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Interview with John Armitage

In a previous post I reviewed a paper on astropalaeontology which I had serendipitously discovered. I tracked down the author of The Prospect of Astro-Palaeontology, John Armitage, who is Director of the South Staffordshire Observatory to ask some questions his paper inspired: Could you tell me something about your background? I gather from scattered sources on the internet that you have a background in astronomy, but do you have any archaeological training as well? I have always been interested in astronomy. I have been a member of the British Astronomical Association for 50 years and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society for over 36 years. My first degree was in Earth and Planetary Science, and my subsequent research was in Micropalaeontology, thus my interest in microfossils in meteorites, etc. Have you written any … Read entire article »

Filed under: Interviews

What is Astropalaeontology?

Most commonly the term has been used by authors such as John Armitage (‘The prospect of astro-palaeontology’) to describe the study of prehistoric extraterrestrial life. Astropalaeontology in this sense is a sub-discipline of astrobiology, and in fact as Armitage argued it may be more likely that we will discover the remains of extinct extraterrestrial life before we discover a living example. Exopalaeontology and astropalaeobiology are synonyms, and I’ve also seen palaeoastrobiology. Xenopalaeontology doesn’t seem to have caught on in serious circles. It’s worth noting again that astropalaeontology is a separate discipline from xenoarchaeology, as terrestrial palaeontology is from archaeology (although in both cases the fields share a blurry boundary). Archaeological fields are more concerned with cultural remains, which are created by sophonts. Secondly the term has been used to describe the study of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Theory

Review: The Prospect of Astro-Palaeontology, by John Armitage

Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, vol. 30, pp. 466-9, 1976. After it was published this paper seems to have fallen into utter obscurity. It was pure serendipity that led me to stumble across it. All that I can determine about John Armitage is that he became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 10 December 1976[1], and that the paper was also presented at the Second British Interplanetary Society Conference on Interstellar Travel and Communication, 4-5 April 1977. In it the author argues, as I have, that it seems likely that the number of galactic extinct civilizations is greater than the number of galactic extant civilizations. Armitage makes the distinction that detectable civilizations are only apparently extant, given the relativistic gap between signal transmission and detection. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Reviews