Wednesday, 19 January 2011


ET Rock

Incoming!:or, Why we should stop worrying and learn to love the meteorite by Ted Nield

New Scientist, 21 January 2011

From AD 218 to 222 the Roman empire worshipped a meteorite. This bizarre episode ended when the transsexual priest-emperor Elagabalus was hacked to bits and hurled into the Tiber. This is just one of the many stories Ted Nield skilfully weaves into his entertaining history of meteorites.

In July 2010, two spectators at a cricket match in Sussex in the south of England witnessed an extremely rare meteor strike. The rock, 12 centimetres long, broke in two when it hit the ground with a piece ricocheting into the chest of one man. Luckily he was unharmed. Nield reckons the "global risk of death by extraterrestrial impact to be a negligible 1 in 720,000". Meteorites pose little threat, but says Nield, "we humans have transplanted into meteorites the geological aliens, the heart of our own times, as we searched them for signs of times to come".