The feds have approved a plan crafted by Johns Hopkins astrophysicists to send a tiny spaceship crashing into an asteroid in 2022.
The Chesapeake Bay is cool. No disrespect. But I gotta say I think this 150-million-year-old super-salty ocean that some researchers accidentally discovered below the sediment of the Chesapeake is kind of cooler.
Half a mile of sediment separates the ancient ocean and the bay, the result of an asteroid impact about 35 million years ago.
They say it’s “very unlikely” that we’re looking at some kind of underwater “lost world” scenario. Too bad; swimming with the dolphins has become so passe.
If you want a way to fully appreciate how long ago 150 million years really is, ask someone else. Once a number gets larger than, like, 120-million or so I start to lose perspective.
By the way, USA Today points out the underground ocean is “ancient enough for dinosaurs to have drowned in.” That’s kind of unnecessarily pessimistic, in my opinion. What about all the dinosaurs that could swim?
Today’s asteroid flyby will not actually come all that close to our planet — it’ll stay a safe 17,000 miles away. Still, that’s the nearest pass by an object of its size (comparable to an airliner), and if it did hit, it would do some serious damage. So how do all those astrophysicists at Johns Hopkins plan to save us from the asteroid that is on a collision course with our planet — something that, statistically speaking, is bound to happen soon enough?
Either the astrophysicists at Johns Hopkins have never seen a space-action movie, or they’ve seen way too many. Those are the only explanations I can come up with for why they’d argue in favor of slamming a spaceship into a giant asteroid… just to see what might happen.
Twenty Surprising Things about Planet Earth: Robert Hazen Makes Science Accessible to Baltimore and All Humankind
Some scientific types are so brilliantly knowledgeable and productive, they make the rest of us non-scientific stock look, well, downright lazy. Case in point: It took mineralogist Robert M. Hazen only one year to write his latest ambitious book, The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, released last month from Viking. You read that correctly, he told the story of billions of years in 12 months. But don’t start beating yourself up thinking it will take you a year to read. The straightforward book is designed to facilitate accessible scientific learning in brightish regular people. And if it’s any consolation, Hazen, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, promised me the book took “more than 40 years to become ready to write.” He’s modest, too. (By the way, maybe you read his poet daughter Elizabeth Hazen’s creative nonfiction essay, “The Science of Searching,” published here in February.)
I talked to Mr. Hazen about his process and his mission. I also asked him to list fun, little-known earth-scientific facts from the pages, diamonds with which our readers could dazzle people at cocktail parties. My favorite: With every breath you take, you breathe atoms that were breathed by Bach, Newton, and Jesus. Read on to learn more. Memorize to look scientific-er.
You dedicated The Story of Earth to your Baltimore-based five-year-old grandson. What is the dedication?
“To Gregory: Change will come; may you have the wisdom and courage to adapt.”
Of course, “close” is a relative term in these situations. Asteroid 2005 YU 55 (who could use a catchier name) is projected to sail by us around 201,000 miles away. But don’t get too comfy — that’s closer than the moon passes in its orbit. And though NASA scientists are saying reassuring things (“There is no chance that this object will collide with Earth or moon”), isn’t that what they always do before the handsome renegade steps in to save us all?
But some among us are welcoming the near appearance of this space rock. As per the directions of President Obama, NASA has recently shifted its focus to try to land a human on one of these near-Earth asteroids. According to scientists at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, the plan is to land a robot on an asteroid by 2015. If we make it until then, that is.