Edinburgh Science Festival – Incoming! Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying And Learn To Love The Meteorite

I was early again! But aTed Nieldfter half an hour the doors opened for ‘Incoming! Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying And Learn To Love The Meteorite’. Stuart Monro, director of ‘Our Dynamic Earth’ was there to introduce Ted Nield, describing him as a rare character; a man who can explain everything in his books. ‘Even’ Stuart can now understand the physics of meteorites. As Stuart says, ‘Geologists are good company, especially for other Geologists’.

Ted Nield began by telling us the true, groundbreaking fact about meteorites. Every day 30,000-40,000 tons of meteorites hit the Earth. Mostly in the form of dust and sand, but some come down as shooting stars and even as the occasional fireball.
Then he moved on to the history of meteorites and, to my surprise, talked about the Geology behind it all. He spoke about the mid-Ordovician period with the sudden Ted Nieldincrease in biodiversity, the KT boundary and the last mass extinction and how meteorites relate to each of these events. He discussed the research done by his old university lecturer Derek Ager, and also that of Birger Schmitz, a Swedish geologist he met while doing his doctorate. Ted also explained the complex ideas surrounding mass extinctions and their causes, including the ideas of Ernst Öpik.

He finished with Shakespeare in Cymbeline, ‘Fear no more the lightning-flash, Nor the all-dread thunder-stone…’  Although meteorites might have assisted in the deaths of the dinosaurs and other life forms at that time, they also allowed mammals to evolve; and might even be said to have kick-started life back in the Ordovician period. ‘So don’t stop watching the skies! But if one of those meteorites or asteroids has our name on it, according to science fiction novels, we have the chance of deflecting it; though maybe without sending up Bruce Willis on a giant bomb.’

This was another excellent talk and Ted Nield is a great speaker who can simplify ideas for the man in the street. Or at least to us in the audience at the Informatics Forum. And his answer to my question about Chicxulub and the KT boundary should help with my Geology exams.

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Posted on April 18, 2011, in Astronomy, Edinburgh Science Festival, Geology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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