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James Francis
 
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Apocalypse Whenever

19 February 2013, 10:02
Mayan calendars, Raptures, Justin Bieber smoking weed... we have plenty of predictions trying to nail down the end of civilization. Yet all those crystal balls and Adventist pondering missed the near-miss of last week when a meteorite lit up part of Russia’s skies. This is serious - our doomsayers do not seem to be up to scratch.

Last week’s close shave with a meteorite caused quite a bit of excitement. Apparently a few of these rocks join our planet every year, but we rarely capture them on video. Yet look at the numbers and you’ll notice that we dodged a cosmic bullet. Not a big bullet - more like something out of an airgun. As far as Space is concerned, this meteorite was a playful wad of spit-covered paper launched from a straw. No biggie. But let’s put this in perspective: that ‘no biggie’ was a ten-ton rock moving at 44 times the speed of sound.

Now had that super-super-supersonic rock taken a more direct course downwards, it could have struck with the force of several Hiroshima-level atomic bombs - at least, that is what the Internet tells me. The scary thing - that is still a cosmic ‘no biggie’. The asteroid that sauntered past our planet last week? It apparently weighs 130,000 tons. That is massive. And yet again in space terms, if this were a school, it would be just un-scrawny enough to be chosen to the playground football team. It’s not the rock everyone picks on, but it’ll never pretend to be a jock.

We should digest this for a minute. There is no end to doomsayers and predictions of Armageddon. Many believe it will be through a divine force. And quite a few think it can be predicted, be it through a holy book or some ancient calendar. Yet last weekend we got a front-seat preview of the very least the universe can throw at us when it feels playful, spontaneous and doesn’t intend to harm... much. Even when the universe doesn’t mean business, it can still translate into death from above. That is the thickness of the tether that keeps us in this realm of existence.

This isn’t a call for more stations monitoring for big rocks out there. Those would be nice, but if you think we have anything that can stop an asteroid... well, you’re better off trusting that ancient calendar. We’re as exposed as a man mooning an avalanche. So let’s take the meteorite’s lesson to heart: when it comes to the end, you probably won’t see it coming. And if you do, at least have the class to play that Doors song. When all else fails, go out in style...

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