Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine
Today is turning out to be a good day, despite it being utterly destroyed by 2007 TU64 that slammed into us at 3:33am Eastern.
Oh wait a second … I'm still here.
Okay, ripped the magnetosphere to shreds as it passed by at 3:33am Eastern …
Um … my cell phone is still working.
And so is this darned Intarweb thang.
So it apparently whizzed by at 334,000 miles which is … well, the Moon is only 250,000 miles away and it's managed to avoid slamming into us for millions (or even a few billion) years.
So I guess the “Doomsday scenario” is bunk and today really is A Good Day™.
This is something I need to keep in mind as I read Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything. The chapters about the Earth itself make for some hair-raising reading, like the fact that the magnetic poles flipflop on average every 500,000 years, and here it's been at least 750,000 since the last flip (or was it flop?). And then there's this bit about Yellowstone National Park:
In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something that, oddly, had not troubled anyone before; he couldn't find the park's volcano. … In particular what he couldn't find was a structure known as a caldera …
By coincidence just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities … as Christiansen saw the photos he realized why he had failed to spot the caldera: virtually the whole park—2.2 million acres—was caldera. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across—much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level …
Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano … the cycle of Yellowstone's eruptions averaged one massive blow every 600,000 years. The last one, interestingly enough, was 630,000 years ago. Yellowstone, it appears, is due.
But I'm feeling optimistic today—I don't think we'll experience a magnetic flip-flop or Yellowstone blowing up today.
Now tomorrow, on the other hand …