Insurance from the skies!

By Phil Plait | October 12, 2008 9:22 pm

What are the odds of getting hit by a meteorite?

I’m not even sure how you’d calculate those odds accurately (it would involve the number of meteorites known to hit the Earth, and the area of a single human compared to the surface area of the planet). But they’re really low; only one person I know of in modern times has been hit — in 1954 a woman in Sylacauga, Alabama was smacked in her side by an 8-pounder, and in 1992 a woman’s car was hit. In 2003 a flurry of meteorites rained down near Chicago, and amazingly no one was hit.

So it’s not like I worry too much about it. But then you might see something like this…

Meteorite through a bus stop?

It looks like one hit a bus stop in Düsseldorf, Germany!

But wait a sec. It looks like little too good to be true, doesn’t it? And how come you never heard about it?

Well, take a look at the advertising sign on the side of the bus stop:

Sign advertising insurance at bus stop

Roughly translated (any Deutsch sprechers out there want to give the accurate one?) it says to think over carefully about unexpected circumstances. "Advice from your guardian angel: think about accident insurance" (thanks to the native German speakers in the comments below for this better translation!). Provinzial is the name of the company on the ad… and it’s an insurance company.

Ha! Clever. Germans have better ads than we do in the U.S. All I ever see are "APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD!" enough times until I wish a cosmic rock would smack me upside the head.

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to, uh, Darn Cool Pics.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: DeathfromtheSkies!, Humor

Comments (47)

  1. cbooker

    A slightly more thorough translation would be:

    A tip from your Guardian Angel: Think about accidental death insurance.

  2. elgarak

    Damn! I grew up near Düsseldorf… Never saw that clever advertising in my time.

    As a native German speaker, here’s what the ad says: “Advice from the guardian angel: Why not take some time to think about Personal Accident Insurance?” It’s still a little loose to keep the gist … I have high respect for book translators…

  3. Eric TF Bat

    You’re all wrong! Google tells us that it says “The Guardian Tip: Do not look over after accident.” How obvious!

    (Computer-aided translation: not a solved problem yet.)


    This is what YAHOO! BABEL FISH translator comes up with: “The protection gel hint: Think nevertheless times over an accident insurance.”


    I think that translator is as reliable as Monty Python’s Dirty Little Hungarian Phrase Book.

  5. oh yeah, they’ve been using that technique for all kinds of things… the most disturbing one was an awareness campaign for poverty/violence in Africa. the projection of child-soldiers into your bus stop was disconcerting.

  6. er.. projecting their pictures, anyway

  7. Brian

    “Sir, I have reviewed this contract, and it offers no coverage at all. It just says meteorite insurance over and over again.”

  8. Jim1138

    That hole looks a little too clean as if fabricated. If something had hit it, the whole roof would have come down. Unless the object was going really fast. But, then the impact ‘crater’ is too small.

  9. @ Jim1138: The whole set-up is an ad, including the “damaged” roof and the “impact crater”. So yes, it HAS been fabricated… That is exactly the point.

  10. Jennifer

    Here’s an article on this (in German, though):
    There were a few more bus stops with themes that fit the advertisement on their sides, one that was completely enclosed in plexiglass with an advertisement for a lock and key service for example.
    Nice one. I can’t believe how many websites show those pictures as a real meteorite hit.

  11. Well, to be fair, that meteorite would “apply directly to the forehead”

  12. m.

    “Guardian Angel’s hint: consider an accident insurance” might be a little more precise, but elgarak above got it pretty much correct already. (And thanks for the translator respect. 😛 (And hi Phil, ltnt.))

  13. Ido

    Awesome! I wish they did that here.

  14. Laguna

    This is not regular advertisement!!!
    It has been one of many exhibits of an advertisement creativity contest in Düsseldorf.

  15. But don’t worry Phil you were not the only one that got fooled.
    Many foreign news agences / bloggers took this as regular advertisement.

  16. There is a second recent hit on a person: a boy was hit by a 3 grams piece in the 1992 Mbale fall in Uganda. It first hit a tree (lucky for him) and then the boy.

    There is quite a number of impacts on objects actually: houses, cars, a ship, a mailbox.

    Oh, and a cow in Venezuela in 1972 (Valera).

  17. Don Snow

    Oh, it’s an advertisement. My first thought was, ‘A good thing nobody was sitting at the bus stop.’

    I trust more the translations of the German speakers on this blog.

  18. This reminds me of a Dutch tv ad for a pop science magazine. A man sits on a park bench reading said magazine, when a car-sized meteorite lands about a meter from the park bench. A voice then says something along the lines of “If you read [Magazine X] nothing will surprise you anymore!”

    …while I thought that having a meteorite of that size landing next to you without blowing you to smithereens or even blowing your magazine out of your hands was a pretty big surprise, especially if you know the science.

  19. Jennifer
  20. Laguna’s right. Here’s more, from the source:

    I somehow managed to completely miss this one. Which was no mean feat: not only do I work for advertising agencies myself, I pass this place where they exhibited these pieces about three times a week on my way to the gym!

    Maybe it was part of an alternative timeline or something. Or may I am. Dang!


  21. Although i am danish of origin I can translate that for you:
    “guardian angel advice: You should think about an accident insurance”.
    Considering the obvious cost of that ad and the chances of that really happening, instead of buying an overpriced insurance of that company, I would buy a hard hat and play the lottery for the rest of my money and luck. In that way my forehead, the back of my head and my bank account are safe.

    I am actually working in an advertising agency.

  22. OTOH: That piece of rock looks like the upper part of the tail fin of a midieval stone plane.

  23. Chaos

    Well, it says “Advice from your guardian angel: think about accident insurance” – I think that kind of insurance is also called “casualty insurance” in the US, and it is indeed the kind of insurance you´d turn to if you get hit my a meteorite. Or perhaps, the one your next-of-kin would turn to.

    But the absolutely coolest ad I can think of is the one the public transport corporation in the Frankfurt area uses: there are two, one with a naked man, the other with a naked woman, each with a huge public transport ticket covering the more interesting parts – and captioned “It would be embarassing to be caught without a ticket!”

  24. Chaos, I have no idea how you call this kind of insurrance in the US. But in Germany this insurrance usually does not pay when you die (you can have it for an extra fee though)…
    The Unfallversicherung usually only pays when you survive. Its used when you stay permanently diabled to pay a certain amount of money to cover your future expenses or it pays as a monthly pension until you die.

  25. Michelle

    Woah! That’s one sweet ad. 😀

  26. Gary Ansorge

    Goody! Now all we need is super nova insurance,,,

    GAry 7

  27. Bigfoot

    Clsarly that is from an overwhelmed airliner lav.

  28. IVAN3MAN

    The barn of a farmer had burnt down and he asked the insurance company for US$50,000.

    The insurance man: “We do not give money, we build you a similar barn instead. The same goes with your car; for example, if it’s stolen we just give you a similar car, same make, same year, and mileage as your own car — no money, period!”

    Farmer: “If that is your system, I want to cancel my wife’s insurance!”

  29. rp

    The Field Museum in Chicago has an exhibit of a meterorite hitting a rural Illinois garage back in the 20’s or 30’s. It went through the garage roof, the roof of the car in the grarage, and the upholstry of the seat, and was found beneath the car, IIRC. They had lots of pictures, plus the actual seat of the car and the meterorite in the display case.

    I first saw this display as a child in the 60’s on a school trip. It was still there (unchanged) last time I went there a couple years ago.

    There are major updates to exhibits going on, so I can’t say if it’s still there today.

  30. Nemo

    Kinda sucks for anyone who actually wants to use the bus stop…

  31. @Nemo
    This is no actual bus stop. Only an exhibit of an advertising creativity contest.

  32. Chanda

    Did you know that the car plates on Alabama cars say, “Stars fell upon Alabama”? The plates are referring to this incident and the Jazz song from it. They had better be careful what they wish for or Death from the Skies might be their new car plate logo.

  33. Autumn

    Kinda OT, but has anyone else noticed that the fine print in the “APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD” ads now claims that the product has been proven effective in double-blind clinical trials? I know that advertisers in America are allowed to lie almost as much as they want, but it seems that this claim crosses that FDA line about claiming to treat a condition.

  34. lars bruchmann

    That meteorite that hit the car (near poughepsie, i think) in 1992 was filmed over a footback stadium in Philly, as i recall. this was at night, so it was very pretty. and imho the car needed to be replaced anyways! does insurance cover this? srsly??

  35. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board talked about the odds of getting hit by stuff falling from the sky. It’s in chapter 10 of part 1. A Google search for “CAIB” will get you to it, but I can’t seem to post links.

  36. KC

    rp: Yes the meteorite exhibit, including the car seat, is still on display at the Field Museum – just saw it there at the beginning of the summer!

  37. Chaos

    Laguna, I´ve *worked* for German accident insurance. Sure, the *mandatory* part pays for injuries only, but pretty much everyone also includes at least a small sum for death – to cover funeral costs, if nothing else.

  38. What are the odds of getting hit by a meteorite?

    Point of grammar: unless I’m mistaken, when a rock is falling, it’s a meteor, and once it hits, it becomes a meteorite. So shouldn’t this be “What are the odds of getting hit by a meteor?” ?

    Except, of course, that it’s the act of striking that turns the meteor into a meteorite, so perhaps “hit by a meteorite” is correct in this case. I just can’t tell.

  39. A fantastic read….very literate and informative. Many thanks….what theme is this you are using and also, where is your RSS button ?

  40. Very timely and informative on life isnurance. Thanks for sharing this.


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