A meteor crashed in southern Peru last weekend and over 200 locals have been claiming illness. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. They claim this was caused by the gas emanating from the crash site, which has been confirmed as actually having been caused by a meteor. Scientists are currently examining the site and composition of the meteor, which was probably iron since it survived entry all the way to the surface. Scientists were quick to dismiss claims by locals. That makes sense since people from uneducated corners of the world often spew some pretty fantastical stories. Is it just good skepticism or does it also display a little bit of prejudice against the uneducated? Doctors are currently thinking that the loud, terrible noise a meteor makes when entering the atmosphere may have frightened these Peruvian villagers, inducing psychosomatic manifestations [source].
I’m not suggesting we just take every crackpot at their word, but to me real skepticism means withholding judgment until evidence begins to accumulate and point in one direction or another. At that point, your confidence in a particular hypothesis increases, but absolute certainty must be withheld forever, because some bit of evidence may present itself. Granted these scientists weren’t claiming that it was not a meteor, but they were quick to dismiss it and come down on the side of no-meteor-and-crazy-bush-people.
Personally, I’m holding out for evidence that the illnesses are caused by an alien viral infection that will soon begin to convert the locals into their mindless slaves, sparking a movement that will sweep the globe. Which reminds me, I want to see The Invasion.
Bad Astronomy just posted an interesting take on this. Rather than being a meteor impact crater, perhaps this was a Peruvian scud missile gone awry. Also, as pointed out on this post, there is no record in the history of meteorites where people have gotten sick by being near the crater and much of the reports from the scene did not sound like the event was caused by a meteorite, which probably explains the fact that scientists were coming down so hard against the meteorite possibility initially. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.
Pravda online, a Russian tabloid, is reporting that the meteorite was actually a US spy satellite that the Air Force itself shot down. This is by far the best (read: most hilarious) explanation I’ve seen yet.