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Mike Baillie

Mike Baillie

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Mike Baillie is a Professor Emeritus
Emeritus
Emeritus is a post-positive adjective that is used to designate a retired professor, bishop, or other professional or as a title. The female equivalent emerita is also sometimes used.-History:...

 of Palaeoecology at Queen's University of Belfast
Queen's University of Belfast
Queen's University Belfast is a public research university in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The university's official title, per its charter, is the Queen's University of Belfast. It is often referred to simply as Queen's, or by the abbreviation QUB...

, in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. Baillie is a leading expert in dendrochronology
Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...

, or dating by means of tree-rings. In the 1980s, he was instrumental in building a year-by-year chronology of tree-ring growth reaching 7,400 years into the past.

Comet theories


Upon examining the tree-ring record, Baillie noticed indications of severe environmental downturns around 2354 BC, 1628 BC, 1159 BC, 208 BC, and AD 540. The evidence suggests that these environmental downturns were wide-ranging catastrophic events; the AD 540 event in particular is attested in tree-ring chronologies from Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 through Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and North
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. This event coincides with the second largest ammonium signal in the Greenland ice in the last two millennia, the largest being in AD 1014, and both these epochs were accompanied by cometary apparitions. Baillie explains the general absence of mainstream historical references to this event by the fact it was described in terms of biblical metaphors since at that time "Christian beliefs included the dogma that nothing that happens in the heavens could have any conceivable effect on the Earth."

Since then, he has devoted much of his attention to uncovering the causes of these global environmental downturns. He believes that impacts from comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

ary debris may account for most of the downturns, especially the AD 540 event. This hypothesis is supported in work by British cometary astrophysicists
Astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

, who find that earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 was at increased risk of bombardment by cometary debris in the AD 400-600 timeframe, based on the frequency of fireball activity in the Taurid meteor streams recorded in Chinese archives.

To provide further support to his cometary debris theory, Dr Baillie has searched the written record and traditions embodied in myths. There he has found evidence that the dates of the environmental downturns listed above are often associated with collapses of civilizations or turning points in history. The AD 540 event, for example, may have been associated with a catastrophe that ushered in the Dark Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

His book, Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets (Batsford, 1999), relates the findings of his tree-ring studies to a series of global environmental traumas over the past 4400 years that may mark events such as the biblical Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

, the disasters which befell Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, collapses of Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 dynasties, and the onset of the European Dark Ages. The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology (Tempus, 2005), co-authored with Patrick McCafferty, focuses on the AD 540 event as recorded in the historical records and myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

s of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and shows that the imagery in the myths and the times between events are consistent with a comet with an earth-crossing orbit similar to P/Encke, as described by the British astronomers Victor Clube
Victor Clube
Stace Victor Murray Clube is an English astrophysicist.He was educated at St John's and Christ Church, Oxford...

 and Bill Napier
Bill Napier
William M. Napier or Bill Napier is the author of five high tech thriller novels and a number of serious scientific books....

. His latest book, New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection (Tempus, 2006), shows how the tree-ring and Greenland ice core evidence and descriptions in annals, myths and metaphors adduced in support of the global environmental downturn at AD 540, which included the Justinian plague, also applies to conditions extant at the time of the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 in AD 1348.

Controversy over releasing data


In 2010, Baillie became involved in a controversy over the release of his tree-ring data. Baillie claims that the tree-ring data is his own personal intellectual property
Intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

. The UK Information Commissioner's Office, however, ruled that, because Baillie did all the work while employed at a public university, the data must be released to the public.

Books

  • Tree-Ring Dating and Archaeology (London: Croom-Helm, 1982).
  • A Slice Through Time: dendrochronology and precision dating (London: Routledge, 1995). ISBN 0 7134 7654 0
  • The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology (Tempus, 2005), co-authored with Patrick McCafferty
  • New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection (Tempus, 2006)

External links