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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How about some science? Bengtson find vindicates Azmi?

A long story, but basically about the Vindhyan basin central India. The age of this basin has been controversial since an Indian scientist by the name of Azmi discovered so called small shelly fossils (SSF's) and brachiopods from the lower part of the Vindhyan basin in rocks called porcellanites. The finding is triply odd since (a) porcellanites are volcanic ash beds and unlikely spots for preservation of these types of fossils (b) the age of the lower Vindhyan was thought to be around 1100 Ma at the time and the fossils Azmi claimed to have discovered are Cambrian in age and (c) Azmi was unable to show others where the fossils were discovered.
Since that time, Azmi was vilified for his 'discovery'. Ages obtained from the rock units studied by Azmi are now known to be 1600 million years old (about 1050 million years too old for his 'fossils'). No one has been able to duplicate his findings and experts who looked at his fossils claimed that they were not fossils at all. The younger part of the Vindhyan basin, the so called 'upper vindhyan' contains evidence that it too may be far older than previously thought casting doubts on fossil discoveries in the Upper Vindhyan; however the newer age constraints (made in my lab) are not as concrete as we would like. They are highly suggestive of an older age. In short, life has been hard for Azmi.

Enter paleontologist Stefan Bengtson who has recently published a paper in PNAS regarding 'fossils' in the Lower Vindhyan. Bengtson found fossils similar to those reported by Azmi, but showed clearly that they are not small shelly fossils or brachiopods, but traces of filamentous algae, bacteria and gas bubbles.

Azmi claims he is vindicated, but I'm not so sure this is the case. Azmi continues to insist that the whole of the Vindhyan is 600-500 million years old despite strong evidence to the contrary. The fossil discoveries made by Azmi have not been confirmed and, in fact, the discovery by Bengtson et al. are not brachipods or small shelly fossils. Azmi has demanded a retraction of all criticisms regarding his find, but I'm not so sure that a retraction is needed. Azmi was clearly wrong on many levels and his continued insistence that the Vindhyan is all very young also looks to be wrong. Lastly, no fossils have been found in the porcellanite beds where Azmi claimed to have found SSF's.

Azmi's insistence that he is correct is problematic. At the same time, as Bengtson noted, if Azmi had not been so insistent then it is unlikely that he (Bengtson et al) would have made their discovery. Science moves forward in strange ways.

In my opinion, the paper showed yet again why Azmi's original claims were wrong. We'll have to see if he finally moves towards the consensus on the age of the Vindhyan basins.


Joe Meert


At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to break up the science but it seems our dear Machen is going full steam ahead with cuts. Somehow, it doesn't surprise me.

Per the Gainesville Sun:

"UF still plans deep cuts despite state budget
The school won't use stimulus money on recurring costs such as salaries."

"The proposed state budget makes $49 million in cuts to UF's funding but uses federal stimulus money to make up for the shortfall. Because the stimulus money runs out in two years, UF officials still plan to make cuts that could mean layoffs and program eliminations."

"In an e-mail, Machen said the stimulus instead will be used to implement cuts, bridge the time it takes to move programs to private funding and provide retirement incentives for employees.

Members of some programs slated for possible elimination, such as UF's Documentary Institute, question the approach."

This last statement points out Machen's real aim:

"Roberts said he expects the Documentary Institute to be eliminated no matter what happens. He pointed to comments made by Machen in February that the budget crisis provided a chance to make decisions that are difficult in economically flush times.

"That's what's going on," he said."


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