Homes, Places We've Grown, All Of Us Are Done For
Couldn't let today go past without posting on the day's biggest story (no, not this one. There's been more than enough said about that already). What we should be concerned about it that the Earth is due for a near miss with an asteroid today at 5:25am GMT - that's 3:25pm AEST. The asteroid will apparently pass within 432 308km of the Earth - the astronomical equivalent of brushing past us.
I just hope the scientists have their calculations right. The consequences of a collision are pretty unimaginable. For the best idea (and for so many other reasons) I enthusiastically refer you to Bill Bryson's A Short History Of Nearly Everything. In the chapter "Bang!" Mr Bryson describes the likely effects of a 2km wide asteroid hitting the Earth. After explaining the unfortunate fate of the immediate blast zone, Bryson goes on to say:
"But that's just the initial shock wave. No-one can do more than guess what the associated damage would be, other than it would be brisk and global. The impact would almost certainly set off a chain of devastating earthquakes. Volcanoes across the globe would begin to rumble and spew. Tsunamis would rise up and head devastatingly for distant shores. Within an hour, a cloud of blackness would cover the Earth and blazing rock and debris would be pelting down everywhere, setting much of the planet ablaze. It has been estimated that a billion and a half people would be dead by the end of the first day. The massive disturbances to the ionosphere would knock out communications systems everywhere, so survivors would have no idea what was happening elsewhere or where to turn. It would hardly matter. As one commentator has put it, fleeing would mean 'selecting a slow death over a quick one. The death toll would be very little affected by any plausible relocation effort, as the Earth's ability to support life would be universally diminished.'...We can only guess how well, or whether, humanity would cope with such an event."
Now, today's asteroid is only half a mile wide, and in all likelihood it's going to miss us anyway (and at least we know about this one; it's the ones we can't see coming that pose the real threat). However, today you might as well say "yes" to that extra donut at the staff meeting...