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I’m Still Standing

And so is everyone else on the planet, metaphorically speaking.  That is to say, the world did not end today.

Today was yet another in a very, very long chain of predicted days where the world was supposed to end.  We’ve been thinking about the end of days almost since the beginning of days.  The earliest known predictions for the end of the world go back to around 2800 BC.  If you’d like to spend a fascinating few hours digging into our collective human subconscious and discovering all the ways we’ve thought we might end out, check out A Brief History of the Apocalypse.  It’s pretty amazing.

Needless to say, I am not concerned about getting safely home from work tonight, at least no more concerned than usual (traffic on Interstate 64 can be tough, but usually not apocalyptic!).  The end-of-the-world doom predicted for today involved a dire collision with a speculated 9th planet of our solar system, often called Nibiru.  I can confidently tell you that Nibiru, if it even exists, will not destroy us.  How can I be so sure?  Simple.  If it were big enough to destroy the planet, we’d be able to see it in the sky.  Clearly.  Frighteningly.  Long before it hit, it would come to dominate the world of astronomy, and then the evening news, and then your actual, no-kidding, physical sky.  Nighttime and then even daytime, once it was close enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Earth doesn’t get hit by stuff.  Heck, stuff plows into us every day – by the ton!  But virtually all of it is much, much too small for us even to notice, let alone worry about.

Ah, you say – virtually!  So…does that mean some of it can bother us?  Sure.  Some space rocks are big enough that when they come crashing into our air, they superheat the air they pass through.  That’s a meteor, or a shooting star.  Most of those rocks still don’t make it to the ground…but the few that do are called meteorites and are amazingly cool.  But virtually none of those are an issue.

Uh-oh…there’s that virtually again.  Can some of them be issues?  Sure.  Ask anyone living in Chelyabinsk, Russia if a meteor can be a danger.  Back in 2013, a decent size chunk of space rock exploded over the city, shattering windows and injuring quite a number of people.  But this kind of event is a rare exception.  Most meteors are harmless curiosities.

Wait a minute, you say…what about the dinosaurs?  Didn’t a rock from space do them in?  Sure.  A very large impactor struck the Earth in the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, causing world-wide damage.  But such a disaster occurs, on average, about once every 100 million years.  Even now, the odds of such another collision are too low for us to really worry about.

Is the chance of such a world-ending impact zero?  No.  But the chance that such a large impactor could slip in and get us with hardly any warning is virtually nil.  So don’t worry!  Be happy!

I know, I know…virtually again.  Gotta leave me some wiggle room, just in case that Volkswagen Tiguan commercial turns out to be right…


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