Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history

Dear Mr. Singer: An Open Letter to Sandia Labs

Dear Mr. Singer:

Sandia Labs issued a news release on January 30, 2013, with a passage that requires a satisfactory explanation or I believe Sandia Labs has libeled myself [sic] and others researching the Younger Dryas Boundary Impact hypothesis. In the release, titled “Study rebuts hypothesis that comet attacks ended 13,000-year-old Clovis culture,” Sandia Labs published the following quote from your employee, Dr. Mark Boslough:

While this raised red flags to those already critical of the impact hypothesis, “I never said the samples were salted,” Boslough said carefully. “I said they were contaminated.”

A reasonable person reading this statement could conclude that Dr. Boslough had been mistakenly quoted at some point in the past saying the samples were “salted,” and he was simply correcting the mistake out of respect for his own integrity and our reputations. However, I cannot locate an instance in the popular press, published literature or blogosphere where Dr. Boslough was misquoted in this manner. The only reference I have found to “salting” samples in our research was in a May 14, 2011, blog article — also featuring Dr. Boslough:

Did someone salt a sediment layer to increase the spherule count? Or did the 200-year-old sample inadvertently get mixed in somehow? Boslough says he can’t provide an answer, but there was some form of “contamination.” [Comet Theory Comes Crashing to Earth]

If the second statement is the only published reference to “salting” samples, Dr. Boslough’s statement in your news release is misleading and severely damages my reputation and that of other researchers. As a media professional, Mr. Singer, you understand that repeating a falsehood only serves to perpetuate it. Such a repetition might be justified to correct the record — but only if someone had actually misquoted Dr. Boslough.

Please provide an instance where Dr. Boslough was misquoted in the manner to which he refers in your news release and I will not pursue this matter any further.


George A. Howard


Cc: Paul Hommel, President and Lab Director

Mike Janes, Communications Officer

Elizabeth D. Krauss, Corporate Counsel

8 Responses

  1. It is probably closer to defamation but I’ll let others figure that out as it progresses.

  2. George, this is not libel on the part of Boslough (which is the written form of defamation). If you read the “blog article” (actually a news media article from the pacific Standard)you have linked to and read the next paragraph which is admittedly ambiguous

    “Did someone salt a sediment layer to increase the spherule count? Or did the 200-year-old sample inadvertently get mixed in somehow? Boslough says he can’t provide an answer, but there was some form of “contamination.”

    But an answer is needed, he said: “I wouldn’t sweep it under the rug.””

    In the Sandia Statement

    “While this raised red flags to those already critical of the impact hypothesis, “I never said the samples were salted,” Boslough said carefully. “I said they were contaminated.””

    He seems to me to be clarifying the fact that Boslough is saying that when he said “I wouldn’t sweep it under the rug.” he was meaning contamination, not an act of salting.

    Thus the Sandia statement is correct, Boslough did not say they were salted (that was the words used by the author of the blog article actually a newsmedia article), but the editing by implies that he could have said it. Also, and individual cannot be held accountable for libel through the chosen editing of a blog. Why did the author of the blog choose to quotation mark ‘contamination’ after suggesting a ‘salting’ of the samples? perhaps it was the authors opinion, in which case it would the authors defamatory words you should be looking at, not Sandia’s.

    It seems to me that Boslough has been a victim of the blogosphere or personal editorial, where something is attributed to that person though editing or wording of an article (deliberate or not). Most recently we have had this http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2013/02/house-science-committee-questions-existence-of-meteors.html about Lamar Smith which tells us he thinks that meteors are as real as unicorns, and that the Russian Meteor could have been fireworks set off by drunken Siberians, when in actual fact he has said no such thing http://science.house.gov/press-release/smith-asteroid-meteor-stark-reminders-need-invest-space-science.

    So perhaps if you are feeling defamed by the salted comment, then you should perhaps be taking it up with the “pacific Standard” and the author of the article, since this seems to be the source of the allusion. Since Boslough is not directly quoted as saying that the samples are salted, there is not a libel case directed at him.

  3. I will let others decide the legal status of his words, but this I know for certain: I felt defamed, libeled and smeared reading it.

    Allow me to tell you an insightful little story. If you click the “About George” page above will see (circa 2005) photo of me (+50 lbs) sweating my [email protected]#$s off taking samples in the rim of a Carolina Bay, just above the paleosol. (I have a certified soil scientist taking the photo).
    I remember Allen West calling me a few months later with the results. “George,” he said, “Don’t be disappointed but the dates…..are not from the old days.” “Darn, Allen” I said, “What were their age?” “Well, thats the interesting part — some are from historical times, but several are from the future”

    Guileless as always, Allen West.

    You can see those dates in the Firestone figure referenced as “Myrtle Bay.

    There was no “salting” of samples and no one needs to reiterate that or clarify that unless unless the have a malicious intent, in my opinion. But as I say, I will let others decide.

    Note also the text of Firestone et al. (2007) regarding Carbon Spherules:

    Carbon spherules. Carbon spherules (0.15–2.5 mm) are black, highly vesicular, subspherical-to-spherical objects (Fig. 3). SEM analyses show them to have cracked and patterned surfaces, a thin rind, and honeycombed (spongy) interiors. SEM/energy dispersive spectrometer and microprobe analyses show that the spherules are dominantly carbon (>75%), with no evidence of seed-like morphology or cellular plant structure, as in charcoal. They were found in 13 of 15 Bays and only in the YDB at six of nine Clovis-age sites in concentrations up to ≈1,500 per kilogram. In addition, we recovered them from one of four modern forest fires (see SI Text, “Research Sites”), confirming that they can be produced by intense heat in high-stand wildfires. At the P/T boundary, Miurat discovered carbon spherules up to 90 wt% C and up to 20 μm in size, which he attributes to a controversial cosmic impact ≈250 Ma. More recently, Rösler et al.u reported finding carbon spherules from undated sediment across Europe, and these appear identical to spherules from the YDB layer. The authors report that they contain fullerenes and nanodiamonds, the latter of which are extraordinarily rare on Earth but are found in meteorites and at ET impact sites (,29), leading those authors to propose an ET association for the carbon spherules.

    So, The Bos discovered what we had revealed: The Carbon Spherules, even from well-dated and universally accepted sites like Gainey — have dates all over the place — including hundreds of years in the future. Go figure.

  4. Also from Firestone at AGU (2009):


    …The Younger Dryas impact layer from 13 ka ago shows an unusual chemistry. Radiocarbon analysis of carbon spherules from the YD impact layer at Gainey and various Carolina Bays yields future dates despite their stratigraphy. Charcoal from Chobot and the Carolina Bays date to <6000 yr BP a common characteristic of Paleo-Indian radiocarbon dates at Northern sites. The radiocarbon record shows a sudden increase in global radiocarbon at the time of the YD impact with a signature different from the near Earth SNe. There is no mechanism for the injection of excess radiocarbon into an impact layer unless the impacting object came directly from a recent, nearby SN where 14C is predicted to be produced at 107 times terrestrial abundance. Near Earth SNe (<300 pc) are expected every ~15 ka, and at least two nearby giant stars Betelgeuse (132 pc) and Antares (190 pc) are near the end of their lives and likely to go SN in the near future.

  5. The problem with the field of microscopic impact proxies is that it still lacks legitimacy. Those who are interested in establishing legitimacy may well want to start with the impact that just occurred. This impact will have created a plume that dispersed, and it may be helpful to try to locate and characterize some of the microscopic particles that were created and deposited by this plume. Immediate aircraft sampling would have been the best approach, but maybe next time I suppose.

  6. Excellent point, Elifritz. I was noodling on the thought expressed in your first sentence just today — but your 2nd valuable point did not occur to me. I sure hope a properly equipped and trained team shaved off some of that virgin ice around the fishing hole! But I doubt it; they probably stomped all over it.

  7. TLE, TH, George –

    From Wittke et al. 2009 (abstract),

    In sediments attributed to each event, we and other researchers have recovered NDs either inside or closely associated with CS, which appear to be the hightemperature
    by-products of biomass burning.

    I am probably missing some point here about the Russian fireball. It didn’t create any biomass burning, so I don’t see how it could have any carbon spherule evidence. And since it didn’t impact the ground, other impact markers will almost certainly be missing, too.

    I think the only thing this fireball will be good for is in expanding the range of what markers are created by non-ground-impacts. It might teach us something about Tunguska, but I would think that anyone looking for impact markers is going to be coming up empty.

    So I join TH and George in agreeing with you, TLE , that the field does lack legitimacy. Do we not all recognize that that is where the opposition is able to pick on any point – and cherry pick the ones that are weakest, while ignoring the stronger markers?

    But I seriously doubt that this recent event will provide much to build the field of impact markers. Maybe I could be wrong, but whatever it can add is eluding me right now.

    As far as microscopic stuff falling, though, I DID see one video where some of the strangest sounds were occurring, which I took to be particles falling around the scene. Please don’t ask me to find that one again, though, because I looked so wide and far and at so many videos, I’d doubt I could ever find it again. One clue, though: As I recall, the scene was in one of the larger cities, with a small group/crowd milling around about the time the boom hit them.

    But finding microspherules in a snowy urban setting, and being able to prove they came from the fireball? Good luck. If no one looked for them immediately, the evidence is long gone.

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