Friday, March 16, 2012

The whole shebang

Endless Conversation


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

About 65 million years ago, a six-mile long rock that had been hurtling through space for eons slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The crash left a 110-mile-wide crater and spewed firey rock and ash around the globe, destroying more than half of all life on Earth, including most of the dinosaurs that had dominated the planet during the Age of Reptiles.

Over the next millions of years, small warm-blooded creatures known as mammals evolved, grew larger in size and eventually learned to work together, taking charge of their surroundings.

Some of these mammal species learned to swim and entered the oceans as whales and porpoises. Others, through tool-making and language, came to dominate the land, designing excellent weapons with which to subdue wild creatures, and eventually one another.

These upright-walking primates also designed yo-yos, toaster ovens, automobiles and other things, all the while cooperating in increasingly larger groups to subdue other primates who did not speak the same language, follow the same dress codes or worship the same deities.

The story of this species, now known as "history," details a list of major battles in which the leaders of the group that won the most control over the most land, and the greatest sway over the most fearsome warriors, eventually built the biggest buildings, widest streets and largest churches.

The people of these great nations eventually grew weary of carnage. They also grew more familiar with one another, seeking commerce, invention and entertainment, and artistic endeavors instead of plunder. They soon found that there were too many humans eating and drinking and driving on an ever-stressed planet.

Scientists, many of whom thought their species would have destroyed the planet with nuclear weapons by now, recently spotted with powerful telescopes a rock the size of the Rose Bowl hurtling through space toward Earth. They calculate that it will pass very close to the planet in the year 2029, even passing between the surface of the planet and the orbits of geo-stationary satellites used by the human species to share important and entertaining information with one another.

Meanwhile, the mammal species that has come to dominate the world and drive many others to extinction is spending trillions of dollars warring with itself in many regions of the globe, largely unaware of the coming threat.

Rather than working together to solve problems large and small, and save their home planet from destruction, they continue to compete with one another as they did when they were still crawling out of the dust and ash that sent the dinosaurs to their doom.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said on public radio last week that the human species could develop the technological means to deflect the large rock, and others like it, if enough tax dollars and scientific expertise were concentrated on the task.

If we don't, it will be downright embarrassing.

"I'd hate to see Earth become the laughing stock of the universe," said Tyson.




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