Asteroid Impact Essay

1480 WordsDec 16, 20126 Pages
The Asteroid Threat Eschatology is the study of the end of the world. What do we mean when we talk about the "end of the world?" It's a term that get thrown around a bit too often among a variety of futurist-types, whether talking about global warming, nanofabrication, or non-friendly artificial intelligence. "Existential risks" is the lingo-du jour, referring to the broad panoply of processes, technologies and events that put our existence at risk. But, still, what does that mean? The destruction of the Earth? The end of humankind? A "Mad Max" world of leather-clad warriors, feral kids, and armed fashion models? All are frightening and horrific, but some are more so than others. How do we tell them apart? An Internet search for "2012 doomsday predictions" will return enough apocalyptic prophecies to send you screaming into an underground bunker. Such ominous forecasts are based on the dubious assertion that, according to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world is scheduled to occur on Dec. 21, 2012. Those who adhere to this notion don't agree on how it will happen, but a common theory is that an asteroid will hit Earth, throwing up a cloud of choking dust that will block the sun and catastrophically alter the planet's climate. So, will a flaming mass of rock tear through the sky in 2012, bringing an end to civilization as we know it? Asteroids are masses of metal and rock that orbit the sun but aren't large enough to be considered planets. Tens of thousands of them are located in the asteroid belt, a doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Most doomsday prophecies focus on near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), or asteroids whose orbits bring them within 121 million miles (195 million kilometers) of the sun and, as the name suggests, sometimes pass relatively close to Earth or even pass through Earth's orbit [source: NASA].

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