I have, on many occasions, written on the subject of prophecies and apocalyptic predictions. For the most part, as I've explained in all of these articles, they're total bunk. Not all of these stupid fake predictions are based on religion or mysticism either, though that usually helps.
There have been some equally stupid predictions allegedly based on science, or academia of other kinds.
But what if there was one prediction of potential apocalypse, of the possible extinction of the entire human race, that was absolutely certain? What if we could also absolutely prevent it, but just aren't? That's actually what's happening right now.
First, this is not about Jesus coming back, or Mayan apocalypses, or prophecies from Nostradamus, or messages from aliens. Those are all gibberish that people for some reason keep buying into even though they've all been wrong countless times. I know people who spent an entire year posting on Facebook about how the world would end on December 21st, 2012. Maybe you know someone like that too, if you recall. When December 22nd came along, they just acted like nothing had happened. And by December 23rd, half of them were already making posts about predictions for 2014, or 2016, or 2024. It's an insane quality some people have to desperately want to buy into the notion of prophecy, or the promise of some messiah coming to punish all the evildoers, or just to get it right some time. As my earlier articles pointed out, there are people who've made millions of dollars based on predicting the end of the world every few years, and they just keep getting away with it.
Second, this isn't about global warming, an ice age, nuclear war, super-viruses, the rise of killer robots, or overpopulation. Those are all at least a little more potentially worrisome than the Rapture or Mayan Doomsday, but they're only potential problems. They MIGHT happen. I'm talking about something that WILL happen.
I'm talking about meteor strikes.
We know for a fact that meteor strikes have happened in the past. In fact, meteor strikes have happened in our lifetimes, just not large enough to matter. But Earth has been hit by huge meteors in the past; and statistically speaking, it's not just possible but an near-absolute certainty that a large meteor will hit the Earth in the future.
Recently, a leading NASA scientist tried to bring this back into the news, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Joseph Nuth of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre explained that it's only a matter of time until a large meteor or comet strikes the Earth, and this would trigger an extinction-level event for humanity.
Statistically, large objects have hit the earth about every 50-60 million years. That frequency is part of the problem. A meteor or comet strike WILL happen, it's only a matter of time; but the 'time' could be in a few years, or another million years. Except the last extinction level meteor strike, the one that might have killed the dinosaurs (as well as almost every single species bigger than 50lbs), happened about 66 million years ago.
So you could say we're way overdue.
In a way, we've already been incredibly lucky. If a large extinction-level meteor or comet had struck the earth any time in the 2-million-year history of the human species before the present day, we'd have just been wiped out. We've been statistically living on borrowed time for the entire history of our species, and somehow we lucked out. There would have been nothing we could possibly have done to save ourselves.
But now, we actually could. We have the technological ability that we could theoretically detect, and with enough advanced warning divert, large space objects on collision-course with Earth. We could save ourselves from extinction.
But as Dr. Nuth pointed out, for reasons we can only ascribe to our own immense stupidity, we aren't doing that. Right now, we do have people looking for asteroids or comets with the potential to strike the Earth, but we don't have total coverage, and we aren't doing it effectively enough to actually be able to make that detection matter. Present day detection methods can only give us (most likely) a less than two-year warning of an impending collision, and NASA estimates that it would currently take us about five years to be able to actually put together a mission to be able to deflect a space object capable of wiping us out. So this means that, right now, even if our spotty and imperfect efforts to detect an oncoming asteroid hit manage to warn us about it, all that will do is give us all a bit less than two years to kiss our asses goodbye.
And it's not that we couldn't make it work. We could. There's just two big problems in the way: first, most people just don't really recognize the danger this represents. They're betting on it being decades, centuries, or maybe even a million years before it happens. And that's possible; we might not face an extinction-level strike in our lifetimes, or even our great-great-grandkid's lifetime. But we could also face one next month. And it seems incredibly irresponsible that even though this is one of the few things that could easily wipe us all out AND that we know how to stop it (without big disagreements about how serious a threat it is or how to prevent it), we've decided to just bet on it being some future generation's problem.
The second problem is the cost. Dealing with an extinction-level asteroid/comet is doable with our current technology, but it's not cheap. NASA estimates that a mission that would just act as a kind of small-scale test for how to effectively redirect an asteroid would cost about $1.4 Billion. We could create much more effective detection systems, and have a permanent interceptor rocket that would cut down our reaction time by several years; but of course these would cost way more than the aforementioned testing mission.
But if we did these things, it would mean we'd be nearly safe against a real danger that would instantly wipe us out. At some point, we have to figure it's worth the cost, right? I mean, especially considering some of the much more idiotic things our governments routinely spend billions on...
And before you think that we could just wait it out, and that we'd be bound to figure something out if we saw an asteroid heading to Earth with 20-months advance warning, consider this: the space object that wiped out the dinosaurs might not have been much bigger than about 6 miles across. Not only could an object of that size fail to be detected early with current protocols, but depending on its trajectory, we might not even be see it until mere weeks before it hit.
In 2013, the Earth was hit by the largest recorded meteor impact in over 100 years. Here's a real video of that meteor, which exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia:
Imagine you're driving to work one morning and you see THAT coming down from the sky!
The explosion was almost 30 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima. In spite of exploding many miles above the Earth's surface, its shock-wave did considerable property damage and injured 1500 people.
And no one had seen it coming. Because its trajectory was in line with the sun, it went completely undetected by any astronomer or monitor in the entire planet. Its impact was a complete surprise. Granted, it was about 500 times smaller than the meteor that probably murdered all the dinosaurs, but a meteor capable of killing billions of people, causing a 'nuclear winter' effect, and possibly extinguishing our entire species could be as small as 1.5 miles wide, depending on what it was made of and how it hit us. Right now, it's almost impossible to detect asteroids smaller than 100ft wide (and note that a mere 40ft asteroid, if it hit the right way, could destroy a city the size of New York). And it's still not impossible for there to be an object of species-endangering size that we've just totally missed (it's estimated that we might still not have spotted about 7% of near-earth objects above the 1-mile diameter range).
An asteroid that size might be headed right for us, right now. It might be about to hit, and we might have no idea.
Happy New Year!