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Cahill will discuss asteroid strike novel on Saturday

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From page A5 | January 09, 2013 |

UC Davis physicist Tom Cahill's new book deals with the potential aftermath of a devastating asteroid strike. Courtesy photo

Meet the author

Who: Tom Cahill, discussing his new book, “Ark: Asteroid Impact”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Avid Reader, 617 Second St.

As an asteroid hurtles through space on a course that will bring it perilously close to Earth weeks from now, physicist Thomas A. Cahill has scheduled a talk Saturday to discuss his new book about the potential aftermath of a devastating asteroid strike.

Cahill will speak at 7:30 p.m. at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St. in downtown Davis.

Astronomers throughout the world have been tracking the course of an asteroid on a trajectory to intersect Earth’s orbit this Feb. 15. Scientists in the Near-Earth Object Program Office in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe the asteroid, dubbed DA14, will skirt past about 12,600 miles from the Earth’s surface. That’s an alarmingly close distance that falls within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites circling the Earth.

Astronomers are closely monitoring DA14 and other hurtling objects in space because of the potential cataclysm that would result from a collision with the Earth’s surface. Physicists, geologists, ecologists and other scientists grimly contemplate the environmental upheaval that an impact would trigger.

Cahill, an internationally recognized UC Davis atmospheric scientist, has terrifyingly transformed one potential scenario into a science fiction thriller — his second novel published under the EditPros LLC imprint.

Cahill’s book, titled “Ark: Asteroid Impact,” is a gripping story about a band of Californians who take refuge and manage to survive the calamitous effects of the collision of a large asteroid with the Earth. The devastating impact shatters civilization and eradicates nearly all forms of plant and animal life on the planet.

The book describes in vivid detail the survival struggles and ingenuity of refugees who find themselves marooned in the forbidding, barren, frozen environment that envelops Earth following the colossal impact.

Cahill meticulously researched the likelihood of events described in the book. The “Ark“ in the title alludes to the quest of the survivors to rebuild civilization. They scavenge the meager resources at their disposal to improvise shelter from the punishing cold, to generate electricity, to supply food and to devise means of transportation to search for a more suitable climate, as well as to find other survivors.

Cahill is a professor of physics at UCD. In his fictional writing, he interweaves meticulously accurate descriptions of physical settings with his own creatively prismatic view of subtly altered scientific reality.

His current research expertise encompasses two areas: the effect of aerosols on global climate change — including conducting an aerosol program on the Greenland ice cap for the National Science Foundation — and the impact of ultra-fine aerosols from highways and rail yards for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He spent more than two decades designing, building and running the aerosol network to protect visibility at U.S. national parks and monuments — now the national IMPROVE program.

Because of that and other health-related work, a U.S. Department of Energy colleague asked Cahill and his team to evaluate air at the excavation project following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York City following 9/11. Cahill was among the first to warn that workers at the site were at risk of serious health threats from the toxic metals in the air.

His early work at UCLA, in France and in Davis was in nuclear physics and astrophysics, but he soon began applying physical techniques to applied problems, especially air pollution. His data in 1973 on the impacts of airborne lead was instrumental in the adoption of the catalytic converter in California in 1976. Cahill proposed and supported the law to lower sulfur in gasoline in 1977.

He was director of both the Institute of Ecology and the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, where his pioneering work included nondestructive analysis of ancient documents.

Cahill is the author or co-author of hundreds of academic articles and book chapters. This is his second work of science fiction. His first novel, “Annals of the Omega Project — A Trilogy,” was published in October 2012 by EditPros LLC, a Davis firm.

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