Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 15 February 2013

Flying tonight

Regular readers may have been surprised at the recent silence here on the subject of 2012 DA14, not all of which has been due to such half-term obligations as taking a nephew to the zoo.

To be honest, I've been in a bit of a sulk. I feel rather like a die-hard fan of an obscure indie band which, after years in the musical wilderness, has an unexpected number one hit.

Suddenly asteroid is the mot du jour and everyone's an expert - well, nearly everyone (my thanks to Nourishing Obscurity for that one).

On all sides, the media are eagerly imparting details of tonight's close approach, along with, at the more irresponsible end of the coverage - and in spite of the repeated assurances of experts - lurid speculation about the damage that an impact might cause.

And then, to top it all, the cosmos sends us a timely reminder of our fragility in the form of the Russian meteorite, supplying the sort of spectacular footage that will be distinctly lacking from tonight's flyby - though I can't be the only one who found, in the news footage of witnesses whose bandaged eyes were injured by shattering windows as they watched the display, a chilling reminder of 'The Day of the Triffids'.

The Russian strike is a reminder, along with the passing asteroid's chronological designation, that we are always vulnerable to a bolt from the blue; Newtonian mechanics and supercomputers may enable us to calculate trajectories with remarkable precision but that's no good if we haven't yet spotted the celestial body barreling towards us on a collision course.

Still, eat, drink and be merry is the best philosophy; as ever, we at the Tavern will be roistering tonight in honour of 2012 DA14 even if it's not such an exclusive celebration as usual, so please pour yourselves a drink and join us in spirit.


  1. "To be honest, I've been in a bit of a sulk."

    No need. Your blog reminds me of these things, so as soon as I saw the news I thought "Macheath".

    It's a great antidote the the climate nonsense - a real and present danger where we need real science and real scientists.

  2. To be honest, I've been in a bit of a sulk. I feel rather like a die-hard fan of an obscure indie band which, after years in the musical wilderness, has an unexpected number one hit.

    I can understand that but agree with AKH, for the same reasons - no need.

  3. Thank you both; it's nice to be appreciated!

    AKH, you're right; it's one of those statistical anomalies - very unlikely at any given time but catastrophic when it does happen.

    perhaps it's a shame that Lembit Opik, erstwhile campaigner for national asteroid detection/deflection strategies, allowed himself to be sidetracked in such a spectacular fashion.

  4. Late to the party but me too.

    Did you ever see that film, Night Of The Comet?

    It was pants as films go but it's one of them where everyone disappears and just a handful are left.

    I've often wished that would happen to me. The entire world for the taking and no socialists.

    I may have had a couple of pints

  5. Can't say I've seen it, Bucko - though I'm not one to pass up an end-of-the-world movie if there's one on offer - but I agree; it could be an appealing scenario.

    However, back in the days of 'Protect and Survive', my father refused to bother with any of the advised precautions because he knew that the local council had a well-
    stocked, bomb-proof bunker; he had, he said, no intention of surviving only to emerge into a world populated by cockroaches and local politicians.

    Anyway, too much of that sort of speculation and you end up in a mountain cabin in Montana with a slightly disturbing armoury and a thousand tins of Spam; best just to have another drink and let things take their course.


  6. A thousand tins of spam? That's gotta be the dream, hasn't it?

    As long as you remembered a thousand loaves of bread and one tin opener.

    If you get bored one night: http://tinyurl.com/d6x6kkq

  7. Thanks, Bucko; I'll get some popcorn in specially!

  8. I actually watched it last night after posting the link.

    It stars Chacotay out of Star Trek Voyager. He's Hector.

    Like I said, pants, but still worth watching. Enjoy.

  9. Now you've convinced me, Bucko; 'Voyager' has many faults, but Chacotay and Janeway, at least, are infinitely watchable.