June 29, 2011 ~ Michael GoodspeedFor thousands of years, the appearance of a comet in the terrestrial skies has provoked deep anxiety and even collective hysteria in humans the world over. The reasons for this response are not entirely clear. Working with historical testimony, David Talbott and his colleagues have concluded that comet fears originated in a global experience of catastrophe and terror. Behind all of the regional traditions and stories is the memory of the "Great Comet," the mother of all comets. The memory traces to the origins of world mythology, according to Talbott, and is particularly vivid in the story of a cosmic serpent or dragon threatening to destroy the world. The most common ancient ideas attached to a comet were the death of kings, the fall of kingdoms, cosmic upheaval, and the end of the world.
Institutionalized astronomy, with its massive advantages in the forms of billions of dollars of funding, biased educational and peer-review systems and the uncritical support of science media, has failed to resolve the "mysteries" of comets. In contrast, a few plasma experimentalists working with virtual pocket change have delivered findings that can and should revolutionize comet science. ... [More...]