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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



Shades of the Andromeda Strain

September 28th, 2007 by Steven Gould

070921-meteor-peru_big.jpg

So, first there was this meteor which smacked down into the ground at a village in Peru located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.

Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a “strange odor,” local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.

Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized, Lopez said.

Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) and 20-foot-deep (six-meter-deep) crater, said local official Marco Limache.

“Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned,” he said.

However, people were suspicious of this. There hasn’t been a recorded case of illness coming from any satellite we know of (unless you count being extincted on account of tons of rock falling on your butt, but we weren’t actually around for that one.) Also, various astronomers questioned the size and shape of the crater. People speculated it might be space debris, instead, like, say, the kind that carried the deadly virus to earth in The Andromeda Strain.


Next, an interesting fact turned up. Peru owned some SCUD Missles.

More than 700 `Scud’ launchers were deployed by the former Warsaw Pact nations, each launcher carried one missile and had three reloads available…but it is believed that the SS-1 `Scud’ missiles have been withdrawn from service in Russia and destroyed … `Scud B’ missiles have been exported to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Georgia, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Libya, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Syria, UAE, Ukraine, Vietnam and Yemen. Unconfirmed reports in 1995 and 1996 have suggested that `Scud B’ missiles may have been purchased by Armenia, Ecuador, Pakistan, Peru and Democratic Republic of the Congo…

People, among them Phil Plait, the Bad Astonomer, noted that:

Ah, the fuel used by Scud missiles is called Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid. This is a toxic brew that can cause nausea and skin irritation, the same symptoms reported to have been seen in the people in Peru near the crater. A missile impact would also explain the witnessed fireball and the impact crater! Fuel leaks are not uncommon in missile impacts, especially if something went wrong with the missile (and with Scuds, that’s very common).

Okay, that was weird, but the weirdest was yet to come.

Pravda, the Russian newspaper, reports:

American spy satellite downed in Peru as US nuclear attack on Iran thwarted

Russian Military Intelligence Analysts are reporting today that one of the United States most secretive spy satellites, the KH-13, targeting Iran was ‘destroyed in its orbit’ with its main power generator powered by the radioactive isotope Pu-238 surviving re-entry and crashing in a remote region of the South American Nation of Peru, and where hundreds are reported to be ill from radiation poisoning.

Western media reports are stating that the US spy satellite debris hitting Peru was caused by a meteor, but which, according to these reports, would be ‘impossible’ as the size of 30-meter crater, if caused by a meteorite, would have hit the ground with about as much energy as 1 kiloton tactical nuclear weapon, and which would have been recorded by the seismic stations around the World.

Most astonishing about these reports, however, are that they state that it was the Americans themselves who destroyed their own spy satellite with the attack upon it being made by the United States Air Forces’ 30th Space Wing located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This incident further fuels the intrigue involving the United States War Leaders plans to attack Iran in their attempt to engulf the entire Middle East in Total War, but, against which, according to Russian Military Intelligence Analysts, a ‘high ranking and significant’ faction of the American Military Establishment is opposed to.

Okay, well that’s a relief. Instead of weird Space Viri or SCUD missle accidents, it’s just an internal struggle in our own Armed Forces over whether or not we nuke another country (that we’re not at war with.)

Finally, though, we’re forced to abandon this lovely, yet implausible version and go to National Geographic:

Scientists have now confirmed that the cause was a meteorite crash and that the mysterious illnesses that followed the impact were the result of arsenic fumes released by the blast.

The arsenic was from natrually formed deposits which poison the local water supply. Apparently, the water table is also quite close to the surface which had an effect on the shape of the crater.

So, from meteor, to SCUD, to American Spy Satellite (shot down by us), back to meteor.

It’s like a great big jolly, Merry-Go-Round.

First News. Scuds. Pravda. National Geographic. Bad Astronomy.

Posted in Medicine, Politics, Science, Science Fiction, Steve | 4 Comments »

4 Responses

  1. Ken Houghton Says:

    I liked the satellite story better: it has a clear end, and a clear claim to compensation.

    Arsenic in the water supply–as Albuquerque residents know–is an ongoing health risk. And arsenic and the water-table level is an ongoing issue.

  2. LDA Says:

    THE SKY IS FALLING! For opportunistic propagandistic purposes.

    (In Texas, I remember oh-so long ago, when several townships did not meet the then newly established water quality measures, the State simply lowed the standards so they’d all pass. That’s fecund governing for ya.)

  3. Jane Says:

    Oh yes well that is much more reassuring. I guess once Rummy left, all the boys started squabbling over who gets to push the button.

  4. harris Says:

    This Peru thing reminded me of a book I recently read entitled MICROBE by Bill Clem. It details the events surrounding a bacteria-carrying meteor that hit Ft. Miles, Delaware in 1947 killing several dozen soldiers and the Army’s subsequent cover-up. It’s supposed to be fiction, but if you check out the historical facts, it seems more like narrative non-fiction. You decide. Anyway, great book. I got mine off Amazon

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