Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos


Alena Fletcher,Billy Lewis,Erika Wendell, Amy McIntyre VFW Post 9106 essay contest "Voice of Democracy" winners - also Alan Ball .....Gregg - You raise an interesting question as to the color of the early sky. To begin with, remember the sun was probably not as bright and might have been a bit more reddish. There are two climate experts Professors Prell and Imbrie, who were at Brown last I heard - I talked with them when James Kasting of University of Pennsylvania spoke at Harvard Deparment of Earth and Planetary Sciences around 1993-5. Nitrogen would have been the largest component as today. At some periods ammonia and methane may have been factors - I would have to review. The host of that Kasting talk was paleosol expert Heinrich Holland, who is very friendly though getting near retirement age. Michael McElroy is head of Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and produced powerful evidence on the anthropogenic chemicals that have cause an unprecedented ozone hole in the Antarctic and are spreading it further. Any of the foregoing would be knowledgable, and Andrew Knoll. There is some controversy over the oldest stromatolites and fossils over three billion years old - there are several related paleobiologists named Schopf, and I have to refresh their generations and first names, but one of them is a strong believer in the fossil nature of early stromatolites, while there are sceptics also. There are some researchers at La Jolla California on the early origins of life, including Leslie Orgel. They have thought much about the checmial nature of those environments. It is puzzling that cyanobacteria must have appeared hundreds of millions of years before oxygen came to be a major component nearly twenty per cent of atmosphere - various iron deponsits such as those in Minnesota show different valences and oxidation states I think the change was after 2.5 billion years ago. Then eukaryotic cells developed nuclear membranes to protect the DNa of the more complex multi-chromosome nucleus, and according to research led by Lynn Margulis around 1970, the mitochondrion developed by symbiosis and permitted much more active oxygen metabolism in eukaryotes than takes place in most bacteria [prokaryotes]. The late Carl Sagan was co-author about 1972 of the 'dim early sun' hypothesis - if he were alive, he would be the person to answer your question - but he and ex-wife Lynn Margulis had a son surname Sagan who works with his mother, based in the Amherst MA area - tho she does a lot of work in the Gulf of California [Mexico] on bacterial-algal mats and especially spirochaetes - she wonders if eukaryotic flagella [she calls them 'undulipodia" but term is not generally accepted] evolved by symbiosis from spirochaetes - unlike her other ideas there is not nuck present evidence in favor of this. They might be worth contacting. Rather than buttonholing specific scientists - you might try writing NASA, Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, various Earth and PLanetary Science Departments including Harvard and Berkeley and Cambridge and Oxford England if you are sufficiently interested. You may get more than one opinion. Fairly small contaminants like dust and water vapor can have a significant effect. The human eye has evolved to utilize those wave lengths where there is the most energy, mostly yellow-to--green. "If there were no eyes to see, would a burning candle throw its beams?" Another remarkable scientist you could contact is Paul Hoffman of Harvard, who in 1999 published his "Snowball earth" hypothesis THAT between 730 and 580 million years ago there were at least four very cold epochs where the ocean froze on the surface right to the equator, greatly reducing photosynthesis and leading to a rapid runaway greenhouse and interglacial intervals when the temperature was higher than today. Living things survived in oases around volcanoes and hot springs, but he has much evidence from most of the continents that photosynthesis worldwide was severaly curtailed. More speculative is his suggestion - hypothesis that these events speeded up the development of multicelled METAZOAN animals, - about 540 million years ago recognizable Arthropods, molluscs, echinoderms, hagfish-like chordates with calcium skeletons appear suddenly - the Burgess Shale in Yoho Park BC, Canada, was the first place where soft parts of Cambrian fossils were abundant, apparently suddenly buried by a turbidity current in mixed texture-and-size dirty-sandstone called 'greywacke'. Harry Whittington of Cambridge led study of the Burgess Shale with his students Derek Briggs and Simon Conway Morris. The color of the sky probably changed with time and periods of glaciation. Of course cloudy skies tend to be gray. If a greenhouse effect kept most of the earth warm with less sun energy, perhaps those early skies were GRAY ??? You ask a very interesting question, and I shall try to pass it along. How are your computer facilities? You do very interesting work on earthquake dangers. Some friends are concerned that their E mails may be overloaded. I read things on the computer. Other people have to print everything out, at cost of time and expense. Let me know your situation. I have been restricting things I send you mostly to geology. I know you haVE A BACKGROUND IN MATH. I am trying to pick up a little calculus -- I know fundamentals. a friend is taking calculus with interest in engineering, so I am brushing up and looking at history of mathematics. I am interested in the mathematical and computer methods used to align cladistic character data including DNA molecular sequences and wondering how I can acquire skills. I had a friendly answer from paleobotanist James Doyle at U. California Davis a top authority on fossil pollens. I hope I can get to work on the phylogeny and evolution of flowering plants. Let me know how much e mail you can handle. I shall try to research the color of the early sky - but I think it might be gray and fairly dark? ---John Barrett
Year: 2002