The Fallen Sky
An Intimate History of Shooting StarsBook - 2009
Weaving natural history, memoir, and the stories of maverick scientists, daring adventurers, and stargazing dreamers, this epic work takes us from Antarctica to outer space to tell the tale of how the study of meteorites became a scientific passion.
A famed polar explorer who risked personal ruin - and the lives of his crew - in a quest for massive iron meteorites hidden in an Arctic wasteland.
A nervy, obscure professor who staked his life against the scientific indifference of his day to become the world's most prominent meteorite collector and researcher.
An Australian scientist confronted with a geological mystery in the Outback - the key to which might yet unlock a secret of evolution on planet Earth.
These characters and many other collectors, researchers, dreamers, schemers, and ordinary people populate Christopher Cokinos's The Fallen Sky . Through their foibles and successes, their adventures and tragedies, Cokinos unfolds the panoramic history of how science came to understand meteorites - the rocks that fall from space to the Earth - and how these stones reveal truths not only of the solar system, but of the human heart as well.
Long sought as trophies of exploratory success, scientific specimens, or even space-age novelties, meteorites have a long and complex hold on the human psyche. Their allure endures from tribal altars to high-tech labs, and Cokinos incisively explores the drama and history of our pursuit of the fallen sky. Over the course of more than seven years, he crisscrossed the globe from Greenland to the American Southwest, from Australia to Antarctica, following in the footsteps of explorers, collectors, and scientists, gaining access to their personal papers and documents, to try to understand the obsession that draws so many people to these fragments of iron and stone, these pieces of the universe that we can hold in our hands. This is an adventure story, a compelling work of first-person literary journalism, and a scientific history, all told through the lives of its remarkable characters - the eccentrics and geniuses who have committed themselves to understanding the stuff of life and death that comes from the sky.
'I've always wanted to read a first-class book about meteorites. Chris Cokinos has finally written that book. It's a shooting star, and I stayed up late reading it.'
- Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize - winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun- The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
'Christopher Cokinos goes from pole to pole in his search for the bits of cosmos that fall onto the Earth, and the remarkable people who collect and study them. He is a natural philosopher and gifted writer who sprinkles his own kind of stardust on every page. If you have ever wished upon a falling star, this is your chance to know just what is falling, where it comes from, what it tells us about our place in the universe - and what things in life are worth wishing for.'
- Chet Raymo, former Boston Globe science columnist and bestselling author of The Dork of Cork and Walking Zero