Saturday, December 20, 2008

trivia correction

While inattentively watching "The Bucket List" just now, I noticed a conversation between Morgan Freeman's and Jack Nicholson's characters that took place at the top of the Great Pyramid in Gizeh, Egypt. Freeman's character, portrayed as a widely-read trivia expert, mentioned to Nicholson's that Egypt was the only place in the world where a dog was known to have been killed by lightning.

Nice try. Here's the real facts.

Dogs, like humans, are struck by lightning and killed with regularity. Dogs especially, as they are often connected to trees or metal poles by metal chains.

What Freeman's character was probably referring to was the fall of a meteorite in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 28th, 1911, a meteorite known as the Nakhla Meteorite. The Nakhla Meteorite is one of the few dozen meteorites on Earth known to be of Martian origin, and because of its provenance it is a very significant and scientifically valuable meteorite. A piece of the meteorite, which like many broke apart as it fell through Earth's atmosphere, was reported at the time to have struck and killed a dog, a freak circumstance made even more exceptional by the extreme rarity of Martian meteorites. As time has passed, that claim seems ever more likely to be made up and apart from contemporaneous anecdotal stories that include details that simply don't ring true, there is no empirical evidence for it having happened and most experts today have consigned the story to the astronomy urban legend bin. However, that doesn't mean it can't happen, as just in my own lifetime I am aware of at least a half-dozen or so events in which humans have been struck by meteorites, in one case badly enough to leave some serious and painful bruises.

Hey Hollywood, if you're going to make a character a trivia expert, please make sure you get the trivia right.


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