Investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Prof. Peter Ward discussed his new book, Out of Thin Air, which shows how fluctuating oxygen levels have contributed to mass extinctions and evolutionary changes over millions of years. For instance, dinosaurs the size of chickens, flourished during a 20-million-year period of low oxygen-- it wasn't till oxygen levels grew higher that the larger dinosaurs developed, he explained.
He cited the dangers of rising carbon dioxide levels as well as hydrogen sulfide, both of which could contribute to extinctions of life. Hydrogen sulfide is particularly insidious, he noted-- as oxygen levels drop, massive bacteria forms in ocean waters turning them into dead zones in which no fish or animal life can exist.A small asteroid hitting Earth could also wreak havoc on the planet, he said. It would send particulates into the atmosphere, throw off agricultural cycles and lead to massive famines.
Ward reported that one of the biggest climate problems is the melting of the ice caps: The rise in sea level could displace millions, such as those living in a low lying country like Bangladesh, and could provoke wars over food. Interestingly, he noted that because of global warming, the sky will actually take on a greenish tint in the years to come. For more scientific discourse on climate issues, he recommended the website realclimate.org.
First hour guest Stan Deyo reacted to the recent earthquake in Hawaii, noting that he'd detected seismic signals west of the islands on October 11th and 12th. He also warned of possible stressors that could lead to quake activity off San Francisco within the next 3-4 days.
Also during the first hour, and the start of the second hour, Art took phone calls from people from Hawaii, who shared their experiences of the earthquake.
Bumper music from Sunday October 15, 2006