Electric Fossils and Thundercrabs

A well-prepared specimen of Harpatocarcinus, said to be about 50 million years old.

A well-prepared specimen of Harpatocarcinus, said to be about 50 million years old.


Mar 20, 2014

Could fossilization be a rapid process?

In the high desert atop the Colorado Plateau, titanic trees haphazardly litter the ground as if scattered by giants. Some of the chunks and splinters of the forest still harbor the beetles and larvae that left their tunnels in the bark. This shattered forest scene is preserved forever not in wood, but in gleaming colored stones of agate, opal, and chalcedony.

A field of stony oyster shells in the Kansas plains, some as large as two feet across, lie open and lifelike, as if all “gaping in a moment of collective disorder and distress.” Other larger varieties of fossilized clams bear the imprints on their inner shells of tiny fishes that found refuge inside of them in some ancient symbiotic agreement.

In North Central Oregon, mounds of leaves, supposedly dating from the Tertiary Epoch, are so plentiful that early paleontologists shipped them out by the train car load. Though not fossilized, the delicate leaves left their forms in colorful layers of ash; most show no sign of decay, drying or curling along the edges as one would expect of fallen leaves.

In the temperate peninsula region of Washington State, patient hunters of concretions find fossilized crabs hidden within orbs of stone. The crabs, like many trilobite fossils we all have seen, are highly detailed and in defensive positions. Modern geology offers one explanation as to how these living creatures came to be forever fixed in stone. In most cases, the organism was suddenly and deeply buried. Under anaerobic conditions, groundwater seeped in and replaced harder body parts with silicates, pyrites and other minerals over the course of millions of years. Wherever there are fossils, whether in books or our national parks or displayed in museums, we are constantly reminded of the geologic timescales required to preserve them. Methods such as carbon dating and stratigraphic layers also seem to bear witness to the slow and steady processes and deep time involved.

Yet, despite all of the assurances by the experts that fossilization is a sedate, molecule-by-molecule transformation of dead flora and fauna over eons of time, interested bystanders, amateurs, hobbyists, children, and other more intuitive observers cannot help but notice the examples of living creatures caught in stone as they hatched, gave birth, devoured other creatures, or twisted and contorted in a moment of back-arching agony. Is there a force besides quick burial that could suddenly change things into stone, as it sometimes appears? The surprising answer in many cases, though not in all, to the preservation of flora and fauna (including dinosaurs and other megafauna) is an electrical catastrophe.

Native Americans were no less entranced and fixated by fossils and the conditions of their preservation than any other culture in history. In her book, Fossil Legends of the First Americans, Adrienne Mayor has done invaluable research into the oral traditions of Indian tribes across the North American continent. In legend after legend, lightning and thunderbolts killed and sometimes buried the gargantuan creatures to make life safer for the smaller creatures and the humans.

“The Paiutes told Powell that the stone logs were the enormous shafts of arrows unleashed by the Wolf-Thunder god, Shinarav, or Shinarump, an important force in the Ute origin myth.”

“But now, on dry land, predatory animals multiplied. With their powerful talons and teeth, these giant creatures devoured weaker human beings. So the Twin Heroes stalked across the world, blasting all the land monsters–enormous mountain lions and bears and other huge creatures–with lightning. ‘Thlu!’ Instantly immolated, these dangerous beasts were ‘shriveled and burnt into stone.'”

“As in the Zuni myth, the earlier, wet and muddy worlds were dominated by monsters, which were created before human beings and preyed on them. Some monsters even pursued people into successive worlds. But the Sun gave special lightning bolts to the twin sons of Changing Woman, so that they could overcome the monsters.”

“Notably, [the Shawnee] information not only included fossil measurements and estimates of the animal’s size when they had been alive; it also attempted to account for the extinction of huge beasts and giant men in a distant era before modern humans. After the great men had died out, they said, ‘God had Kill’d’ the mighty animals with lightning bolts, so that they could ‘not hurt the present race of Indians.’”

The American Indian myths which speak of electrical disaster and fossilization are a surprising motif across widely separated geographic regions. It is said that as many as 2,000 Native tongues were being spoken at the time of the arrival of the first European settlers, so it may be well to take note of any agreement between the myths, considering the language barriers between Indian tribes.

Mayor’s book preserves many legends which are in danger of being lost forever. In her work of combining paleontology and folklore, she acknowledges her deep indebtedness to the French naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). “As he was forging the new discipline of paleontology,” she notes, “Cuvier was also gathering the world’s fossil legends from classical antiquity and the New World. This evidence helped him devise the theory of global extinctions.”

The concept of global extinctions, like much of Cuvier’s contributions to the discipline of paleontology, proved to be foundational, since without extinctions fossils cannot be used to construct a geological column and a directional history. Although Cuvier was later largely marginalized for his catastrophism and disagreement with Darwinism, Stephen Jay Gould remarks, “As for Cuvier’s catastrophism in geology, Lyell may have banished such a view to temporary periphery of derision, but it has come back in spades through such exciting (and probably correct) ideas as the extraterrestrial impact theory of mass extinction.” These Native American legends which Cuvier was careful to take into account, as well as other worldwide myths, bear a consistent witness to lightning and thunderbolts, as well as other electrical phenomena in their interpretation of fossils.

In what may be an incredible instance of myths anticipating the latest scientific discoveries, and cutting-edge scientific developments illuminating legends of antiquity, important advances in astronomy are revealing the primacy and centrality of electrical forces in the Universe. Pioneers in the fields of plasma physics and the Electric Universe have made revolutionary discoveries using the most up-to-date instrumentation and measurements from the sky, demonstrating that it is electric currents which are responsible for powering the sun, ordering the solar system, and forming the slowly turning pinwheel galaxies.

Most important to our discussion of geology, the surprising and unexpected features found on the surfaces of all of the rocky moons and planets within our solar system are explained by electrical processes such as electrical discharge machining, electrostatic painting, Lichtenburg scarring, and other large scale electrical arc excavation and deposition processes. These processes are not only familiar to plasma physicists such as C.J. Ransom, in an Electric Universe they also provide a possible new direction of inquiry for our understanding of earth’s major topological features.

The slow and steady uniformitarian principles need not constrain our study of the paleontological record to just a few tools of volcanic activity, wind erosion, water deposition, and the occasional asteroid impact. So in light of the most recent scientific and technological discoveries, and in the grand tradition of paleontology’s founder Georges Cuvier, who invited native legends and myths to inform our understanding of earth history, we can begin to ask whether there is much we do not know about the extinction and fossilization of the mega fauna and dinosaurs.

One possibility is that fossilization is in fact instantaneous. Under conditions of powerful electrical discharge one element (such as carbon) might be transmuted into another (such as silicon). Low temperature electrical transmutation has been observed in the lab, though it has been kept fairly quiet and out of public view. As for the stratigraphic layers in which fossils are found, might it be possible that these were laid down more quickly, in a kind of electrical sputtering effect used in modern nanotechnology applications?

Finally, physicist Wal Thornhill noted in an interview regarding carbon dating: “I think the problem with radioactive dating is that it assumes the uniformitarian model that radioactive elements were created at some stage in the early formation of the solar system, and since then it’s been a slow process of disintegration. Under the electrical theory, elements are being formed all the time in these discharges and, when you have interplanetary discharges, transmutation of elements is occurring and radioisotopes are being created.”

It may be that conventional theories of fossilization will be found wanting and new hypotheses will be suggested. Myths point in the direction of the suddenness of preservation by massive electrical discharge, in a (geologically speaking) recent turn of events in our solar system.

Paulina West (condensed from an article at ancientdestructions.com)

Watch Peter Mungo Jupp, Paulina West and Wal Thornhill in the accompanying MUNGOflix video:

Electric Fossils and Thundercrabs

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