Yesterday I had an unpleasant turn just before breakfast. I was looking at the website of the Minor Planet Centre, an American organization that registers near Earth objects, minor planets, comets and ‘close approaches’. A ‘close approach’ is an occasion when a lump of space rock, a ‘Near Earth Object’, gets too close to the Earth for comfort. The impact of a large meteorite 65 million years ago was supposed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. Just last year, a meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk with a force 20 – 30 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. Since it exploded in the air, most of the force was dissipated in the atmosphere but 1,500 people still needed medical treatment. If it had hit the ground…
Anyway, I was looking at the September tally for minor planets when I noticed that on September 20th, three days earlier, a rock, estimated size between two and nine metres, had passed within 50,000 miles of Earth. That really is too close for comfort, and is not much further out than the communication satellites.
Its speed was around 16,000 mph. I did a quick calculation and concluded that if it had hit, the force of the detonation would have been equivalent to around three Hiroshima bombs… Just like that! I was definitely preoccupied over breakfast, but returning to check the calculation, I realized I had dropped a factor of 1,000. Actually, it would only have been equivalent to 50 tons of TNT, still enough to spoil your day...
It is a bit worrying though. Just in the period between 17th September and 7th October, 19 ‘rocks’, the largest up to 2.6 km in size, either have come or will come close to Earth; even the furthest within 50 times the distance of the Moon.
I will admit to relief on hearing the news that Scotland voted ‘No’. I like Scotland and I like the Scots; I lived there for four years and my daughter was born there. But this whole idea of separation seemed half-baked from the start. Where is the sense, these days, of breaking alliances up? United we stand, surely, in these uncertain times with threats from the Middle-East, and Russia talking about ‘invading five European capitals in two days…’
I suspect that a small rump of hard-line nationalists managed to play on everyone’s disgust with the Westminster politicians. The economy, the cuts, the state of the National Health Service – as I know from recent, multiple, first-hand experience – MPs expenses and so on. In England, we have to lump it; in Scotland there was the possibility of escape; a rosy future as an independent nation buoyed up by oil revenues.
But the oil is running out and what is to take its place? Then the cost of all those new ministries, a foreign service, embassies and the question that was never satisfactorily resolved – currency. Ironically, the major fallout is likely to be in England. Scotland has its assembly; so does Wales, so does Northern Ireland…the English don’t. What about our local autonomy?
I am no constitutional expert, but I suspect that our ‘United Kingdom’ is unique in the world and long may it be so. Yes, I was never allowed to forget that I was a 'bloody Englishman' during my time in Edinburgh; yes, a bus driver in that city quietly smirked during a recent visit, when he refused to accept my ‘English’ bus pass, but we are all part of the same nation. We have been, effectively, since 1603, when the English went cap in hand to the Scots asking if they could use their king because the English queen had failed to produce an heir, oh, and by the way, sorry we executed your queen...
I’m surprised at Salmond though. Throwing in the towel less than 12 hours after the vote… What about all that pro-Scots rhetoric? Is Scotland any less of a country looking for a leader, a job in which he was undoubtedly very competent, just because they have voted no? What about the 1.6 million who voted yes? Do they not deserve better than this? I’m disappointed.
I saw a beautiful Saltire yesterday; crossed jet-trails against a blue sky. Clearly it was a good omen…
Barack Obama visited Stonehenge and pronounced it ‘cool’. Cool? The President of the USA, a man noted for his rhetorical skills and eloquence in oratory, visits one of the most iconic historical sites in the world, and declares that it’s ‘cool’?
Well, it is September, and Wiltshire is not noted for its balmy summers, but ‘cool?’ How would he describe the pyramids one wonders? ‘Hot’? ‘Big?’
‘What’s it like being President, Mr Obama?’
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs