Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.
Will we again be hit by the sort of asteroid that ended the dinosaurs? Probably, but we'll never see it coming; in fact, we already missed it if we can assume that maybe we've been threatened by menacing space junk in the past and our modern technologies might have already prevented us from a painful case of mass extinction.
Why? Well, first of all, do you think it would be a great idea for our association of paternalistic world governments to share this sort of information with their respective populaces, us? Do you think we'd all come together and unite as the Human Race or do you think that each Nation State would, instead, lose completely the tenuous control they have of us, their people, us.
Even more, the meta culture of religion wouldn't deal well with an incoming 25 kilometers per second galactic projectile roughly 10 km in diameter with the promise of hitting earth with 100 million megatons of force -- none of that was foretold in any of the main religions' end-time prophecies . No freaking way -- the opiate of the masses would be seriously buzz-killed, and probably for good, surely not for God.
And there's a history of this, too. We really don't even want to know: not how the sausage is made or how and when we're going to die.
One of my closest friends is in the homeland security business and he loves to remind me that most of the money spend on law enforcement and domestic spycraft is spent to quell unrest and to avoid widespread panic: to protect us from ourselves. We as a species tend to freak out with little or no prodding.
And even though one might easily assume that it's only fair game that we have as much time as possible before our own annihilation and the extinction of our species to make amends, come to Jesus, say goodbye, and have all the sex possible in the time allotted, it's not at all practical.
We will not have taken it well at all. At the end of the day -- at the end of the earth -- we are the children and our governments is our respective parents. It is their job to aggressively and brutally save and protect us -- especially from ourselves. And I am grateful.
I don't really want to know how the sausage is made, I don't want to receive an iconic heads-up from the nightly news -- or Twitter! -- alerting me that I have a fortnight left before the asteroid with humanity's name on it makes it through "keyhole" after "keyhole," locking down tighter and tighter. From merely a slight possibility of an impact with Earth into becoming the certainty of a celestial kill shot to the head, where the head it our Mother Earth, our Sweet Blue Marble. And all that.
"But it's impossible to hide anything like that in the Internet age" or "of course scientists would share this sort of thing with the world, they're men of science and sharing," you might say, right?
Well, they also say that denial is the human body's strongest muscle and I believe that it would be pretty easy to spin anything into a conspiracy and anyone into a crackpot -- how many cries of wolf do we need anymore -- how many foretold Apocalypses or end-of-world scenarios do we need to survive in order for us to dismiss any and all of them out of hand? It's the oldest trick in the book; in fact, maybe too easy: destroy their credibility.
I personally believe it to be a mercy-killing, anyway. I don't believe there would be any level of Global-preparedness that would allow us as a Race to elegantly transition through the 100 million megatons of force transmitted gladly to our planet by a 10km diameter chunk of iron at 25 kilometers per second.
In this case, maybe the anticipation would be worse than the event -- do you think?
And, let's assume that we as a public aren't exactly privy to the true state-of-the-art of our military and space programs. Why send out an "The End is Nigh" warning across all official channels when we might very well already be able to intercept an inbound space-missile with all of the cool solutions that Phil Plait discusses in How to defend Earth from asteroids on TED.com -- be it counter-projectile (counter-sniping space junk? An anti-asteroid Iron Dome?) or the cool use of a big space probe with a big mass that has the ability to link up to any asteroid in question and then use its fancy ion drive to redirect the asteroid from certain impact to close shave (phew!)
However, no matter how effectively our technology, our space program, or the huge brains and bravery of our engineers saves us from certain doom, it's all for naught because were we to be alerted that we really were in the direct path of a killer heavenly body destined to break us apart, the entire world would be consumed by chaos, our fragile markets would crash, business would stall, production would cease, and all fiat currencies would cease to be worth the paper they're printed on.
Even just hinting us as a race that there's a remote possibility that the human race could effectively experience the same sort of global extinction experience as the big lizards would undue everything we as a civilization has ever built as it's all surely a very precarious stack of cultural cards.
So, try not to be paranoid but also gently realize that we may have averted any number of close calls in the past; even more, we'll never know the day nor the hour when the big one gets past our best defenses and gets a bullseye, makes a crater 180 km in diameter and 10 km deep somewhere, kicks up global dust effectively blotting out the sun, and sets off planet-wide shockwaves resulting in tsunamis and some very unfortunate tectonic and volcanic activity.
Oh, and please don't start panicking over this blog post -- promise me. You better not. I'm watching you.
Relax. Good news! If you're reading this, our space program effectively avoided our foretold collision with Nibiru AKA Planet X (foretold by whom exactly?) so you're good to go. There's a little bit of good news, anyway.
It means that NASA is apparently actually currently already able to redirect an invisible Babylonian rogue planets bent on destroying the earth away from it's prophetic vector. And, if that actually is the case, thank you to all the world's governments and scientists for doing an awesome job of not tanking the global Bourse, maintaining our fiat currency, and -- most important of all -- for quelling global unrest and avoiding widespread panic.