Scientific Sense Podcast

Monday, October 31, 2016

Missed by a whisker

As the string theorists work out the mathematics of the "theory of everything,", as the particle zoo keeper adds yet another particle to the compendium of knowledge, as the space agencies and private companies clamor to dominate space and send humans to Mars, as the environmentalists lament about the impending gloom and doom and as the activists burn and pillage to redirect policies, a large asteroid passed by the Earth peacefully, missing it by a mere 300K kilometers last night, a literal blink of an eye. And more, a lot more, is in the channel heading for the blue planet. I wonder why there was nothing in the news about it.

Humans habitually worry about the tactics and forget the big picture. There is an evolutionary basis for this as most of their history has been about tactical survival. The African Savannah was not a friendly place and as she descended from the trees, she exposed herself to danger all around her. The human psyche, thus, is programmed to worry about tomorrow and not next year for the probability of the later having any meaning for the individual was low. As the "Nobel laureates" attempt to mend the environment, they have to at least understand that the likelihood of Earth surviving a hit by a reasonable sized asteroid is small. And, there are an unimaginable number of objects in the splintered neighborhood of the solar system. The failed star, Jupiter, does her best but sweeping up all the dangerous objects that shower down from beyond her is almost an impossible task.

Those with a few billion $ to invest to create a "legacy," may be best advised to analyze the risks and rewards of their investment choices, Sure, creating a "space colony" and "curing death," are indeed great ideas but if they want humanity to survive (without whom their "legacy," will have no value), they may need to focus on something entirely different. Those who have been chasing "singularity," may need to consider that even "Artificial General Intelligence," will be dead and gone by the physics of impact. Creating robots of immense talent is good, but protecting a fragile environment built over five billion years may be more valuable.

It will be indeed ironic if the "advanced humans," are wiped out by a similar incident that lend mammals, an opening to dominate.

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