Moultrie Observer

Opinion

February 20, 2013

Asteroids and moot points

MOULTRIE — Scientists say that there was no connection between a meteor that exploded over Russia last Friday, injuring more than 1,000 people, and an asteroid that swung by our planet later that afternoon.

There is a difference between an asteroid and a meteor, but if  we get hit by either of any significant size, the biggest difference would probably only be in the spelling.

The asteorid missed us by 17,000 miles. Now for most of us, that’s a very long way. But also consider that it was traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, so if there had been just a slight bobble, California could have had ocean front property on both sides.

Now I doubt very few of us go to bed at night worrying about one of these big rocks hitting us. We have other stuff to worry about like rent, groceries, medical bills, cellulite, car payments, etc. But we should realize that it can happen. It has happened before, and it’s not an event affected by political ideologies or Dow Jones averages.

An asteroid that exploded over Siberia in 1908 flattened 750 square miles of forest. Fortunately Siberia is thinly populated, but I’m pretty sure the mink trade was interrupted for a while.

The asteroid that passed us on Friday was described as half the size of a football field.  Had it hit, it would have been the equivalent of the one that hit Siberia, they say.

I watch the National Geograhic Channel a lot, and I’m fascinated by the work of our astronomers and physicists who track these things and are trying to come up with ways to divert them. Supposedly, they have one in their sights that is lined up with the earth and could strike us  in about 20 years unless it changes course on its own or if our scientists can’t divert it.

And while these big rocks are not subject to political inclinations, they are filled with gas. And sometimes when they pass some of this gas, they do flare right or left. Perhaps we should pray for cosmic flatulence.

Our scientists have experimented with nuclear devices as well as laser interceptors in hopes of changing the course of oncoming asteroids and meteors.. And while some may think that this all a bunch of hooey, I tend to respect what they are doing. Keep in mind that these are the same people who put a man on the moon...and brought him back.  These are people who can sit in a laboratory in Houston and drive a rover on Mars. So I have no problem in accepting that their calculations are at least hand grenade close.

Just because that asteorid from last week wasn’t visible to the naked eye like the meteor over Russia, that distance should not be considered a comfort zone in my book. Like I said, 17,500 miles per hour involves a lot of horsepower, and a wrong turn at Albuquerque could mess up a whole football season.

I’m sure there’s a televangelist somewhere who has posed that God is throwing rocks at us to get our attention. He may even be selling prayer cloths in this regard. And there may be some weird cults who are already planning to hitch a ride on one of these things after they’ve had enough Kool-Aid. Those peripheral mentalities aside, I do think that we need to give the matter serious thought.

What I mean is, some of our current issues could be moot points in 20 years if that asteroid that’s already on the grid isn’t diverted. And what if there’s one out there sneaking up on us that we don’t know about yet? Whether Honey Boo Boo comes back for a second season could be one of those moot points. And my guess is that one of these big rocks would take out Democrats and Republicans without prejudice.

(Email: dwain.walden@gaflnews.com)

 

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