COMPLETELY REVISED AND UPDATED 2021 EDITION OF THE MOST POPULAR BOOK ON THE RIDDLE OF THE GREAT SIBERIAN EXPLOSION OF 1908
First edition published in 2005 by Icon Books, UK
At 7.14 a.m. on June 30, 1908 a huge fireball exploded in the Siberian sky. A thousand times the force of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, it flattened an area of remote Tunguska forest bigger than metropolitan New York, forming a mushroom cloud that almost reached into space.
What was it? A wayward black hole, a crashing comet, an rogue asteroid, an exotic rock of antimatter or mirror matter, a methane gas blast from below, an alien spacecraft, a laser beam fired by extraterrestrials, or an early experiment in nuclear physics which got out of hand?
More than a century on, this grand dame of science mysteries still fascinates scientists and charlatans alike.
Australian science journalist and author Surendra Verma tells the incredible story of this famous fireball. He also examines the major theories – scientific and fanciful – and evaluates the new evidence that claims that the mystery has at last been ‘solved.’ Or, is it?
A murderous Nazi on the run now masquerading as a holy man, a crazy woman and her bewitched plants, a lonely and sad actress struggling to walk out of the ghastly shadows of her tormented past as a teenage girl, an artful master of misinformation dodging the officialdom with fake news, a mischievous Tibetan refugee girl and her pranks, depravity disguised as tantric sex, and buff envelopes stuffed with cash which make greedy officials run.
In this weird world, when a young woman starts on a journey to seek justice for the cold murder of her benefactor and the brutal rape of two destitute children she comes to a head with pure evil. The anguish of a child’s trauma penetrates deep into every human heart. But evil has no heart.
A touching tale of empathy and compassion of a woman as strong as the mountains surrounding her small, scenic hometown in the foothills of the Himalayas, in 1965 and earlier. When you put it down, you will feel you have been to a different world, a grim but real world that sadly still exists with a new cast of characters.
The silly slogan
A conversation with a river red gum tree on “saving the planet”
When for a few days, I heard a soft whimpering voice from the sky as I walked on a lonely track along a creek, I worried that I was suffering from psychosis.
The creek once was part of the walking track followed by the Australian Aboriginal Boon Wurrung people for many thousands of years. As I walk, I see a tattered and faded Aboriginal flag flying on a flagpole in a little park. A yellow circle in the centre of a rectangle divided in half horizontally, the upper half black and the lower ochre red reminding anyone who cared to find out of an ancient culture’s spiritual relation to the land and the sun — the planet and the cosmos.
The ancient spirits sending me a message?
One day the voice was louder, “Hey mate, I’m talking to you.” I looked around and saw nothing. “Look up, mate.” The only thing I could see was the high canopy of a huge river red gum tree, a common eucalyptus species in these parts. Oh, the tree was talking to me, I realized. “What can I do for you?” I said, struggling to find the right word to address this old, majestic tree; “mate” seemed so ordinary and disrespectful.
“Could you please remove this plastic banner some idiot has wrapped around my trunk?” the tree asked gasping. “It’s killing me.”
I removed the banner and looked up. “From here I can’t read the writing on the banner,” the tree said. “What does it say?”
“Save the planet.”
“Is the planet dying?” the tree asked anxiously.
“Not really. The planet has been around for 4.5 billion years and still be here for another 4.5 billion years even if its atmosphere heats up by hundreds or even thousands of degrees. A big, rogue asteroid may disturb its orbit a bit if it hits it hard. That’s all.”
“Why then this silly slogan?” the tree exclaimed. “You should be shouting, save our species. Better still, save us from our silliness. Your stupid species is indiscriminately destroying the land and water with imperishable plastic and choking the air with noxious carbon. How could you save yourself from your excesses when you print a silly slogan on a plastic banner and leave it around to kill other species?”
My human mind had no answer. I nodded to show my concern.
The tree seemed genuinely angry. It continued, “I have been here for more than 200 years, and I’ve noticed the air becoming warmer. Too much carbon dioxide for us trees to breathe in and not many of us to breathe out oxygen.”
“Well, the level of carbon dioxide is going up every year,” I said. “Now there are 415 molecules of carbon dioxide molecules in every million molecules in the air. It was 400 in 2013.”
“I don’t care about these numbers, but I do care about the numbers of our species of river red gum trees decreasing dramatically. I give a damn about your species. As you say, mate, the planet, though it’s atmosphere a little bit warmer, will still be here for another 4.5 billion years. I’m sure once your self-indulgent and self-destructing species have disappeared forever the planet will look forward to hosting a truly intelligent life that respects its own kind and the other kinds and its environment.”
Lost for words, I took a sip of water from my reusable water bottle.
“What’s that green sticker on the bottle?” the tree asked. “It looks like a eucalyptus leaf.”
“It says, save 2000 plastic bottles by using this reusable bottle and save the planet.”
I heard a loud laugh and then the tree saying, “Silly slogans and symbols won’t save human beings; a little respect for the environment and the other species may. Where are the blackfellas who had a spiritual connection with the land around this creek?”
© Surendra Verma 2020