The creator is Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. What does the sculpture mean? In the Nature article, Martin Kemp indicates that Cattelan leaves some clues:
The title, La Nona Ora, or The Ninth Hour, the first of the time of Christ’s death on the cross. This representation of the death of Pope John Paul II might be an imitation of Christ. In a typically elusive interview, Cattelan said, “I like the idea that someone is trying to save the Pope, like an upside down miracle, coming not from the heavens but from the earth.” But he adds dismissively, “In the end it is only a piece of wax.”
Cattelan’s sculpture is certainly compelling. Is it yet another unhappy encounter between science and religion?
The same issue of Nature features a spread of articles concerning the manner in which the solar system was pummeled by meteorites just after its formation 4.6 billion years ago. According to the article on page 1160, “The hole at the bottom of the Moon,” It was a ferocious and sustained blast of debris. “The barrage even knocked off enough of Earth to Create the Moon in the first place.” By 3.8 billions years ago, though, “impact rates had tailed off to a level not too different from those of today.”
How often was the Earth a target of a big meteorite? Author Eric Hand reports on a conservative estimate: “Every million years, something would come along big enough to make a 1,000 kilometre basin. Such impacts would have vaporized Earth’s oceans ad steam-sterilized the surface . . . an atmosphere of rock vapor could linger for thousands of years after the impact.”