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A gaping big hole in my education

What happens when a piece of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour crashes into planet Earth? It leaves a big hole. A very big hole. A hole that is  2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep.

That all this happened approximately 50,000 years ago is neither here nor there. It’s all been scientifically validated and proven beyond doubt that Meteor Crater, in Arizona, is ‘the most well known, best preserved meteor crater on Earth’. That I’d never heard of it is neither here nor there either. Put that down to me not paying attention in Geography class. But like the millions of other tourists that can’t resist the signage off the I40, I had to go have a look.

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Now, I suppose if you’re a space fanatic, a mineralogist, or a geologist, you might get a kick out of it. I’m firmly in the ‘oh, it’s a hole in the ground’ category. Yes it’s impressive, in its own way but it just didn’t do it for me.

I have trouble dealing with time in such great numbers. Anything BC is beyond my limited imagination. Fifty thousand years ago is way too far back to have any impact on my life, at all. It’s a little like temperature. Anything over 25 degrees Celsius is hot. Anyone over 5.10 is tall. My sense of scale leaves a lot to be desired.

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Until I got to thinking what would happen if some similar piece of stuff hit the Earth tomorrow. What devastation would result from a collision that had the energy of more than 20 million tons of TNT? Is there any part of the world so remote that the damage to human lives wouldn’t be off the charts? And would we see it coming? Or would it be all over before we knew what had hit us?

The mind boggles. Science is boggling. And for the 30 minutes of ‘what ifs’ that ensued, coupled with a repeated resolve to leave nothing unsaid in this lift lest a little piece of rock is already hurtling on its way,  it was worth the detour.

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