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  • March 8, 1997
  • Hail of Bullets

    Here's a little tidbit to whet your appetite for destruction...with all the hooplah over doomsday asteroids, I had to add this.

    Apocalypse When

    Hold on a sec while I turn on my Pilot...Here we go. On May 19, 1996, around lunch time (12:34 PM, EDT) an asteroid, designated 1996 JA1, missed our beloved blue dot (Earth) by a scant 279,000 miles, or nearly as many miles as I have on my car. This is about the distance from here to the moon. It was moving along at a zippy 36,000 miles per hour, and is about a half kilometer in diameter. It was discovered four days beforehand by some college astronomy students near Tuscon. If it had struck land, it would have dug a crater about the size of San Francisco, and would have caused widespread devastation across the rest of the country. A water strike would have produced a giant tidal wave that would have threatened coastal areas no matter where it struck. Here's something I pulled off of the NASA site.

    "...the NBC miniseries "Asteroid" first shown on Feb 16-17 plays pretty loose with the facts. It is certainly true that the impact of asteroids or comets with the Earth could cause the sort of destruction depicted in the film; indeed the dangers are understated in the film. For example, there is a scene where the President reacts with disbelief that "millions of people" could die in an impact. The fact is that impact by an asteroid 4 km across, which was being discussed, would probably lead to the death of billions, perhaps as many as half the Earth's population. But it is virtually impossible that a comet could attract or dislodge several asteroids from the asteroid belt and send them on a collision course toward Earth, and this aspect of the situation depicted in the film is absurd. If an asteroid is going the hit the Earth, it is already on the way; that is why we can predict such events centuries in advance if we find the objects and track their orbits. Also, the idea of using air-borne lasers to try to defend against an incoming asteroid has no basis in fact. The only technology we have today for defense against asteroids and comets is nuclear, and we would require years of warning in order to deflect or disrupt a threatening object. Dramas that try to compress these events into a few days are fiction and should not be confused with fact. The truth is that if we found an asteroid headed our way with less than several years' warning, there is nothing we could do to protect ourselves except evacuate population from the impact site."

    Can you imagine trying to evacuate Asia? You think we have an immigration problem now... At any rate, I plan on using the looming threat of an asteroid impact to get out of mowing the lawn many times this summer.

  • March 3, 1997
  • Vat Kids

    I’ve heard from a second hand source that yesterday, scientists in Detroit (or was it Chicago?) had successfully cloned a rhesus monkey. If this is true, that’s another great step forward. We’re not just playing with sea monkeys anymore, kids. Frogs, then sheep, then monkeys. The pace is blinding, but then again, it only took humanity three years to develop the atomic bomb.

    Okay, so what happens when we do clone a human? Jeff Goldbloom’s character in Jurassic Park put forth this statement about genetic advancements: “You were all so excited about the fact that you could that you didn’t stop to think about whether or not you should.”

    But before you agree and start shouting your “amens,” we can put that whole argument to bed. Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes put it very nicely the other night: “We will clone a human being. Don’t tell me that we won’t. Humans have always done anything that they could.” Very aptly put. Take the atom bomb again. Scientists at the first A-Bomb test at Los Alamos, New Mexico, weren’t entirely certain that it wouldn’t start a chain reaction in the atmosphere, bathing the entire planet in a hellish firestorm. Dodged a bullet there, didn’t we?

  • March 1, 1997
  • Genetically Identical Sheep Burgers

    I just heard about this, and its kinda old news, but did you hear about those Scottish scientists that successfully cloned a sheep? Isn’t that great? What a big step, cloning a good sized mammal like that.  Whats even better is the huge uproar it created. Everyone, get out your notebooks, we’ve got to examine the “huge moral & ethical implications” of this new development. We can’t clone sheep, but what we CAN do is raise a few million tons of cattle to adulthood, take a flamethrower to them, and serve them between pieces of bread for 59 cents each. Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with either scenario.

    Aren’t we getting a little worked up over nothing?


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