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Don't like the weather? Wait a billion years

February 22, 2001

Don't like the weather? Wait a billion years



The good news is that Earth is going to end. The bad news is that it's not going to happen for another 1.1 billion years, or roughly about the time that Britney Spears is eligible to vote.

I know this because I read USA Today, America's only nondepressing newspaper. Last week it had a story about the end of the planet and how scientists plan to avoid it. It didn't say why.

But it indicated that in 1.1 billion years, the sun is scheduled to swell up to the size of Deon Sanders' head and burn us all up.

I say "us" meaning "you," being all those people who have saved this newspaper article for many million centuries.

Fortunately, scientists have already figured out how to avoid this catastrophe. And fortunately for the scientists, they will not be alive to hear about it if they are wrong.

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Here is their plan. Honest.

They believe they can fire a rocket that will deflect a comet or asteroid near the path of the earth, which in turn will knock the earth further out of the sun's reach. Anyone who does not believe this could happen has obviously never played the game "Mouse Trap."

As USA Today reports, there are several possible downsides to this plan. The first, and most interesting, is that the comet/asteroid could miss and strike our planet broadside. The paper used about 14 paragraphs to explain why this would not be a good thing, but I will leave it to your imagination.

But think of all those far-out science fiction movies about comets hitting Earth actually coming about because the astronomers were TRYING to do it. Boy, would their faces be red.

A second merry mixup that could occur is that we would "lose the moon."

Great. All of space is put together like a wonderful, celestial clock and we're talking about playing bumper pool with the moon. Eight moon, corner pocket.

The third possibility is that a redirected Earth would send Mars and Venus spinning dizzily out of orbit and force Jupiter to do loop-de-loops around Saturn.

If this isn't real fun, I don't know what is. The question is, if we have this capability already, why wait 1.1 billion years? If we can knock the Earth a million miles or so away from the sun, we would all be having a good laugh over global warming.

And the fireworks at Antietam? Who needs it if you can ping-pong Mercury into the sun?

I mentioned global warming because of this report in The Washington Post:

"Rising global temperatures already responsible for shrinking glaciers and vanishing permafrost eventually could touch off climate changes that would literally alter ocean currents, wipe away huge portions of Alpine snowcaps and aid the spread of cholera and malaria, according to a study released yesterday.

"In the most comprehensive look yet at the existing and long-term effects of global warming, the report by a United Nations panel warned of the potential for large-scale and irreversible climate changes - including large reductions in the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and a substantial slowing of the circulation of warm water in the North Atlantic.

"The report also warns of devastating droughts, floods, violent storms and the spread of cholera and malaria. It concluded that poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America with limited resources would bear the brunt of the most extreme climate changes."

Yikes.

See? Best bump the planet away from the sun while there's still time.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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