What is up, sometimes comes down

Lots of things fall from the sky – raindrops, snowflakes, hailstones, parachutists, cluster bombs, highwire walkers who trip, airplanes that run out of fuel, to name a few.

Lisa Webber of Novato, California, was sitting in her house one evening last week when something fell out of the sky and hit her roof. Evidently, lots of things fall out of the sky and hit rooftops in northern California because she didn’t bother to check it out or think much of it until she read a story in the paper the next day. It reported a large  meteor soared down over that part of the state, exploding into a giant fireball and very likely sending meteorite bits and pieces all over the place.

A photo of the fireball, taken by a person with a smartphone who apparently actually stopped texting long enough to take a picture of the fireball. Must have been on drugs.

That’s when it hit her.

No, not a meteorite. It hit her that she might know what hit her roof. So she went looking in her backyard. And found this:

Greetings Earthlings, we come in pieces.

Fascinating. Rocks that fall to Earth from way, way out in outer space look surprisingly like … rocks in my backyard. Maybe I live on another planet. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, not only did Lisa find this otherwordly-looking specimen in her yard, but one of her neighbors climbed up on her roof and found this:

Neither rain, nor snow, nor bits of space boulders will keep this roof from shielding its occupants. By the way, Lisa’s neighbor may be one of those hand models. Professional-like point there.

Remarkable. They don’t make houses in California that stand up during earthquakes, but they do build them strong enough to repel fallout crashlanding from another galaxy.

So, here is Webber, standing in her backyard, holding what she thinks is a midget meteorite and looking at what she knows is a dent in her shingles. Now what?

Exactly – good educated guess on your part. She contacted Peter Jenniskens, head of the CAMS (Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance) project, which is jointly run by NASA and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. I mean, what else would she do?

Of course it also helped that the CAMS project put out a public call for information on possible meteorite sightings soon after the fireball.

“I wasn’t sure at first,” Jenniskens said after examining Webber’s rock. “The meteorite looks very unusual, because much of the fusion crust had come off.”

Yeah, I noticed that too.

But, fusion crust or no fusion crust, this rock ain’t fooling someone who heads up Allsky Meteor Surveillance. Jenniskens knows his space chunks and identified the rock as a meteorite. The stone, he reports, is dense and responds to a magnet, although scientists recommend not bringing magnets near suspected meteorites to avoid disrupting their natural magnetic fields.

No, I’m not making this up. I’m not that good.

So, Lisa’s happy, Jennisken’s happy, Lisa’s neighbor still is up on the roof and this planet has one more meteorite.

Meanwhile, on the dark side of the moon, idling in Park after passing over Earth after traveling here from another universe far, far away …

“Ischak, get your alien butt in here!”

“Yes, Commander Utstitzagarv, what is it?”

“Ischak, I’m sitting here, watching the noon news on CNN (Celestial News Network) and what am I looking at right now?”

“Hmmmm … looks like a woman talking to a reporter, holding a rock.”

“Oh, not just any rock, Ischak. She says it’s a meteorite, that it fell out of the sky last night and hit her roof …”

“Wow, strange things sure do happen on Earth, hey sir?”

“Ischak, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a millennium times … DON’T FLUSH when we’re passing over inhabited planets!”

“I know sir, but it just seems so unsanitary to just leave it floating there …”

“Well, you do have a point there. It is kind of funny how these Earth people get so excited about our droppings. Not very intelligent beings, are they now? Say, how long has it been since we emptied the kitty litter, Ischak?”

“Oh, a couple of light years at least.”

“Great! What do you say we swing over their dark side tonight and give the dopes a meteor shower!”


Sleuthing the truth: Stonehenge

In case you were wondering, there’s a new theory about Stonehenge.

Hey, Stonehenge! Enough mystery, explain yourself already!

You know, that monumental pile of stones from the Stone Age that has everyone baffled and theorizing as to who made it, how they made it, and why they made it. Was it the Druids who used it for ceremonies and human sacrifice? Was it conjured by Merlin, the Arthurian legend’s wizard, as a mythical burial site? Was it thrown together by a bunch of very large, muscled aliens showing off for the pip-squeak locals?

Who knows. Maybe one, maybe all, maybe none of the above. The latest idea, in a new book called “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery” by Parker Pearson, states that it was the work of a lot of people, literally pulling together (really, no caca) as “an act of unification.” Sort of a rock version of a community barn-raising.

“Hey, fellow Stone Age people, what do you want to do this weekend?”

“Oh, I don’t know. How about let’s grow closer as an early human society by gathering up a bunch of 40-ton slabs, drag them out into that field there and stand them up in a circle?”

“Sounds cool, Hey everybody, c’mon let’s get socialized!”

I guess it’s plausible. Though, I’m not sure why everyone’s been just sitting around, pondering this mystery for all these years.

Especially since for a long time there’s been a way to find out the answer to this mystery, or any question about anything in the past. Well, since I was a kid at least, which is almost as far back as Stonehenge. I saw it on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon show.

Meet Mr. Peabody, his boy Sherman, and the Wayback Machine.

Uh, Mr. Peabody? Sherman? Please set the Wayback Machine to “Time of Stonehenge”. OK, let me get in the machine here. Now, would you be so kind and pull the lever? Thanks.


Hello, nearly 3,000 years ago. I’m standing in a field, nice day really, and over there I see Stonehenge. It looks, well, it looks nearly 3,000 years newer. Oh, and there I see a Stone Age man, working in the field, right near the monument.

Let’s go solve one of life’s greatest mysteries, shall we?

“Excuse me, I’ve come here from nearly 3,000 years in the future to find out what is the real story behind Stonehenge over there.”

“Over where.”

“Over there, those big stones, set in a circle. You know, Stonehenge.”

“You mean stone fence.”

“It’s called Stonefence?”

“Uh, yeah – what else would you call it?”

“Aha – well, this is monumental stuff, indeed! Please understand that this structure is a mystery to me and all of the people in my time.

“So, speaking of monumental, I’ve also come to find out the true use of this massive structure. Why is it here, sir? Does it have some kind of religious significance? Maybe used for human sacrifice to your gods, or to study the stars, or chart the seasons? And who built this massive thing … might it have been an alien race visiting from another planet? Hmmm?”

“Nope, me and Herb, my brother-in-law, built it. He’s strange, for sure, but I wouldn’t call him an alien. Dumber than most of those rocks, but strong as an ox, he is.”

“You two built it?”

“That’s what I said – they speak much English from when you come from?”

“Sorry, I’m just amazed by this. The people in my time will be so surprised to find this out. So, if you built it, why is it here? Again, please know there are millions, billions and billions even, who want to know. Solve the mystery for all of us.”

“I put the cows in there to keep them out of my garden.”

“You built Stonehenge to keep cows out of your garden!?!?!?”

“Nooooo … I built a stone fence to keep the cows over there, out of my garden.”