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

Monday 4 March 2013

Out of the blue

No sooner have we seen the back of DA14 and the Russian fireball (and while we're still wrangling about whether the two are connected or simply a cosmic coincidence of truly astronomical proportions*) than another space rock is whizzing past our ear - in cosmic terms, at least.

The (very) newly-discovered 2013 EC has crept up on us unnoticed, which is hardly surprising, given it's only around 15 metres wide, and will pass just inside the moon's orbit at 7.35 this morning - sadly inconvenient timing for our usual celebration but you might like to give it a friendly wave as you eat your breakfast or travel to work.

Suddenly asteroid detection and diversion is the issue of the day in scientific circles, with conferences and calls for radical new strategies on every side; I imagine Lembit Opik is laughing hollowly to himself, having spent much of the 1990s being dismissed as the Chicken Licken of British politics for campaigning for that very thing.

It's an interesting result of improved technology; as our powers of observation increase, so does the perceived threat. The asteroids were always there, beyond the scope of our limited vision, just as disease-bearing microbes existed long before we had the means to detect them.

The same thing could be said for the DNA 'contamination' of meat**. The very nature of slaughter and preparation means that, for as long as humans have eaten animals, some form of cross-contamination must have been taking place at a microscopic level and it's hard to see how it can be entirely avoided.

Does knowing about it really make any difference?

*Frank Davies, for one, remains to be convinced by the official line. [link now corrected]

**The inspiration for a brilliantly satirical post by A K Haart published one minute after this one; perhaps coincidence is the order of the day after all.

1 comment:

  1. "Does knowing about it really make any difference?"

    On the whole I think it does, although these things are so often used to promote drama and needless fears.

    On the other hand, knowing more about asteroid impact risks might wake us up to a reality which is at least genuine. So far it seems to be in the hands of proper scientists too - always a bonus.

    Thanks for the link - glad you liked it!


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