Let’s start with this: Every single day, 100 tons of meteorite dust coats the entire planet. You, me, the cars, buildings, everywhere, everything. It is so miniscule, of course, that we don’t even know it is happening, preferring instead to wait for the Leonid shower, or the Perseid, the Geminid, or even the Urid, to run outside and watch the shooting stars every twenty or thirty seconds on a clear moonless night. Who isn’t transfixed by that? No one says, “Hey, I’m covered in microscopic meteor dust; make a wish!”
But who isn’t freaked out by the thought of meteor dust in their hair? On their ice cream cone? I’m not making this up either; I’m not good at fiction.
But wait, there’s more:
The temperature at the core of the earth is the same, about 10K Fahrenheit, as the surface of the sun. I love symmetry but part of me wonders if The Great Thermometer simply stops tracking at 10K.
Earth is the only planet not named for a God, and no one knows who named it, though the etymological roots are Germanic and Old English. Still, I’m thinking some Brit named, oh I don’t know, Charles Earth, tagged this rock.
Scientists–the ones who know what they’re talking about because of generations of research and have less ability to create a fiction than I do–say the planet is about 4.5 billion years old, but humans of any sort have only been here for about 450,000 years (if you are even sorta kinda considering posting a response about how the earth was created in April about 6000 years ago, go away now). Now, if you do the math, and divide the history of the universe into a day, homo walketh uprighteth has been doing so about ten seconds. Of that ten seconds, each of us has been here about…gone.
Gone. Another human is gone. Another three thousand. A 911 every single day this week. People don’t listen. We’ve so adjusted life to be “convenient” (think Smart Phone, think Wifi, think online everything, think curbside, think Drive-thru, think Lunchables) that too many believe if some aspect of life is inconvenient, they’ll just redefine reality to accommodate what they want.
The percolator becomes Mr. Coffee becomes a Keurig. How many people know their friends’ phone numbers? Their own? Ever been in a store in the middle of checking out when the “connection” fails on their register, and the clerk who can’t write script or add without a phone stands there completely perplexed? That. We are completely, arguably, most definitively (enough?) reliant upon the 2500 operational satellites orbiting the earth (about 6000 actually are orbiting, but more than half simply don’t work–how inconvenient).
So here’s the thing: According to scientists who constantly work on and adjust the Asteroid-Satellite Collision Probability, when a meteor or other such space object hits a satellite, the rock “vaporizes into hot, electrically charged gas that can short out circuits and damage electronics, causing the satellite to spin out of control.” Don’t worry about being hit–it’ll burn up on reentry into the planet’s atmosphere. No, that’s not the problem.
See the problem? Yes, no more satellite. And if a large such space rock plays pinball with Space X’s system of communication, we here are earth are, as they might say on “Eureka,” simply fracked.
So it comes back to meteors. Stardust. The naked-to-the-eye coating which exploded countless zeros away from here several billion years ago, arriving, now, in 2020, on our chocolate swirl cone.
The greatest scientists in the world have trouble wrapping their mind around this simple idea: we, Earth, Charles E’s very own planet, are an anomaly. Even if you are like me and believe somewhere in the deep recesses of unthinkable distance are planets with lifeforms playing Scrabble and drinking Pinot Noir, astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking, Neil Tyson, Carl Sagan, and Brian May can’t tell you where, and they’ve looked with equipment so advanced some of it has left the solar system, some landed on moving asteroids, and some is scooping up dirt like it’s dog poop on the moon and bringing it back. And they don’t know.
But they can tell us around 100 tons of meteorite dust coats the earth, and us, daily.
I sat at the river this morning. Unplugged and, to be honest, uninterested in much. I felt like going for a long walk in the mountains, or sitting on the sand at the gulf and quietly have a drink and watch for manatee. Still, I was just as content to look out at the Norris Bridge two miles up river, and the cars and trucks crossing the mile and a half span headed North, up toward DC, up toward New York, up, just further and further up. I couldn’t hear them, but I could catch the glint of sun on their cars. Closer, on the river, some bufflehead ducks surfaced then dove again. A workboat headed out from Locklies, out to check some traps I’m guessing.
And that clock that says we’ve only been here for a few seconds? Make it a day-long clock that runs roughly 6 am to 9 pm, and each ten minutes is a year, giving you a generous ninety years–six years an hour. What time is it for you? Go ahead–get your phone so you can do the math.
For me it is four in the afternoon. The sun is no longer at its full strength, dinner will be ready soon, and I just took another short break. I can’t focus on the minutia in life; never could. Someone asks me about subject verb agreement and I’m wondering why we can only see about 2000-3000 stars, not “millions” as we feel when standing at the bay on a clear, moonless night. And my frustration at knowing I have so much I want to see, so many glasses of wine to drink with friends in European pubs and small quaint villages, brings me to the brink of psychosis when someone actually screws up simple comma rules. Part of me wants to say, “Come on! This isn’t rocket science! It’s a fracking comma, for God’s sake!” and another part of me wants to whisper, “You’re doing fine. It’s just commas–I knew what you meant. Now go, bathe in the miracle of meteorite dust! Buy a cone and wait for it!!”
Seriously, we’ve drifted far too far in 450,000 years; so far astray from the essential; so far afield from what matters.
We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.