It's not about the house.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Some More Things Not to Worry About

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled Something Not To Worry About. You can click that link to read it in its completion, but here’s the abridged jist:

The evidence is getting stronger that our neighbor, Mars, was struck by a massive asteroid or other space object some four billion years ago, at the dawn of the solar system…The thought of the forces at play makes for a thrilling — even chilling — reminder that the solar system was a very dangerous place at the start…At roughly the same time, Earth suffered an even more calamitous collision, which ejected enough material into space to form the Moon… For those inclined to fret about their own cosmic risks, another article in Nature provides some reassurances. A decade-long search for asteroids or other objects nearby that might menace the Earth has found “little risk of a cataclysmic impact” — at least for the next century.

Oh well then phew!

It reminded me of two things:


When we were in Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, the underground park ranger pointed to the cave ceiling that looked like it was about to fall in on us and said “Doesn’t it look like it’s about to fall in on us? But don’t worry, it hasn’t fallen in [some ridiculous number of thousands of ] years, so chances are it won’t fall now.”

To which I thought: if it hasn’t fallen in some ridiculous number of thousands of years, isn’t it that much more likely to be falling sometime soon? Doesn’t every minute that it doesn’t fall increase the likelihood that, the next minute, it will? Or am I still just relating everything back to my hated house?

Oh no wait, we didn’t have the AssVac when we went to Kartchner. Not yet. Not officially. We’d put in an offer, but it hadn’t been accepted.


In retrospect, crushed to death in a collapsing cave doesn’t sound so bad…


Bill Bryson wrote a book a couple years ago called A Short History of Nearly Everything, in which he goes around talking to experts about complicated scientific concepts like quarks and Big Bangs, and reduces it all into layman’s terms with his usual dose of fart jokes and self-deprecation. It’s good. You should buy it.

There’s this chapter in there called “Dangerous Beauty,” about Yellowstone Park. Turns out the reason there are all those geysers and hot springs and everything at Yellowstone is that the whole place is essentially a big flat volcano just looking for a chance to blow:

“They were able to work out that the cycle of Yellowstone’s eruptions averaged one massive blow every 600,000 years. The last one, interestingly enough, was 630,000 years ago. Yellowstone, it appears, is due.”

He goes on for a while explaining warning signs for imminent massive eruptions (things like, oh, hot springs and geysers), and describing exactly what “massive,” in this context, can be interpreted to mean (the last time it happened, ash pretty much covered everything west of the Mississippi). Then he goes on to talk about evacuation and escape routes in the event.

It seems they were only starting to draw these things up when Bryson was there, in 2002 or so, and he joked with a park geologist about how that was none too soon. Then he points out that these plans, when they are finalized, will only get visitors out of Yellowstone: “you would be on your own once you left the gates.” Which brings us, at last, to the quote I pulled the book out for.

Except it isn’t in there. I remember it so specifically, but I can’t find it, so now I’m thinking it must have been one of my own. I must have had the idea in my own head and attributed it, for comfort’s sake, to Bryson and his boys. I still think it’s valid, though, so I’ll still share. The thought is this:

If Yellowstone blows – if it blows big enough to, at the very least, bury the whole country in enough ash and soot to block out the sun and ruin agricultural production across the plains essentially forever unless we find a way to pick it all back up again – and if you happen to be anywhere near it when it does: Even if you follow a well-laid evacuation route precisely…

Do you really think you’re getting out alive?

Happy News-Tuesday, everybody! Sleep tight!


Jenni said...

GRrrrEAT........ we are suppose to go there in September. oh well, if it blows while we are there, I guess we want have to worry about finishing up our kitchen.

EGE said...

That's the spirit, Jenni!

su said...