LET'S pause for a moment and ponder Elizabeth Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama.

On this day in 1954 she was napping in her living room when a meteorite the size of grapefruit crashed through the ceiling, bounced off her radio, and gave her a nasty bruise.

This is the only time in human history that we can say with certainty someone was hit by a space rock.

What's fascinating about this story is the collision between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

American universities are crammed with scientists who nightly abandon their families to search the skies for heavenly bodies. Like pond-dwelling creatures looking up through murky waters at the strange shapes of fishermen standing on dry land, these astronomers yearn to see with certainty the universe beyond the foggy stratosphere.

Kindly gods might have made their day and directed a meteorite to their front door, but instead one plummeted into the abode of snoozing Ms Hodges.

How did this change her life? Did she feel incredibly lucky that out of all our species she was the one "chosen" to so dramatically encounter a celestial rock? Or did she spend her subsequent years with sensations of victimhood, disturbed that the movement of planets had conspired to direct a meteorite on a centuries- long journey to wreck her living room?

Magazines which detail the lives of celebrities sell more than those chronicling the movements of monarchs because they throb with the tantalising myth of stardom: that individuals are periodically plucked from obscurity.

We love to read of the moment when the dog of Hollywood super-agent Joyce Selznick sunk its teeth into the leg of David Hasselhoff and inadvertently dragged the ambitious waiter onto fame's runway.

Such seemingly random incidents are laced with destiny: If you or I had been bitten by the dog, would we one day be filmed saving Californians from choppy waters with Pamela Anderson - or was there something intangibly special about the man who would one day thrill Germans with his passionate range of self-expression?

Of course, as Ms Hodges herself might feel inclined to tell us with a wag of a figure, our entire species could be heading for a decidedly disastrous date with destiny.

According to some calculations, on St Patrick's Day 2880 there is a one in 300 chance that the cheerfully named asteroid 1950 DA will strike our planet. An ocean hit would send waves of up to 400 ft soaring towards cities in an Armageddon-style day of destruction.

The notion is horrendous, but such a prospect triggers an equal and opposite pulse of excitement. If humanity was threatened with annihilation, we like to think, we would all respond with the alacrity of Hasselhoff in his prime and do whatever might be conceivably necessary to avert such a calamity.

We dearly need such dreams at a time when the world is riven with division. Wales has far fewer statues than Rome - maybe there's space to erect one of Ms Hodges and her meteor?