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Imminent Doom All Around: The Tunguska Event

Photo by flickr user, jgarber

Photo by flickr user, jgarber

In the movie Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz says, “You have a been a participant in the biggest interdimensional crossrip since the Tunguska blast of 1909.”  It actually happened in 1908.  Ray was off by a year, but when you’re a Ghostbuster, you’re allowed to be off by a year.

The Tunguska Event.  The Tunguska Explosion.  The Tunguska Blast.  Call it what you will.  It’s interesting because it poses questions about the nature of our vulnerability on this planet.  Earth is just floating out in space.  If you think about it, it would be really easy for us to get wiped out by a number of things.  What happened June 30, 1908 was just one of those things.

There was an explosion on the morning of June 30, 1908 in remote Siberia near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river.  As a result, 800 square miles of remote forest had been affected (practically burned), and about 80 million trees were on their sides. Many other trees closer to ground zero were standing upright, but were stripped of bark and limbs.  It must have been a very eerie and peculiar scene.

So what is this again?

The theory goes that an asteroid, meteor, comet fragment, or some celestial debris entered our Earth’s atmosphere and either exploded in the air (about 5 – 6 miles in the sky) or actually made impact and disintegrated.  Other than what is believed to have killed the dinosaurs, or any number of unrecorded events that happen in the oceans, the Tunguska event is believed to be the largest impact event (collision of some celestial body with Earth) ever recorded.

The force generated was about 1,000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

How’s that for an end-of-the-world scenario for you?

You forget how easy it is to die sometimes.  Forget about terrorist attacks, or fatal car crashes, outbreaks of a killer virus, or even choking on a ham sandwich.  We’re floating in space along with a bunch of other stuff.  Some small and others monstrously, mind-blowingly huge. I went to this link today.  The headline went, “Holy shit, we’re small.” It compares Earth’s size to other planets in our solar system, the sun, and other stars.  Even by looking at the pictures, it’s still difficult to get a grasp on how small the planet is within the context of space.  It’s not impossible for something to head in our direction and ruin our day.  Regardless of your opinions on global warming, nuclear war, furby invasions, or biblical apocalyptic writings,  it is just as easy as something from space taking us out of the picture completely.

There are just too many different ways to die.  Instead of staying up at night worrying about dying this way or that, I think of the number of ways to die as being so overwhelmingly huge that I shouldn’t even bother in the first place.  It would be as productive as counting grains of sand at the beach.
So what do I do?  I write a post describing a doom scenario.  Yeah, it sounds completely counter-intuitive.  But hey, I sleep soundly every night, and it makes for interesting conversation…sometimes.

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  1. Cat Schwamm
    Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I followed that link…and seriously? Holy shit, we're small.

    I feel a little better about my menial problems now

  2. Chris
    Posted Friday, April 17, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I read one far-fetched theory about what it may have been: a Black Hole crashed into the Earth. A small one.

  3. Chris
    Posted Friday, April 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I read one far-fetched theory about what it may have been: a Black Hole crashed into the Earth. A small one.

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