There's an element of science fiction inthe supposed meteorite that fell to Earth in Peru Saturday and was later associatedto an odd illness in a nearby village.
The secretary-general of the Desaguadero region, near Peru'sborder with Bolivia, has linked the fall of the meteorite with a wave ofheadaches, diarrhea and vomiting in the village of Caranca. A strong odoremanating from the impact crater is blamed.
Seven police officers who went to investigatethe meteorite also took ill; the officers have been taken to the localhospital, where they were given oxygen and fluids to help them recover.
The Peruvian daily La Republica reported that the impactcrater was about 18 feet deep and 90 feet across.
Since information about the incident is limited, speculation isrife on Internet websites. On Slashdot, for example, readers speculate that themeteorite, hot from its passage through the atmosphere, may have heated noxiouschemicals or microorganisms from deep within the soil and thrown them into theair. Another alternative is that a piece of space debris containing traceamounts of radioactive materials fell to earth and is causing low-levelradiation sickness.
Science fiction readers may find themselves thinking of The Andromeda Strain, the 1969 novel by Michael Crichton. In the story, a satellite designed to orbit close toearth and then return with samples of any microorganisms crashlands in thesmall town of Piedmont, Arizona. An Air Force jet overflight revealed thesedetails:
"He dropped hisnose, cracked down his flaps, and felt a shudder as the plane sank sickeningly,like a stone, toward the ground. Below him, the area around the town waslighted for hundreds of yards in every direction. He pressed the camera buttonsand felt, rather than heard, the vibrating whir of the cameras.
He had a fleetingglimpse of the main street. He saw bodies, bodies everywhere, spreadeagled,lying in the streets, across cars..."
I don't want to spoil the plot, but let's say there is some reasonfor concern.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission of Technovelgy.com - wherescience meets fiction).
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