Monday, June 15, 2009

The German Chicken Little

     Feel free to go ahead and freak out: run around screaming with your arms flailing, maybe loot a store or two, run down the street knocking down the displays of local businesses and street vendors, drive your vehicle down the street weaving from lane to lane with your head out the drivers side window screaming bloody murder, the whole nine yards. The reason that you should be doing this is because the sky is falling.
     Wait, what? The sky is falling? Like, that big blue and sometimes gray thing that is over top of our heads is not careening down upon it? Serious? No, not exactly. The sky is not falling on our heads, it is falling on our hands. Literally. Ask Gerrit Blank. He's a 14-year-old German boy who experienced this phenomenon first hand, please excuse the pun. He was on his way to school, just sort of minding his own business, when he was struck on the hand by a meteorite that was travelling at an estimated 30,000 miles per hour. 30,000 miles per hour.
     Okay, so now you should be skeptical. And who would blame you? 30,000 miles per hour? No. That doesn't happen. Everyone knows that if you stick your hand out the window of your white, windowless van as it is travelling at 75 miles per hour down the freeway and you get hit by a rock thrown up from the dump truck ahead of you it hurts like a bitch. And there is a pretty good chance that it will break the skin. And that thing is travelling WAY less than 75 mph because it's moving towards you at some speed so you have to subtract that speed from the 75 mph you are moving towards it to find the actual impact velocity which would require a supermicrocomputer or help from a college professor and I am so confused but I still know it hurts. Sorry, I got myself riled up there. The point here is that at 75 mph your skin can be broken and a strike would be painful, so now multiply that by the 400 times that it would take to get to 30,000 mph and I am surprised that it didn't go right through Gerrit's hand like a hot meteorite through a human hand. But no, that's not what happened. It bounced off. The red hot, pea-sized piece of space rock bounced off his hand like it was the JFK bullet or something.
     It DID leave a 3-inch long scar though. And a foot-wide crater in the ground, which are both odd measurements to me because this happened in Germany and they use the metric system there, so why was someone running around with a yard stick? Anyway, the meteorite was accompanied by a thunderous crash, as would be expected, and knocked young Gerrit flying, which I also sort of wonder about. Because I am me, and I watch too much TV, I sort of envision the young man flying off the frame led by his hand in a sort of very poorly edited cable show kind of way, which leads me to all sorts of questions about the laws of physics and how his being flung to the side of the road really worked.
     As you can see, no one seems to know exactly what happened here, and the whole deal seems to defy time and space, and that is no surprise because this is an extremely rare event. Usually these things sort of burn up or split apart in the atmosphere before they come crashing down upon us from the sky. The last time someone was struck by a meteorite was in 1954, when Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her couch down in Alabama and a 3 pound meteorite came bouncing through her living room. There have been other close calls, however. In 1992 Michelle Knapp's Chevy was destroyed by a meteorite. Two years later Spaniard Jose Martin had the same experience, except he was driving the car at the time and I doubt it was a Chevy. In 2004 fragments of a meteorite were collected by residents of a Chicago suburb after it exploded in the atmosphere above the city.
     So see? Chicken little really wasn't that far off. The sky really is falling. Or at least things are falling from the sky, as if the Earth were sitting under an oak tree and some cosmic squirrel was throwing acorns down upon us in an act of defiance. So now scientists and apparently the boys teacher are studying the thing, which must be tough if it is only the size of a pea. You take what you can guess, I suppose, and since 6 out of 7 meteorites that don't burn up in the sky land in water (which is probably why we never hear about them, because no one lives in the middle of the ocean except for Tom Hanks and Wilson, and they don't have a phone, and the crew of the Love Boat, who probably don't notice because they are too busy hitting on the cruise passengers, and the Deadliest Catch guys but they probably think the meteorites are snow or something so they probably don't even notice) the pickings are slim I guess. So commence your freak out, man. But try to keep it just a little toned down. I mean, yes, the sky is falling, but only a little at a time. And only in Germany as of right now. So I think we'll be okay.

1 comment:

KingBobb said...

I claim credit for this story. I passed it on to you whilst sitting on the couch in the Secret Headquarters.