Science: Historic Cometary Tales

Halley's comet and the countless others that blaze across the night skies have had a profound effect on history. They have influenced literature, art, religion and warfare, perhaps even evolution and the very beginnings of life. | For centuries comets were widely regarded as harbingers of disaster, omens of death, pestilence, wars, drought, earthquakes and floods. Modern science has dispelled many of these myths, but some persist today. In a bizarre twist, scientists themselves are beginning to attribute great cataclysms of the past to what the ancients called "hairy stars."

The Chinese, who recorded the appearances of comets as early as...

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