288 pages, colour plates
Astonishing new research suggests that 470 million years ago, a stupendous collision in the Asteroid Belt (whose debris is still falling today) bombarded the Earth with meteorites of all sizes. A revolutionary idea is emerging that the resulting ecological disturbance may have been responsible for the single greatest increase in biological diversity since the origin of complex life – the hitherto unexplained Great Ordovician Biodiversity Event.
Introducing these fresh discoveries to a wider public for the first time, Ted Nield challenges the orthodox view that meteorite strikes are always bad news for life on Earth. He argues that one of the most widely known scientific theories – that dinosaurs were wiped out by a strike 65 million years ago – isn't the whole picture, and that the causes of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction (of which the dinosaurs' demise was a part) were much more varied and complex. Meteorites have been the stuff of legend throughout human history, interpreted as omens of doom or objects of power. But only in the 18th century, when the study of falling space debris became a science, were meteorites used to unlock the mysteries of our universe.
Incoming! traces the history of meteorites from the first recorded strike to the video recordings made routinely today, showing how our interpretations have varied according to the age in which they fell, and how meteorite impacts were given fresh urgency with the advent of the atom bomb. Introducing a wealth of fascinating characters alongside extraordinary new research, Ted Nield has written the perfect introduction to the science and history of the falling sky.
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Ted Nield holds a doctorate in geology and works for the Geological Society of London as Editor of the monthly magazine Geoscientist. He was Chair of the Association of British Science Writers and is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN International Year of Planet Earth. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society and a member of the Meteoritical Society. His first book, Supercontinent, was published in 2007. He lives in London.