Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Six of the best

It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hot-dogs to the rest. (Terry Pratchett, 'Guards! Guards!')
It's been quite a week for asteroids. According to a fellow enthusiast:
...on March 10, 2015, a 12–28 meter asteroid dubbed 2015 ET cosmically “just missed us”, zipping past Earth at 0.3 lunar distances – 115,200 kilometers, or 71, 580 miles.
Then the pocket-sized 2015 EO6 - possibly the subject of this video - whizzed by a similar distance away, followed by 2015EQ and 2015 EK (both between 15 and 33m in diameter) and the slightly smaller 2015 EF and, today, 2015 EO all passing a mere million or so kilometres above our heads.

The startling number of close fly-bys detected recently, even if they aren't of a size to send us the way of the dinosaurs, makes it much easier to appreciate that an asteroid strike isn't a matter of 'if', but of 'when'.

Eschatology aside, I rather suspect most of us aren't exactly prepared for this. True, official bodies have been undertaking mock exercises, which has to be a good thing, but, on an individual level, I don't see much hope for a sensible and reasoned reaction.

Part of the problem is the constant cries of 'Wolf!' from the media. We've become accustomed to a sort of semi-permanent wibble about everything from global warming to imminent food shortages in the Home Counties while life goes on seemingly unaffected; like children dropping crisp packets on their way home from yet another anti-littering PSHE lesson, the population has ceased to take any notice of what is being said.

Occasionally, however, a particularly alarmist message gets through and we are treated to the edifying sight of supermarkets besieged by shoving hordes squabbling over the last baked goods, fearful lest a threatened snowstorm should delay deliveries and plunge them into an appalling carbohydrate shortage. So used are we to instant gratification that even the mildest of deprivation seems to bring out the worst in some people.

Should a diminutive asteroid land on some part of our green and pleasant land tomorrow, I hope the affected population will find some measure of altruism and organised response. Failing that, I fervently hope those most likely to act selfishly or exploit the situation are squarely underneath when it hits (along with a few particularly deserving cases; I have a carefully-maintained mental list).

Meanwhile, every fly-by is an excuse for a drink and this week, in spirit at least, we will be broaching a bottle of Jimkin Bearhugger's finest to drink to all six, before raising a seventh glass in salute to the much-lamented Terry Pratchett.

3 comments:

  1. The startling number of close fly-bys detected recently, even if they aren't of a size to send us the way of the dinosaurs, makes it much easier to appreciate that an asteroid strike isn't a matter of 'if', but of 'when'.

    Eschatology aside ...


    Love it.

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  2. Can I add a few names to your list of those to be 'neath the 'roid ?

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  3. Thank you JH - and for quoting at your place.

    Amfortas, feel free, but I have a feeling it's going to get pretty crowded under there!

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