No Chicken Little Here

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I’d like to mention today this article I found on-line in the Danish Christian newspaper, Kristeligt Dagblad, entitled While we wait for catastrophe . . .

That’s right, after that attempt to find some humor last time – Somali piracy = “defense of food for Somali children,” ha-ha anybody? – we’re back now to some more doom-and-gloom. But at least this is unexpected and even interesting doom-and-gloom (I hope), for here the presumably Christian staff-writer for the Kristeligt Dagblad, Lars Henriksen, has a little surprise in store for us coming straight out of Heaven: an asteroid!

Yes, adding to everything else we all have to worry about these days, this article discusses the prospect of the Earth being hit by a high-speed humongous rock from space. After all, this has happened before; some scientists now think such an impact, occurring about 65 million years ago, was what wiped out the dinosaurs as well as leaving a crater in Mexico 900 meters deep and 180 kilometers wide. It even happened again a little over 100 years ago, when Siberia was hit in 1908 by a 50-meter-wide asteroid which devastated 2,000 square kilometers of woodland. “Experts” quoted by Henriksen estimate that there is a 10% chance of something like that happening again within this century, and naturally there is no way to ensure that it would again occur in a relatively depopulated area.

But there is also a silver-lining to report here, of a sort, namely that the University of Hawaii put into operation last December a new telescope designed to locate those asteroids in the Earth’s general neighborhood which are greater than a kilometer in diameter. (There are said to be about 1,000 of these; remember the devastation that that mere fifty-meter rock wrought in Siberia.) And it is now building a further three telescopes – cost: $100 million, but these days that doesn’t matter if it creates jobs – which, collectively with that first one, should be able to keep track of all but the very-smallest.

Then the question arises of what do we do if/when these telescopes one day detect some asteroid coming on a collision-course. (more…)

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