Dr Julian Cook's science laboratory

It’s been an exciting week for earth after taking a bit of a bashing from space.

The planet we thought was a sure thing is exposing a series of worrying weaknesses. I’ve seen this happen before to celestial giants and indeed there was a time Mel Gibson thought he was inpenetrable too.

Take last week’s near miss asteroid. With Mel’s advancing years and poor diet, he’s probably more familiar with asteroids’ grizzlier cousin, hemorrhoids – but that’s no reason for him to rest on his laurels. Given a large enough surface area and density, these seemingly tiny blobs I see through my powerful telescope could fast become gargantuan, inescapable balls of rage. Mel will tell you: they come from nowhere so be prepared.

But a bigger problem these days is worldwide electrical and satellite networks. An angry sun could take them out with one fiery belch, plunging us all into darkness. They were also severely disruptive for Mel when his Russian girlfriend used them to globally circulate evidence of his potty mouth and punchy fist.

Fortunately, there’s now a restraining order which prevents Mel going near her. The earth also has a restraining order in place, but it prefers to call it the magnetic field. It‘s best for everyone that the magnetosphere is there because without it, we’d be perilously exposed to a battery of Russian girlfriends. But unlike Mel, we’d have to negotiate them with our skin burning off and a phone that doesn’t work.

Whether it’s drunken racist rants or the aurora borealis, it’s fair to say Mel and the sun have spectacular periods of intense activity. People can’t help but be mesmerised – some simply gawp and point, others reflect on how tiny they are in comparison and some are lucky enough to capture it on film. It is something more often enjoyed by Northern Europeans and Alaskans than by equatorial peoples, which is a shame. But the next extreme outburst could leave none unscathed – and experts predict it will occur in 2013.

Space is terribly hostile and fraught with danger. Yet, I have long dreamt of being able to travel into it – and I know Mel would love it too because in space no one can hear you scream ‘fucking Jews‘ at the LA traffic police.



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