Mark Boslough

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Mark Boslough
Mark Boslough American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2012.jpg
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, December 2012, San Francisco.
Born Iowa
Nationality American
Fields Physics
Institutions Sandia National Laboratories
University of New Mexico
Alma mater California Institute of Technology
Colorado State University
Doctoral advisor Thomas J. Ahrens

Mark Boslough is a physicist. He is a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, an adjunct professor at University of New Mexico, and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[1] Asteroid 73520 Boslough (2003 MB1) was named after him.[2]

Background and education[edit]

Boslough grew up in Broomfield, Colorado. He holds a B.S. in physics at Colorado State University, and an MS and PhD in applied physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Scientific achievements[edit]

An expert on planetary impacts and global catastrophes, Boslough’s work on airbursts challenged the conventional view of asteroid collision risk and is now widely accepted by the scientific community.[3] He was the first scientist to suggest that the Libyan Desert Glass was formed by melting due to overhead heating from an airburst.[4] His hypothesis was popularized by the documentaries “Tutunkhamun's Fireball” (BBC),[5][6] (recipient of Discover Magazine's Top 100 Science Stories of 2006)[7] and Ancient Asteroid National Geographic.[8] which provided inspiration for the unorthodox and controversial notion that a large airburst over North America caused an abrupt climate change mass extinction.[9] However, Boslough has been a leading critic of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, arguing among other things that the proponents have misinterpreted his airburst models.[10] He appeared as a skeptic on the “Last Extinction“ Nova,[11] (recipient of AAAS Kavli award for best science documentary of 2009).[12]

In 2011, he presented a paper at the IAA Planetary Defense Conference in Bucharest, Romania, in which he stated, “It is virtually certain (probability > 99%) that the next destructive NEO event will be an airburst.”[13] This prediction proved true less than two years later, on Feb. 15, 2013, when an airburst over Chelyabinsk, Russia injured more than 1000 people. Boslough was among the first western scientists to arrive in Chelyabinsk, where he did field research and accompanied a production crew filming Meteor Strike for NOVA.[14] Most of the documentaries are focused on his impact and airburst modeling.[15]

In 2014, Boslough delivered a major address on “death plunge” asteroids that can pose a sudden danger to Earth at the second Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands. Also in 2014 he talks about his interest in asteroids to Toni Feder of Physics Today: "In his childhood home in Colorado, says Boslough, "there was a left-brain right-brain thing going on, with fiction and nonfiction in the same household."[16]

Fine points of the "fireball" that might be expected from an asteroid exploding in Earth's atmosphere are indicated in a supercomputer simulation devised by a team led by Sandia researcher Mark Boslough.


Boslough is a vocal critic of pseudoscience and anti-science and has written about climate change denial in the Skeptical Inquirer in reference to “Climategate” conspiracy theories.[17] He is also active in uncovering scientific misconduct.[18][19]


An advocate of using humor to defend science,[20] he once published an essay as an April Fool’s Day joke in the April, 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter to poke fun at New Mexico's legislature for attempting to require schools to teach creationism. He wrote that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. The article was posted on a newsgroup and passed around to people via email, causing an outrage. When people started calling the Alabama legislature to protest, the joke was revealed.[21] National Geographic News highlighted Boslough's story when it compiled a list of "some of the more memorable hoaxes in recent history."[22] It was elevated by the Museum of Hoaxes to number seven on its "Top 100 April Fools Hoaxes of All Time" list.[23] It eventually took on a new existence as an urban legend and has had to be debunked by Snopes.[24]

He also demonstrated that emailed lists of “Darwin Awards” include fake stories. After receiving an annual list of unfortunate deaths at the end of 1998, he fabricated his own over-the-top fictional Darwin Award recipient, appended it, and forwarded the list to his friends. That story also went viral, was printed as an actual event by the Denver Post, leading to another debunking by Snopes.[25]

Private property rights[edit]

Boslough is an advocate of laws to reform the 19th-century law known as RS 2477 to prevent it from being used to take private property for public use.[26] His fight turned into a prolonged battle with off-road clubs pulling out boulders and seedlings that Boslough used to try and restore his property.[27] He also received verbal and physical threats before he successfully defended a lawsuit (Ramey v. Boslough) in which the ownership of a four-wheel-drive road across his Colorado property was challenged by a plaintiff who was backed by off-road recreation interests.[28] He used this experience to argue that the "right to radiate" is a prescriptive private property right, and that carbon polluters must compensate individuals for degrading their personal cooling capacity.[29]


External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CSI | Press Releases". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  2. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". NASA. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  3. ^ "Forget Big Asteroids: It's the Smaller Rocks That Sneak In and Blow Up". 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  4. ^ Crawford, D A; Boslough (18 July 1996). "Silica '96: Meeting on Libyan Desert Glass and related desert events". Bologna University, Italy. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Science/Nature | Tut's gem hints at space impact". BBC News. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  7. ^ "The Top 100 Science Stories of 2006". DISCOVER Magazine. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  8. ^ "Ancient Asteroid Ancient Asteroid". National Geographic. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  9. ^ "North American Comet Catastrophe 10,900 BC Part 2". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  10. ^ Boslough, Mark; K. Nicoll; V. Holliday; T. L. Daulton; D. Meltzer; N. Pinter; A. C. Scott; T. Surovell; P. Claeys; J. Gill; F. Paquay; J. Marlon; P. Bartlein; C. Whitlock; D. Grayson; A. J. T. Jull (2012). Arguments and Evidence Against a Younger Dryas Impact Event. GEOPHYSICAL MONOGRAPH SERIES 198. pp. 13–26. 
  11. ^ "NOVA | Megabeasts' Sudden Death". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  12. ^ "NOVA | Broadcast Awards Listed by Date". PBS. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  13. ^ Boslough, Mark. "Airburst Warning and Response" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  14. ^ Watch now: NOVA | Meteor Strike | PBS Video, retrieved 2015-07-13 
  15. ^ "NOVA | Modeling a Comet Airburst". 2009-03-01. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  16. ^ Feder, Toni (2014-09-02). "A passion for asteroids". Physics Today. doi:10.1063/PT.5.9020. ISSN 0031-9228. 
  17. ^ Mark Boslough. "CSI | Mann Bites Dog: Why 'Climategate' Was Newsworthy". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  18. ^ "Misrepresentations Of Sargasso Sea Temperatures By Arthur B. Robinson Et Al". 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  19. ^ "Comet Theory Comes Crashing to Earth". 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  20. ^ "Sandia labs prankster unleashed cyberstorm of laughs". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  21. ^ "Alabama π!". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  22. ^ "April Fools' Special: History's Hoaxes". 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  23. ^ "Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  24. ^ "Redefinition of Pi". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  25. ^ "Microwaved Workman". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  26. ^ "ESR | February 23, 2004 | RS 2477 reform is needed to protect private property". Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  27. ^ Cart, Julie. "Rights (Page 2 of 2) Dust-Up Over Off-Roaders Roars Across Backcountry". LA Times. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  28. ^ "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (PDF). Citizens’ Committee to Save Our Canyons. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  29. ^ Boslough, Mark. "The Right to Radiate". Huff Post. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  30. ^ "Asteroiden". ServusTV. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  31. ^ "Meteor Strike". Nova. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  32. ^ "Meteor strike fireball from space". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  33. ^ "Fire in the Sky". Discovery Canada. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  34. ^ "The Truth About Meteors: A Horizon Special Part 1". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  35. ^ "Viewers Questions". Connect 105. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  36. ^ "Close Encounters In Siberia". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-09-29.