Sunday, November 2, 2008



Everyone is familiar with the name Stephen Hawkings, who is, of course, the world-renowned physicist and is remarkable because his brilliant mind functions even while ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) takes over his body. I wish I could understand all his pronouncements, but having barely been able to get through beginning algebra, I must admit that I must take others’ word for them, because I usually don’t know what in heck he’s talking about.

But he made quite an understandable statement sometime back at a news conference in Hong Kong that was reported in the LA Times. “The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find homes elsewhere in the universe, because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth….Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years,” the British scientist told a news conference.

And that made me think of the asteroids-hitting-the-earth scares that we don’t hear about much these days. Apparently asteroid 2002NT7, which originally had been reported as an impact hazard for the year 2019 has been discounted and replaced by QQ47, which is scheduled for March of 2014. When a year or so ago I heard that “we” were practicing shooting at, with the intent of hitting and making a dent in the orbit of, an asteroid that was drawing close to the earth but definitely posed no risk, I wondered then if this was more than a simple practice. As I recall, our shot didn’t so much as move the ‘roid one centimeter.

NASA most recently outlined what it could do, and in what time frame, in the case a quarter-mile-wide asteroid named Apophis which appears to be on a course to slam into Earth in the year 2036. The timetable was released by the B612 Foundation, a group that is pressing NASA and other government agencies to do more to head off threats from near-Earth objects. In reporting this, MSNBC said, “If it does strike Earth, the impact could have the effect of over 20 million Hiroshima style atomic bombs. As Billy Bob Thornton says in Armageddon, ‘It's what we call a Global Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible!’”

Now my little local newspaper, which doesn’t usually have much to say, added a bit more of Stephen Hawkings pronouncement. He says it is much more likely that humans will kill each other off as nuclear weapons become the weapon of choice for all the armies in the world.

My, my, my. Makes me think that between the talking heads and the presidential race, not to mention the political pundits, we may be talked to death before any of the great disaster scenarios come close enough to happen!

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