Friday, August 24, 2012
Column: Where do the candidates stand on asteroids?
Personally, getting hit by a giant space asteroid is currently my own top concern, even more so than my concerns over a zombie apocalypse. This is because while the latter is definitely unpleasant, it’s never happened before, whereas it seems there was a time when earth was being pelted practically nonstop by space asteroids, like some giant, unfortunate pinball bumper.
I’m basing my information on a book I’m reading, "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It came out in 2003, but since I’m just getting around to reading it now I’m hoping that "everything" hasn’t changed too much during the past nine years. I do know we haven’t been hit by a giant asteroid during that time, because as Bryson makes very clear, I would have heard about it.
For instance, if we were to be visited by a meteor like the one that hit Manson, Iowa 74 million years ago, immediately before it hit "the temperature below it would rise to some 60,000 Kelvin, or ten times the surface temperature of the Sun … Everything in the meteor’s path – people, houses, factories, cars – would crinkle and vanish like cellophane in a flame." And after that, things would get really bad.
I won’t go into the graphic details. (Earthquakes? Check. Volcanoes? Check. "Blizzard of flying projectiles?" Checkeroo.) But you’d think that with literally millions of these things flying around the heavens, protecting us, the citizenry, from crinkling like cellophane would be a no-brainer of a campaign platform. By contrast, Medicare reform does very little to help a senior population that’s been incinerated.
And yet, according to Bryson, "the number of people in the world who are actively searching for asteroids is fewer than the staff of a typical McDonald’s restaurant." About the only good news about that statement is that at least asteroid hunters have advanced degrees and are unlikely to do unpleasant things in the Fryolator.
This is why, if I were running for national office (an experience I imagine is not unlike being hit by a blizzard of flying projectiles), I would do so based almost exclusively on the giant space asteroid platform, making the following promises:
1) I would immediately create a Division of Asteroid Hunters (DAH) that would employ thousands of people to sit on mountaintops staring through telescopes into outer space. When one of them spotted an asteroid headed in this direction, they would point at it and shout "ASTEROID!" This is what is known as a "job creator."
2) I would order NASA to immediately stop paying all that attention to Mars, which has pretty much no chance of slamming into us, ever.
3) Instead, I would have them start training an elite team of asteroid blower-uppers, like in the movie "Armageddon." I never saw that movie but I’m reasonably sure that it involved Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck blowing up asteroids, possibly while listening to Aerosmith songs.
There are still a few details to work out – for instance, Bryson points out that even if we managed to blow up an oncoming asteroid, it would probably just slam into us in a bunch of pieces, "with the difference that now the rocks would be intensely radioactive." This is what is known as "class warfare."
So here’s hoping that either President Obama or Gov. Romney take up the call – whomever adopts the giant space asteroid platform first is bound to sway the ever-important independent voter who doesn’t want to be hit by a giant space asteroid. After all, if the fact that it’s estimated an asteroid could take out 1.5 billion humans in a single day isn’t enough to sway the public, the candidates can always point out the following:
A certain number of those humans are bound to wind up as zombies.