In 2007, the US Department of Defense launched the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to collect sightings of ‘anomalous aerospace threats’ – in demilitarised English, Unidentified Flying Objects. The programme had cost the Pentagon $100 million by the time they cut the funding in 2012. Last year, the New York Times and Washington Post got hold of some AATIP files, but it was disappointing to hear how conventional they sounded; UFOs haven’t changed much since the 1960s, defying physics and outrunning fighter jets.
Britain’s south-eastern coastline is low-lying, and faces relatively shallow waters. This makes London naturally vulnerable to the surges created when high tides coincide with North Sea storms, and shove water back up the Thames. We have records of the city being flooded since the Anglo-Saxon era. In 1236 there were boats rowing through the Palace of Westminster; in 1928 the Tate Gallery was drenched in mud. After a surge in 1953 killed hundreds of people across the Thames Estuary, the government commissioned a report on what to do from the mathematician and cosmologist Hermann Bondi. The result was the Thames Barrier at Woolwich, operational since 1983.