying they should be abandoned. This is a gratuitous advocation of a general course of action outside the purpose of any such paper and a blatant condemnation of the work it attempts to disprove, in short a call to censorship and suppression and is reminiscent of the junk science supporting the global warming hoax. Obviously Firestone and crew will demolish this, and I can’t imagine the authors couldn’t suss the illegitimacy of their work and its ultimate fate in the great kangaroo court scrap heap, so one must assume that their paper wasn’t meant for deep consumption by their peers, but to warn off those peers from reading anything subsequent from Firestone as well as propagandizing the public via the science press who will publish it uncritically. It is a clumsy tactical holding maneuver that reeks of desperation.


  • George Howard

    Bingo, Wally. Snippy at best, bad petty childish science at worst for Nick Pinter to call for the work to be abandoned. These people are going to be very humiliated – and they are asking for it.

  • Actually that was Ted Bunch’s Quotes.

    The September issue of Science has this headline: Mammoth-Killer Impact Flunks Out
    After a new study failed to find nanodiamonds, impact experts are flatly rejecting outsiders’ claims that an impact 12,900 years ago devastated the megafauna.

    “Impact experts” what experts?

    Don’t be silly. It’s an infant science. There ain’t no such animal as an impact expert. And if there is, Daulton, Pinter, and Scott, certainly don’t qualify. And just what is the nature of the three ‘insiders’ knowledge, that was withheld in the education of the dozens of “outsiders”? And who decides who’s condemned to ‘outsider’ hell along with all of us poor unfortunates? The popular press?

    It’s not the peer review system this time. The pro-impact “outsiders” studying the YD impact layer are out publishing the “insiders” ten to one. It’s not research funding either. The outsiders aren’t exactly rolling in the money, but they aren’t being denied funding either. They are all receiving the full support of their respective institutions. For once it is the data that’s driving the research, regardless the negative propaganda of the popular press.

    Read the names, and participating institutions, in the author lists of the papers reporting NDs in the YDB. Those aren’t struggling grad students with just another crackpot idea folks. Most on the list of so called “outsiders” are tenured, long term, professors of prominent universities. And many of the leading scientists on those papers are department heads at their respective institutions. The funding for their research into the events of 12,900 years ago hasn’t been a problem at all

    Three obscure scientists on the inside. (of what?) using blatantly flawed protocols, couldn’t collect, and prepare, stratigraphic specimens with sufficient skill to detect nano-diamonds in a thin layer of strata, that dozens of scientists before them on the outside haven’t had a problem with.

    So what?

    Those ‘insiders’ did not look in the same places in the strata as the original researchers. (The NDs are in a well described, but thin layer underneath the ‘Black Mat’, at the top of the extinction layer) They didn’t test the same materials. Nor did they duplicate the sample collection, and preparation, protocols of the works they were supposed to be challenging. Rule #1 Thou shalt duplicate the experiment. Since they haven’t, their shamefully incompetent work didn’t debunk, or disprove anything.

    The article in Science is a day late. (literally) The new paper in the September issue of Journal of Glaciology, (from those darned outsiders again.) reporting a discreet layer of NDs in a layer of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet corresponding to the YDB blindsided them. This time the outsiders anticipated another cheap shot from those pesky insiders though. So they provided enough data to settle the question of NDs in the Younger Dryas boundary layer once and for all.

  • I attempted to leave my comments of the Dr. Daulton paper both with him (his email, and also has a submission to the PNAS website. No response as you might expect from either. This goes a long way in saying how inept these people are on this issue. I think too that the PNAS requires a review of their approach, as there is no room for comment on their website.I even offered to provide a rebuttal in the form of a letter or whatever, again no answer. Is this the way science is headed? So many with so little expertise, and their being dogmatic in what they do believe. “A little knowledge in a dangerous thing.”

  • The Greenland evidence pretty much trumps the nay sayers. The NDs are there. Nuff said.

    That whole a debate is more than little frustrating,from the perspective of one who has been studying the emplacement motions of the airburst impact melt full time for two years now, like studying a choreographic dance chart. And has who already identified a few hundred thousand cubic miles of pristine geo-ablative impact melt from the event. Debating whether or not it happened is starting to feel like debating wheter, or not the sun came up yesterday.

    It’s a little like playing follow the leader with the big kids. Only this time they’re the ones who are having a hard time catching up. And I have many questions of the materials I’ve found, that won’t get answered untill they do.

    In the interest of leaving some crumbs at the trailhead,and showing the way, I put together a little PDF for a demonstration. It’s at:

  • P.S. The AAAS website ScienceNow’s article, ‘Mammoth-Killer Impact Rejected’ is open to comments on the Daulton paper. it’s at:

  • The anti nanodiamond crew are insignificant in the final analysis. The Greenland data buried them. What remains is to show conclusively that they are, in fact, impact

    The YDB, and it’s European counterpart, the Usselo Horizon, can be identified at various places all over the northern hemisphere. And the NDs are a fairly common component. The question of whether, or not, the NDs are really extra terrestrial can be tested by coming at it from a different angle.

    If they’re extra-terrestrial, then they can be thought of as a barometer, and pyrometer, rolled into one. They describe the atmospheric conditions of the impact storm they were born in. And they blanket the continent. So we can know the impact ‘storm’ did too.

    Emphasize ‘Storm’; we are all used to the idea of a meteor ‘shower’. Turn up the volume until you have a full blown, continental sized, gale force storm. But we’re not there yet. We’ve only come up to the bottom of the scale. Our impact storm was at the top of a very large one.

    If we make a diagram of the impact vortex in the Boslough simulation, hi-lighting the nano-diamond forming regions, we’ll see that most of the vortex is way too hot for the formation of diamond. The NDs formed in the anoxic, hyper-thermal, high pressure conditions behind the the blast wave, but outside the fire ball. The conditions inside the fireball would have been too hot for them to survive. Most of the matter in the impact vortex is so hot, it is a completely ionized, superconducting plasma. (electricity must have played a significant role in this event) And the ND forming region represents a very small percentage of the overall energies of the event.

    That’s just one airburst. Our extraordinary impact storm consisted of tens of thousands of them. This was a once in 65 million years ‘Perfect Impact Storm’. Let’s talk about the weather that day in North America:

    Winds: More than hurricane force, and gusting to supersonic.
    Highs: Hotter than the surface of the sun.
    Barometric pressure: Too high to measure.

    Those supersonic, hyper-thermal, gusts were directed downwards at the ground. And they were hot enough, and powerful enough, to melt whole mountain ranges like wax in a high pressure blowtorch.

    If you can describe a beast, you can predict what it’s footprints should look like. In order for our extraordinary proof to go along with the continent wide dispersal of NDs in the YDB, it needs to be a few hundred thousand cubic miles of flash melted, wind driven, rivers of stone. And at only 12,900 years old, those fast flowing rivers of flash melted stone that were frozen in time at the moment of their emplacement, should be exposed, on the surface. And in almost pristine condition.

    Fortunately, since they do exist, and they cover most of central Mexico, locating them hasn’t been a problem.

    The foundation of this extraordinary impact theory (I still don’t know what to call it.)is based on the empirical fact that, with modern, 21st century image data, we can read the, directionality of the emplacement motions of all that melt with such accuracy, that the materials can be read like a choreographic dance chart.

    It’s going to be a multi-disciplinary effort. But since since we can accurately determine the directionality of the airburst impact melt from the event to a resolution of better than 1 meter per pixel, the fledgling science of Fluid Mechanics has the trump card.

    If we turn on Google Earth, and we zoom in on any given location the impact zone, we can positively identify the direction of flow, assigning directional vectors as we go. Each square meter can be treated as 1 byte of directional data to build a motion map in this way. A fluid motion map like that of only a megabyte, or so, reveals the truth. And a gigabyte describes something too terrible for words.

    But conceptually, we can go a little bit further. If each byte of directional data is thought of as one character of text in a written language of motion. Then the Mexican impact zone becomes a kind of ‘Rosetta Stone’ for learning to read a language in which the empirically true, geo-history of the world is recorded in intricate, mind boggling, detail.

    The geo-history, and geomorphology, that language of rocks in fluid motion describes, has almost no resemblance to the standard model. And that’s the big rub. There are many, many, textbooks to re-write from scratch if the YD impact theory is proven.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Dennis –

    People living in North America survived the YD impact event. If it was of the scale you hypothesize, they wouldn’t have, in my initial estimate.

    This is not to say that you are not dealing with impact prodcuts, it is just that they may be related to a different impact event. The same may hold for the Carolina Bays and other secondary impact structures.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that researchers often underestimate the frequency of impacts. This has often led them to ellide proto-historical accounts of different impacts, and to attempt to try to ellide physical evidence as well.

    The problem is lack of impact research funding, and the lack of focused research. We are still waiting, after more than 5 years now, for the USGS cores from the Carolinas.

    You yourself clearly need to get some isotopic dates.

  • Thanks Ed,

    In fact I do see clear evidence of that large geo-ablative airburst storms are not uncommon at all. The first debris streams of the Taurid Progenitor were just the worst in 65 million years, that’s all. And with a short orbital period of only ~3.3 yrs, or so, there’s no reason to assume it all hit in one event. As the comet continued to break up over the succeeding millennia, the rest of the world got their fair share too. This world hasn’t seen the last of it either. The Taurids aren’t through with us.

    Geo-chronology is a mess. But I’ve got a mountain of airburst melt specimens you can pick up with a magnet, right here close to my home. And if Santa’s listening, another interested someone who does Isotopic analysis is all I want for Christmas.

    But the big main event I see evidence of, would have been survivable in the southeast. And perhaps in scattered pockets in the northern Rockies, and Pacific Northwest. It also would have been survivable for people hiding in caves in the Yucatan. Or well south of the Mexican volcanic ark, or south America.

    But I’m pretty sure Central Mexico got sterilized