Hoping for a Meteor to Strike Because Life is Hard? You're Probably Out of Luck
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A meteor estimated to be 10,000 tons by NASA exploded Friday morning over Russia’s Ural region and its shockwave caused injuries to over 1,000 people. It took out windows and walls in the city of Chelyabinsk. And it temporarily shifted the conversation here on earth to talks of the heavens.
“We can find these objects, we can track their motions, and we can predict their orbits many years into the future,” noted Robert Naeye of Sky and Telescope in an essay called, Lessons from the Russian Meteor Blast. “And in the unlikely event that we actually find a dangerous object on a collision course with Earth, we might actually be able to deflect it if given sufficient warning time. Now, every government in the world is keenly aware of the possibility of meteor explosions over its territory.”
The Russian parliament is also keen on the idea. “Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defense,” its affairs committee chief Alexei Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account late Friday. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Saturday reiterated the idea and proposed a global defense system to counter space threats.
And on CNN, Lawrence Krauss, professor of physics and director of the Origin Project, talked about how human technology has advanced to the point of predicting and, more interesting, deflecting oncoming meteorites that could cause the earth “significant damage.”
“We have to think about it seriously,”he said. “It’s not science fiction. We can send a rocket out and land on [a meteor] or impact with it.” If the meteor is far enough, “A small rocket running for a while [can cause] a small angular change.. enough have it miss the earth.”
Meanwhile a new program called ATLAS is about to be launched. According to The Guardian, “The University of Hawaii has proposed a cheaper, simpler system known as Atlas - Advanced Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System - to be constructed with the help of a $5m grant from NASA.” Its aim is to create a warning system on oncoming asteroids and find ways to save earth from the impact.
So welcome to the age of empyrealization—an age of man’s increasing awareness and interactions with the heavens. We grow cognizant that we exist on intimate levels with the rest of the universe, that we are interacting with it, and, increasingly, having an effect upon it as it does upon us. The word doesn’t exist yet in the dictionary, but for that matter neither did globalization 3 decades ago.
Unlike the dinosaurs, we have, in effect, become active agents in changing our destiny. A giant meteor wiped out 90 percent of life on earth 65 million years ago because the dinosaurs didn’t collectively create a missile shield to deflect the meteor. Humans, on the other hand, with our orbiting telescopes and space probes, and our growing awareness of the threat from space, can track large foreign objects coming millions miles away and are talking about collectively deflecting those that could do us harm.
That man has changed his home planet is now well-accepted. Long before the industrial revolution and the age of climate change, humans have significantly impacted earth, at least according to climate scientist William Ruddiman. In his book titled “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate,” he claimed that there is significant evidence that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been rising since the earliest beginnings of agriculture. There is strong evidence, too, that a mini-ice age was averted some 5,000 years ago due to the rise in methane caused by the proliferation of rice paddy agriculture in Asia.