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#17- The conventional view is that asteroids strike the

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen. The correct answer choice is (D)

This stimulus deals with asteroids and how they strike the earth. The collisions have generally been
thought to take place in random spots, thus having random effects on the evolution of the planet.
One outlier geophysicist hypothesizes that asteroid strikes have occurred in a very organized way,
based in part on the unusual halo-pattern of asteroid craters that can be seen across the Northern
Hemisphere of the planet. The general consensus is that they were formed by asteroids that struck at
the end of the Cretaceous period and preceded mass extinctions on land and in the ocean.

The question stem asks for the answer choice that would most strengthen the geophysicist's claim of
a more organized system of asteroid strikes, so the correct answer choice will support the notion of a
more organized system, or undermine the conventional notion that such strikes take place in random

Answer choice (A): The author mentions the common consensus that asteroids struck the earth in
a halo pattern, preceding mass extinctions. This answer choice supports the idea that the asteroids
were the cause of those extinctions, but it is not relevant to the question of whether or not asteroid
impacts occur in an organized natural process, so this cannot be the correct answer to this Strengthen

Answer choice (B): The conventional view is that asteroids impact the earth in random spots, thus
randomly affecting the earth's evolution. This choice supports the notion that asteroid impacts can
have effects on the earth's evolution, but makes it no more or less likely that the asteroid strikes
occur in an organized way. Since this choice does not strengthen the geophysicist's claim, it should
be ruled out of contention.

Answer choice (C): The geophysicist believes that asteroids have struck the earth through an
organized process; this would not require that the halo pattern asteroids hit in one single cluster. This
choice does not increase the likelihood that asteroids hit in any organized way, as a single cluster
could have randomly made a halo-like pattern.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice, because this answer provides support for
the claim that the asteroids strike the earth in a more organized fashion.

Answer choice (E): In order to support the geophysicist's conclusion that the asteroids impact the
earth in a highly organized natural process, we might look for other examples of the same pattern.
This choice, which provides that the halo pattern is unique in the earth's history, does not help the
geophysicist's case, so this cannot be the right answer to this Strengthen question.
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Can someone help explain why D is the correct answer? I think I see how what we're looking for is proof that the asteroids strike in an organized vs. random fashion, but why is the information in D considered organized vs random?

Clay Cooper
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Hi lday4,

Thanks for question.

Your understanding of the question and of what we are looking for sounds correct to me. The reason that answer choice D, if true, strengthens the claim that the asteroids strike in an organized pattern is that if these asteroids fall into a specific orbit before impact with the earth (due to the lumpy masses within the earth that change its gravitational field), then they are likely to descend to the earth from this orbit in something close to a straight-line ring around the earth. In other words, if the earth's peculiar gravitational field forced them into (say) perfect orbit that covered both poles, then their impacts would predictably form a straight-line halo that was perpendicular to the equator (just like a line of longitude). Even if the orbit they consistently fell into was much more more randomly oriented, it would still likely result in a consistent pattern of impacts around the earth, because it is a straight-line, circular orbit around a spherical body.

Does that clarify it?
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The explanation above is really helpful in understanding why d is the right answer. But I have a question about the wrong answer I selected. I chose c thinking that the single cluster meant there was some organization to it. I realize that the cluster could've been random. Is c also wrong because it talks about meteors (not discussed in the stimulus) instead of asteroids? I'm pretty sure meteors and asteroids are different things.

Can someone lay out the reasons c is wrong and if my reasons above about c's faults make sense?

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Hi fg6118,

Thanks for the question. As you note, C references meteors rather than asteroids, and we shouldn't assume that in the world of the LSAT (or in general) that they are synonymous.

Also, answer choice C doesn't really give us any information related to a "highly organized natural process". Even if it's a single cluster, that doesn't tell us whether it's part of some organized process or not.

Hope that helps!
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Question about B).

If asteroids repeatedly pummel the same spots on earth..., doesn't it mean the asteroids have struck the earth through a highly organized process?
Adam Tyson
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Good question, chian9010! I see two problems with answer B, though. First, the answer doesn't say that this ever actually happens, but only what would result if it did happen. Since we don't know that it has ever actually happened, it doesn't strengthen that asteroids actually have been organized.

Second, even if that had happened, would that strengthen that the process was "natural"? Or could it be evidence of something unnatural, like a coordinated attack by an alien intelligence using asteroids as bombs? Or the work of an evil genius with an asteroid-grabbing tractor beam threatening civilization while demanding a ransom of ONE...MILLION...DOLLARS?

While those are a bit crazy and fun, it's the first problem that really kills this answer. We need evidence that supports the claim that the asteroids DID strike in certain places due to a highly organized, natural process. Answer B never says that it ever happened that way, only what the effect would be (or would have been) if it did.
Adam M. Tyson
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