cover image Impact: How Rocks from Space Led to Life, Culture, and Donkey Kong

Impact: How Rocks from Space Led to Life, Culture, and Donkey Kong

Greg Brennecka. Morrow, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-307892-5

Brennecka, a cosmochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, takes a look at the past, present, and future of meteorites in his chatty debut. “Rocks flying around the cosmos not only built our physical world...they also have had an inordinate influence on the various non-concrete constructions of civilization,” he writes, and shares a slew of fun facts. In 1992, for example, a meteorite fell “through the trunk of a cherry red 1980 Chevy Malibu” and became infamous, and the car was resold for a $4,600 profit 20 years later; people in Uganda have been known to eat pulverized meteorites, believing they might “possibly be a God-sent cure” for AIDS; and a meteorite might have been responsible for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Other anecdotes are more heavily scientific, and are where Brennecka hits his stride, as with his suggestion that the amino acids common on many meteorites might have “helped usher in the origin of life” on Earth. The abundance of filler and corny jokes, though, can be distracting (a meteorite storm in France in 1803 “likely resulted in numerous pairs of soiled underpants”). Despite a couple wobbles, it’s a fine intro for star-gazing newbies. (Feb.)