Monday, October 17, 2011

The Day All Life on Earth Almost Ended

Okay, so to me this is a wee bit more concerning than whatever partisan bickering is undoubtedly filling the cable-news-sphere today.  Check out this story from The Day All Life on Earth Almost Ended.

The lead sentence sums it up pretty well: "On August 12th, 1883, a pack of life-extinguishing comets came within a few hundred miles of slamming into the Earth, nearly killing everything on the planet...."

Kinda puts into perspective the hubbub over Ron Paul's right eyebrow toupee, shortages of the iPhone 4s, the latest photos of Kim Kardashian's booty, or whatever's occupying the chattering class today, doesn't it?

This is going to sound like a nerdy rant, but among the things that irritate me about our nation's declining space program and general turn away from science is that for the first time in the history of the Earth we could soon have the technologically to prevent our own extinction at the hands of a dinosaur killer.  Although I have my occasional misanthropic moments, I by and large rather like humanity and don't want to see us wiped out entirely.  So it would hearten me to see us continuing to develop that capacity.

Of course, for the first time in the history of the Earth we're already capable of inflicting a dinosaur-killer-level conflagration on ourselves, courtesy of much the same rocket and nuclear technology that got us into space.  So there's a yin-and-yang with everything, I suppose.


  1. Fascinating story. Careful surveillance is needed of difficult to see objects so that they are seen well in advance, preferably years. Think of the massive effort we'd need in rockets and coordination to deflect a massive comet. And the more massive, the earlier our intervention. Let's by all means do _real_ science!!!

  2. I read in today’s Science Section that the Tactical Technology Section at DARPA “was founded in response to Sputnik, the Soviet Union’s cold war satellite coup….. Perhaps what we need is another coup by some competing country to spur our squabbling Congress to allocate funds for research to again “Reach for the Stars”!