Thursday, July 15, 2010


Now that the Gulf Oil Spill seems to be capped (and pressure tests are now being conducted to determine if the "hole" will stay "plugged," as Malia Obama so cutely requested at the start of this nightmare), we only have to worry about the 184 million gallons of crude sloshing around in the sea. What should a pessimist like me be concerned about next?

Well, I just happened to glance at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near Earth Object website, which I've written about before. And guess what: on October 30th, an asteroid as large as half a mile in diameter is going to whiz by the earth at a speed of 25.35 kilometers a second, missing (we hope) our planet by about one million miles.

That's a near-collision by celestial standards, and I'm suprised we haven't heard anything about it yet since the event is less than three months away. As a student of human nature, I'll be interested in whether the usual religious panic sets in, as happened in 1997 when the comet Hale-Bopp blazed across the sky and prompted 37 members of the Heaven's Gate cult to commit suicide. The challenge this time will be whether doomsday cultists can come up with a mythology as wild as the last one, which involved mandatory black-and-white Nikes and self-castration.

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