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I’ve done a radio talk show on WGAN in Portland for several years so I think I'm more aware than most about what people are concerned about. These days, a lot of people are worrying about things. It's not just politics, it's lots of things.
When it's sunny a lot of people worry about skin cancer. When it rains other people are concerned about water damage.
I've known people who will decide to go to the beach on a beautiful day and then start worrying about what number sun lotion to use. When that’s decided they’ll then worry about whether or not they’ve chosen the right strength. If they pack sandwiches, some worry about the mayonnaise going bad or about mercury in their tuna fish.
There are people who, when they finally got a raise at work, worry about spending too much of it. These are the type of people who worry about over-paying for the items they buy so they join exclusive buying clubs and get everything in bulk. They can't wait to tell you how much they saved buying green olives in 50-gallon drums.
I try not to worry about things unnecessarily, but the other day I picked up a copy of Bill Bryson's book titled: A Short History of Nearly Everything, published by Broadway Books. Let me just say if you need to replenish your supply of things to worry about you might want to pick up Mr. Bryson's book, too. After readiing it, I started worrying.
In a chapter titled simply 'BANG!' Bryson tells about the millions upon billions of asteroids of various shapes and sizes that are zooming around our solar system with no particular place to go. The reason most of us don't worry about them too much is because, well, we know there's plenty of space for everyone in space and so heavenly bodies seldom collide. That's the good news.
The bad news is that every 50- or 60-million years - give-or-take a day or so - an asteroid a mile or two wide has been known to plow into this planet we've grown so fond of. What happens then? Let's just say the results of these collisions were “upsetting.”
How upsetting? Well, if an asteroid were to hit us here in Maine some fine day this summer, you could probably forget about your afternoon appointments and even your plans for dinner.
Bryson tells about the small town of Manson, Iowa that was hit by a two-mile wide asteroid about 10-million years ago and scientists still think it was the most excitement that town is likely to see for a while. Some scientists – even though they weren’t there – say it was the biggest event ever to occur on the mainland United States. Even bigger than a long, sweltering, summer weekend traffic jam in the village of Wiscasset, if you can believe it.
According to Bryson the crater it left behind in Manson was three miles deep and twenty miles across and would make our Grand Canyon look like a murky, road-side ditch. Fortunately there weren't many people around at the time, and there was no FEMA to screw-up any recovery effort.
Bryson says that an asteroid entering earth's atmosphere traveling at “cosmic velocities” would heat everything below it to 60,000 kelvins, or about ten times hotter than the surface of the sun and certainly hotter than any chilly-pepper you've ever tasted.
"Every living thing within 150 miles that hadn't been killed by the heat of entry would now be killed by the blast," writes Bryson.
The PETA folks would only be concerned about any lobsters that would be stressed-out by such an incident, but the rest of us would also be anxious about relatives and friends and other humans.
So, if you’re looking for things to worry about this summer I hope we’ve given you a few good leads. Who knows? Our 60-million-year grace period may be up – THIS SUMMER!
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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