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Having done a radio talk show for several years I think I'm more aware than most about how much people worry about things. What things? Anything! Everything!
When it's sunny, people worry about getting skin cancer. I've known people who will decide to go to the beach on a beautiful day and then start worrying about what sun lotion to use and whether or not it is the right strength. If they packed sandwiches, they worry about the mayonnaise going bad or about mercury in the tuna fish.
On rainy days, these worriers will worry about whether they left their car windows open. In fact, they'd rather worry than go outside and check their car.
I've known people who, when they finally got a raise at work, worry that they might start spending too much money. These are the type of people who worry about over-paying for the items they buy, so they join exclusive buying clubs and buy everything in bulk. They can't wait to tell you how much they save buying green olives in 50-gallon drums.
Some people worry about looking too fat or too old. A few might even worry about looking too thin or too young.
Myself, I try not to worry about things unnecessarily, but the other day I picked up a copy of Bill Bryson's book, ”A Short History of Nearly Everything,” published by Broadway Books and 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. It sure made me worry.
In a chapter titled simply “BANG!” Bryson tells about the millions upon millions 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 that because there's plenty of space in outer space for everyone, heavenly bodies seldom collide. That's the good news.
The bad news is that every 50- or 60 million years or so an asteroid a mile or two wide has been known to plow into this planet we've grown so fond of, and let's just say the results of these collisions were upsetting. How upsetting? Well, let's just say that if an asteroid were to hit us here in Maine some fine morning this fall, you could probably forget about your afternoon appointments and even your dinner plans.
Bryson tells about the small town of Manson, Iowa, that was hit by a 2-mile wide asteroid about 10-million years ago and scientists still think it was the biggest thing that has ever occurred on the mainland United States. Even bigger than a summer weekend traffic jam in Wiscasset, if you can believe it.
According to Bryson the crater it left behind in Manson was 3 miles deep and 20 miles across and would make our Grand Canyon look like a curious ditch. Fortunately, there weren't many people around at the time so there was no FEMA to screw up the 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 10 times hotter than the surface of the sun and certainly hotter than any chili 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.
I'm sure the PETA crowd would only be worried about any lobsters that would be stressed-out by such an incident.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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