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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A bad case of asteroids

A busy week, but I couldn't let a passing space rock go untoasted even though it seems to have attracted a media frenzy - many happy returns, 2014 RC!

In the best churnalistic tradition, if one science editor picks it up then all the rest follow - never mind that other very close approaches go unmarked save by astronomical websites and the occasional obsessional blogger.

Once again, I feel rather peeved; it's like being a die-hard fan of an obscure indie band which has inexplicably gone mainstream and appeared on Saturday night television, complete with gyrating dancers and laser displays.

Perhaps this is something to do with the opportune appearance of the media-savvy Professor Brian Cox as (appropriately enough) honorary Chicken Licken to the nation, a position left vacant thanks to Lembit Opik's apparent desertion of the cause for rather more earthly attractions.

The media coverage inspired the Express, in particular, to hyperbolic flights of fanciful prognostication:
ASTEROIDS could rain down on the earth for 100 years, shocked experts have just warned.
which in turn, prompted this excellent debunking at Slate Magazine.

Meanwhile, investigators have been called in to assess a new crater in Nicaragua, which has raised the interesting question of fragmentation, bane of the Bruce-Willis-and-the-Nukes school of asteroid impact prevention.

According to JPL and NASA:
For those wondering, the event in Nicaragua (poss meteorite?) is unrelated to asteroid 2014 RC. Different timing, different directions.
which brings to mind the recent coincidence (?) of the Chelyabinsk meteor and DA14; will we one day be blindsided while all our attention is centred on another rock passing overhead?

All in all, it's a salutary reminder of our own insignificance in the face of whatever is hurtling round out there. In the words of John W Campbell (as quoted by Arthur C Clarke):
'Meteorites don't fall on the Earth. They fall on the Sun, and the Earth gets in the way.'


  1. It is only a matter of time before someone produces an energy drink called Asteroid.

  2. Why not get ahead of the game, Demetrius? I'd love to see you pitching it on 'Dragons' Den'.