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How to Destroy the Planet

By Eric Roston - 2012-04-20T12:50:43Z

Photograph by Francis Demange/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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Space Viruses

THREAT: Viruses from space fall from the sky into our noses and infect us en masse. In the early 1980s, Fred Hoyle, a legendary and eccentric British astrophysicist, conjectured that human noses evolved with nostrils directed downward to avoid this threat.

REALITY: If space viruses did exist, which they don't, NASA might have found them by now. The agency maintains an Office of Planetary Protection, with the slogan "all of the planets, all of the time." A predecessor was established in 1963, four years before the U.N. Outer Space Treaty, which binds signatories to avoid contaminating planets or harming Earth's environment by "the introduction of extraterrestrial matter." Think of it as a neighborhood watch for the Solar System.

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