The airborne-metallurgic accretion event
Paris, Fin-de-siècle (1894):
Camille Flammarion’s “Omega: The Last Days of the World” is extinction-fiction by way of end century melancholy. Flammarion’s novel, from its earliest pages, assumes the mass destruction of a looming carbon monoxide (CO) comet thrust into earth’s atmosphere. While the second half of the book details how humans attempt an impotent response to resuscitate the world in the wake of this impact event, the first half entertains speculative astrophysics for the end times.
In a Parisian hall sometime in the near future, scientists and philosophers, clerics and bureaucrats all debate the possible sequence of the end of the world. Most agree that it's happening (again), but the details assembled are its mass, size, chemical composition, religious affiliation, duration, and of course – cosmic meaning. The conversations take extinction in the plural, further itemizing near future annihilation.
Yet these debates are singularly meaningless: Flammarion’s scenes of liberal discussions and gay sciences offer little to explain and rationalize end of world scenarios, but dramatize their repeated and airborne threat. The main conceit of Flammarion’s extinction event is that “Omega” - an indeterminate principle in itself - is not only the speculative fiction of our future, but of our past. But what resolution is there anterior to the extinction of human life? How to fictionalize a past whereas impact events neglect the replete destruction of earth, rendering extinct its forms of life, but instead are absorbed by pre-planetary design? Or, the unfolding of life in the wake of cosmic accidents.
Northern Europe-North America (NENA) Supercontinent (early Proterozoic era):
1.85 billion years ago, a comet coagulates with various asteroid rock remnants and penetrates the earth’s atmosphere at eight times the speed of sound. In the dust of distant cold planets, constructed with dense sediments of nickel and iron, this catastrophe thrusts earthbound, honing in on a single cratonic landmass, surrounded by warm subtropical temperatures - or, a calm beach. Its only inhabitants are single-celled organisms, fostering a temperate climate to host future oxidized life.
Yet nothing will make it out of this impact-event alive: The collision immediately forces a downward elliptical structure 10 km deep, 60 km x 30 km wide. Any tellurian life at this time is now buried, if existent prior. A hole in the earth is formed - or an “astrobleme,” an uncanny ancient Greek translation of “star wound” - but this complex mines upwards, terraforming its surface expression as a dormant planet hosts multiple events unraveling simultaneously:
The 10 km deep rupture into the earth melts the crust, imitating the detonation of several volcanoes at massive and coordinated scale. The impact furnaces its own magma in a combustive process known as cataclysmic volcanism whereas molten surface areas are not sourced through the earth’s core, but quotidien of a demolition velocity that coheres upon collision. The impact-event detonates multiple subterranean volcanic ruptures from the comet’s external velocity.
An oozing lava pool congeals with debris of the comet, and remnants of earth, rendering-terrestrial both environments while generating a new substance through pressurized poromechanics. In this magma pool, molten rock splashes against the bedrock, invading and outsourcing the celestial comets’ insides to nearby ecosystems, consolidating both terrestrial and celestial material.
There are more remainders outwards and external to the crater: The earth’s crust rebounds, showing signs of resilience, generating a central uplift in the crater (think: a drop of water in a still pond). Clouds of debris and smoke plumes of rock float in free fall at a low earth orbit, possibly stretching around the entire earth, but determinately above the impact zone in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Suspended for a moment, this earth-matter shatters down to earth, creating a 2 km thick layer over the molten rock. All while shockwaves travel at hypersonic speeds engulfing the planet. Shattering winds displace nearby oceanic tides, conjuring oceanic tsunami waves on their way to traverse the entirety of the globe. Displaced oceanic currents return to the scene of the crater, submerging the molten crater with turbulent waves, fusing together the beginnings of igneous substrates. This striation of divergent materials in temperature, form and origin amalgamate and then organize based on mass and temperature. Heavier metal-rich sinks to the bottom, while lighter minerals float upwards. Geologic records indicate high-pressurized shock metamorphism, the aftermath of which produces shatter cones, melted rock and crystal deformations.
Although these recursive structures take place within a compressed microscore of time, they irrefutably solidify a defining moment in geological history. Geothermal processes are forming, stretched over nearly 2 billion years, to modify the original accident. Erosion of rain, wind and ice withers away the most exposed parts, as the Sudbury Basin begins to form to how we see it today, residual of plate tectonics and a few continental collisions.
Sudbury Basin, Ontario, Canada, N 46° 36′ W 81° 11′ (2020):
“What horrifies the living is not an empty tomb but a messed-up and exhumed tomb. The architectural policy of the solid does not reject destruction or deconstruction but escapes exhumation ... Exhumation is wholly criminal and immoral, but further, it is basically polluting and infecting as it undergoes surface collision, necrotizing the architecture, proliferating hot and cold surfaces into each other, letting the cold space of a tomb evaporate and the reek of bodies rise up - resurrection of the defiled body. The cold cannot be reheated; only messed up” (Negarestani, “Cyclonopedia”)
“Human life is exhausted from serving as the head of, or the reason for, the universe … it accepts servitude” (Bataille, “Visions of Excess”)
At a deep temporality, fissured off from any human calculation of tangible time, permanence becomes relative. A crater densely saturated with a surplus of nickel-ore sulfide gradually discovers humans: In this nearly two billion year old gravesite of a star that has fallen down to earth, man soon finds new utility. The hole in the ground provides the inverse of lack – or, sheer surplus - as linear time dials up a deeper geotemporality. A celestial temporality invades the earth's surface in the shape of an excessively productive excavation site.
Metallurgic sciences, offshoots of 19th century enlightenment, begin designing synthetic metal alloys which resist oxidation, decay and rust. In order to maximize utility and production in an increasingly forward and progressive world, metallurgy looks towards the stars, asteroids and comets as steel chemically synthesized with merely an additional 8% of nickel-iron sulfide delays corrosion for a later date. Nickel acts as an antioxidant that embeds the entire structure of steel into a stainless-steel substance that is impervious to time itself. And as synthetic-industrial design becomes highly reliant on nickel-iron sulfide’s resilience to corrosion, not only the lifespan of nickel-alloys increase, but that too of its overall strength, permanence and life.
The occupational hazards of alchemical synthetics is deeply geotraumic, as the cometary accident continues to emerge, and render visible its nested substance of nick-iron sulfide. Locating a parasitic complex as a medium that communicates between humans and geological time, this original source of trauma resurfaces as the star-wound is unearthed from the dead, the sight of an exhumed grave. The wounds continue to multiply and swarm until the present at each invocation of a stainless steel construct – the application of which is nearly industrially omnipresent: transportation, habitat, security, war – each plurally conscripted to this astronomic and nickel-iron sulfide conspiracy. The Sudbury collision event renders invasive a geotraumatic spiral buried deep below the surface, waiting for its subsequent extraction. Geotraumatics is a disentombed corpse, the unearthed remains of intrusive agents in the geological record.
In Etienne Turpins’ “Reflections on Stainlessness,” the impact-structure of Sudbury is documented through both celestial and terrestrial scales, oftentimes compounding both elements while inaugurating ongoing geotemporal history. The late 19th century inaugurated massive excavation projects that connected vastly expansive areas across Canada to Sudbury, Ontario. Compounded with late 19th century metallurgical innovation and expanding utility of alloys in various sectors of an adjunct industrial economy, Sudbury’s celestial substance of nickel-iron sulfide accumulated $100 billion throughout the 20th century, no doubt properly resurgent in the war industry, of which more than half of artillery for the allies in World War II was mined from Sudbury.
This contact between synthetic alloy and human shifts a course towards alienated properties that resist tendencies of decline and instead evokes a deterred death, for another time, outside of the invention and creation of human industry. Yet the PROJECT does not create sacred towers to this excess element, instead to human architecture. This stainless trajectory itself defines our current moment: the expedition of which disavowals the star-wound as a planetary cataclysmic event, with human-leaddened industry. Instead, the historical weight of planetary catastrophism itself is the origin story for our stainless and silicon futures. Yet this waste too should be an addendum to our stainless legacy of “The Anthropocene”- or, our abandonment of productive growth, and in its wake the benevolent use-value of catastrophe.
Somewhere else, recurring (yesterday):
The crater as planetary accretion or a subterranean economy leadened in a slow disposition towards decay continues to generate use-value. The astrophysics of which gravitate towards accumulation. A comet falls to the earth, losing kinetic energy, and creates a symbiotic relationship with earth and its minerals. The sheer accidents of the comet are recombinant on its value, as their object-formation is latent in otherworldly value for-us. The waste products of economies of scale that fall catch wind of otherworldly gravitational pulls.
Here at Sudbury we see the genesis of industrialism, of towers of scale that remain erect after single lives. The genesis for progress is deeply sedimented in the subaltern earth, the continual emissions of a primal source of geotrauma resultant of a cosmic accident. Ed Keller (The Cosmopolitical Gesture: Coordination, Recursity and Universal Models) further disorients the primordial source by suggesting the incalculable demolition of Sudbury’s precambrian shield. Following others (specifically, Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse) who continue to question where the nickel arrived: from above (the comet) or below (deeply sedimented stratification), or an assemblage of both: a hypervelocity xeno-mining event that both constructs and digs, assembles and destroys, the conjuration of its arrival.
Planetary accretion is not only a productive model, but an economy that resides in the anticipation of accidental collisions, attuning nickel-ore sulfide as a convenient waste product of. A sprawling permanence unites both vitalist planes and adheres to a geomorphology that is the unfolding present. Planetary accretion immediately yet gradually blurs the distinction between natural determinants of the organic, and artificial signs of the invasive. Both celestial comet and grounded earth are complicit in accidental exo-parasitic terraforming processes. Planetary Accretion is the slow unfolding of the cosmic-cataclysmic event, in a deep temporality of geothermal processes the coefficients of decay.
Yet these accidents are framed for-us in times of convenience, otherwise and eternally of contingency. This could be what K K Trieu would consider Happy Accidents - or, complicity with morphological fate that secures, and re-secures, a substrate for future breathing life. Trieu’s piece invokes an open wound without resolution: is there blood, or rust, in the Columbia Shuttle debris? The stations of organic / nonorganic, and synthetic / natural dissuade all incumbent methods as this scene suspends both within an accidentally cataclysmic environment. The signs of which point to a flattening of organic/mechanistic metaphors, and instead the participation of nonhuman scales, durations and hosts: each a logical outcome of falling back to earth.