CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Roy Harris / Pulitzer's Gold

Natalie Berkowitz / Winealicious

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs


University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri


University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

February 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Claude Piantadosi on the Meteor Crash in Siberia

Claude Piantadosi, Mankind Beyond Earth

“This strange happenstance of the DA 14 flyby and the Chelyabinsk explosion on the same day is a wake up call about how little we know actually know about space, even in our own region of the Solar System. What else is lurking around out there getting ready to give us a nasty surprise?”—Claude Piantadosi

Last week we featured Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration, by Claude Piantadosi. Of course, at the end of last week a meteor hit earth and underscored Piantadosi’s argument that we need to continue study space. In the following post, Piantadosi recounts his reactions to last week’s event and what it means for science:

I arrived at the laboratory rather early last Friday morning and bumped into my colleague Dr. Jim Logan, who told me that a large meteor had just burst in the air over Russia—injuring more than a thousand people with flying glass and other debris.

“Jim,” I said, a little taken aback, “I thought your old NASA buddies claimed that this thing was supposed to miss us by 17,000 miles.”

“This was not Asteroid 2012 DA14,” he shot back. “This rock came in on a totally different trajectory.”
“Really; now that’s quite a coincidence. Thank goodness for the atmosphere,” I told him. “And knock on wood, still no human in recorded history has ever been killed by a meteor.”

“True… but millions of dinosaurs can’t say the same thing,” he said. “In fact, you could argue that if it wasn’t for the massive asteroid impact 65 million years ago, there wouldn’t be any humans.”
And if we have a repeat of that episode, there won’t be any humans left either.

According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the so-called Chelyabinsk meteor was a rock 55 feet in diameter, weighing 10,000 tons, and traveling at some 40,000 mph when it hit our atmosphere and exploded. It was the largest air burst in a hundred years— since Tunguska in 1908. And the blast was estimated to be about 500 kilotons, the explosive force of 30 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

This strange happenstance of the DA 14 flyby and the Chelyabinsk explosion on the same day is a wake up call about how little we know actually know about space, even in our own region of the Solar System. What else is lurking around out there getting ready to give us a nasty surprise? Indeed, we are just beginning to catalog and track these objects, for instance, through the NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program, which has been in existence only since 1998.

In one respect, ignorance is bliss; we simply do not have the technology to protect ourselves from collisions with such high-velocity celestial bodies. However, we do have the technology to detect, categorize, and track these projectiles, and when it comes to that, as it inevitably will, to move people out of harm’s way. We must be sure that this first step is put into play and that the collection of this vital information remains a permanent part of our commitment to a meaningful, long-term strategy for space exploration. Perhaps over the next hundred years, we’ll develop the technological means to nudge these objects out of Earth-crossing orbits. But this set of circumstances does make one thing very clear: we simply cannot afford the struthonian approach of burying our heads in the sand.

Post a comment