I’m going to switch things up and post two long clips from The Daily Show, which focus on the interview that Jon Stewart had with Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well renowned astro-physicist.
The reason I feel that this interview is important is because it brings up a major point about humanity’s survival that our society has been ignoring for an unacceptable amount of time. Every day, the Earth is bombarded by hundreds of tiny asteroids, of sizes ranging from a grain of sand up to that of a large sport-utility vehicle. Depending on the material makeup, each of these impacts has the potential to do damage.
This is Canyon Diablo Crater, also known as Barringer Crater, or Meteor crater, in Arizona. It was created by an asteroid that was about the size of an average house, and the resulting hole is over a mile wide. As Neil deGrasse Tyson stated in the interviews, this may seem large to a human, but it’s minuscule in astronomical terms. The really scary part of this situation is that asteroids that can do this much damage are currently too small for humans to detect.
The Chelyabinsk Meteor event that occurred on February 15th, 2013 is another example of how a house-sized asteroid can cause damage to our society. No matter how you look at it, we got lucky. That asteroid exploded 20 miles above the surface, releasing a blast 30 times that of the Hiroshima bomb released in World War II. Had it detonated only one second later, we’d be talking thousands of casualties instead of thousands of minor injuries. Look at this from a different standpoint:
Every day, our planet is bombarded by nuclear-weapon sized explosions that may or may not hit populated areas. The only thing that has prevented such an event up until now is blind luck. For thirty years, we have been aware of this situation and have chosen to do nothing about it.
This is unacceptable. Let’s change the source and say that instead of the cosmos above, a specific country was randomly lobbing nuclear weapons into neighboring countries, not caring in the slightest where they land (I’m looking at you, North Korea). Would we as a country and a society do anything about that?
Absolutely, and without hesitation.
So then why have we ignored this very obvious threat for so long? As a species, rather than identifying a common enemy (the sky literally falling on us), we have squandered our time and resources bickering among each other how best to divvy up our imaginary currency. It’s all meaningless, because it doesn’t matter how rich you are, no amount of money is going to be able to save you from an asteroid impact.
…well, that is unless you spend the money preemptively developing the necessary technology to divert an asteroid from hitting Earth in the first place.
- It is not an impossible task
- We have the technology to prevent these impacts.
- We are aware of the problem.
- We have several plans we’d like to test.
The problem is people. There are not enough people in our society who think this is an important issue. We’re too busy trying to prevent minorities from voting, or trying to revoke women’s rights, or trying to prevent homosexuals from marriage, or trying to blame the economy on the poor, or a slew of other ridiculous and ultimately meaningless issues that do not affect the very core concept of a civilization: That our species must survive, or all of this progress is for nothing.
Here’s how to fix the economy, unemployment, the deficit, and corporate welfare all at once: Declare outer-space a permanently tax-exempt environment. Make it so that any company employing more than 100 people in orbit or on the moon pays nothing. Don’t offer incentives or anything, we don’t need to sweeten the pot past that. The amount of construction, manufacturing, education, and technical related jobs created by this would far outweigh that of any other project, even the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.
The United States has spent more than a billion dollars on corporate lobbying every year since 1998. Last year, there was over 3.3 billion dollars spent on lobbying in the US. That’s more than the entire budget of NASA during the Mercury Project. The last ten years of lobbying money combined is more than the entire Apollo Project. My point is that each year, corporations spend more money than is needed to research putting a man into orbit, and they spend that money trying to change the laws of the government to their advantage.
We need to be making it easier and cheaper for companies to take their environmentally damaging facilities and quasi-slave labor practices to outer space than it is to change the laws to allow it to occur here. It’s actually cheaper as of right now, it’s just that we’ve caved so much to corporate demands that there is almost no incentive for them to do anything, let alone make a risky venture into developing new technologies. A great example of this “do nothing” philosophy is how it’s becoming more common for companies to sue each other to prevent new technologies from being created (like Samsung and Apple). Rather than try to compete fairly, most companies are either demanding a monopoly on their market, or they don’t want to participate at all.
It’s time to stop acting like children. We need to either address the threat of asteroids immediately and start working toward a solution, or just lay down for good and give up. The asteroids aren’t going to stop themselves, and we can’t stop them as long as we’re fighting each other.
Benjamin Franklin had the right idea; our enemy has simply changed from British soldiers to giant space rocks.