Thursday, February 28, 2013

The sky is falling



Last week there was a meteor that came close to the earth.  It didn’t actually hit but the people in Russia have a new fascination and appreciation for life. The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded at an estimated altitude of 12 miles, sending shock waves that blasted windows and shaking the inhabitants into believing that we are not as safe as we once thought.

Most believe the Russian Meteor was a portion of the larger asteroid that skirted the planet within 17,000 miles, that’s close in cosmic terms and the break-off of the Russian portion makes that particular flyby even more intriguing.  “The asteroid, DA14, was discovered by a Spanish dental surgeon and space enthusiast using a high-end camera (so in Russian terms were talking about the equivalent of a Kodak instant). The rock will pass within 17,000 miles (27,300 kilometers) of Earth on Feb. 15, closer than the moon and many orbiting satellites. It is half the size of a U.S. football field and represents the closest recorded approach of an object of its size.”

It was not the first, our planet has experienced massive impacts in the past and with this recent pass the reality of another and perhaps larger Asteroid seems more probable.  I recall the movie “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis as they attempted to land on an approaching asteroid to blow it apart before it struck the earth with devastating power.  It was a good movie and it had a believable premise for near future disasters but for now we are simply at the mercy of a chaotic cosmos, careening haphazardly in every conceivable direction.

Like a game of marbles with the prize sitting within the circle the smaller objects are shot with great speed toward the coveted agate, most missing the mark but eventually a lucky shot hits the chunk of glass or stone and sends it spinning away from its set position.  You wonder how easy it would be for a football field sized chunk of iron to alter the orbit of our home.  How many unknown killer planetoids are searching for their mark and have pinpointed our earth as the prize.

We often think of the universe as a chaotic mass of spinning bodies held in check by unexplained gravity and anti-gravity, with each micro particle interacting with Higgs boson particles acting like magnets, pulling and repulsing smaller unknown elements to create the pattern of movement within space and regulating the orbits of suns and planets as they all work in concert.  Chaos, I think not.  Organized, planned, purposeful, currently way beyond our ability to understand, we can’t even get our own weather right, but in a form so controlled and strategic that it suggests premeditation.

I’ve always liked looking up into the heavens to see the stars rotate around the North Star.  I take great comfort in knowing that Orion’s Belt will be in the same place at the same time depending on the seasons and that all of the constellations can be predictable.  Even if some of those well-known astrological configurations could be long gone our perception based on the traveled light to our world still holds them in our minds.

The concerns generated over the unexpected problems of the Russian meteor have brought to mind how unprepared we really are for that major impact that will come; it’s only a matter of time. Like the great earthquake that will separate California from the rest of the continental United States, it will come and it will be devastating.  That’s why I bought a home inland so that when the event does come my chances for beach front property are improved.  I can’t afford to live by the beach now but maybe in ten or twenty years the big one will bring the ocean to me.

The problem and this is a reoccurring problem is that we only react to disasters after the disasters have happened.  I guess you could argue the case of why waste your time trying to think of every scenario but if I’m not mistaken that’s what our military does, it’s what our financial institutions do and it’s what most politicians have done, they try to prepare for those unknown contingencies, being better prepared to weather those unscheduled storms, the leaked stories of impropriety, the random email containing illicit information or even worse unflattering photos...  Isn’t that why we have a rainy day fund?  Well I used to have a rainy day fund, that was until it rained, now all I have is the hope that the rain doesn’t get too hard or that a meteor doesn’t find its way to the roof of my future beach from home.