So, where to begin? Solar flares seem to have taken a back seat recently, which is odd, given the impact that major solar activity could have on today's technology-reliant society.
When aimed directly at Earth, X-class sun eruptions can interfere with satellite-based communications and navigation systems and also endanger astronauts in orbit.Although the sat-nav on the Tavern's coach-and-four can cock things up quite successfully without extra-terrestrial intervention - after which she pauses briefly, then huffs 'recalculating' in hurt tones, as if it were all our fault - this is potential disaster territory when applied to major infrastructure.
The Japanese earthquake, although measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, passed off largely without incident, as did the aftershocks, though I imagine the inhabitants of the Fukushima area had an uneasy few hours. In fact, Friday saw a surprising number of earthquakes, judging by the USGS map (a useful reference for which I am originally indebted to Demetrius, always a fount of knowledge on the subject).
Meanwhile, as if this were not enough, on the same day 2013 UX2 zipped past a mere 150,000km away, having been spotted only the night before, yet another reminder of the known unknowns out there. Admittedly, an impact wouldn't have sent us the way of the dinosaurs - estimates place it between 3.8 and 8.4m in diameter - but it would have been enough to make an impressive bang, nonetheless.
All in all, yesterday was quite a day for those of an apocaholic disposition, and, as if that were not enough, we in the UK are now being told to batten down the hatches in preparation for the meteorological bomb headed in our direction.
Back in the 80s, global thermonuclear warfare was the name of the game; 'Protect and Survive', they said, which was scant consolation if you lived near a prime strategic target. Still, whitewashing the windows and levering the door off its hinges would probably have distracted the populace from the unedifying spectacle of local bigwigs scuttling for their council-supplied shelters.
These days, thanks to improved detection techniques, we can take our pick of potential catastrophes ready to wipe us out in a variety of interesting and spectacular ways - I wonder if the local council still have their bunker ready. We are surely overdue for something major - look what happened to the dinosaurs and they hadn't even invented scripted reality or 'Extreme Celebrity Spa'.
The gods may once have played at dice, but I'm inclined to think they have moved on to a cosmic game of Mousetrap or Buckaroo; deep down, we all know that, sooner or later, something's got to give and the world as we know it will all come crashing down - an idea that has been profitably exploited by writers, Hollywood and, for that matter, several major religions.
Still, in the meantime, we invite you to raise a belated glass to 2013 UX2 to speed it on its way.