Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Billl-yuns and billl-yuns...

When I'm channel-surfing on TV, I'm finding myself drawn to the History Channel more and more. Perhaps because it's not necessarily all history, but it's part of that Discovery/TLC style of TV. Anyway, tonight there was a big discussion about Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB). Never heard of them? Not too many people have.

These things have the explosive power of "billions of trillions" of our sun. Whatever that means. And many of them occur 12 billion light years away. Though there's some that are significantly closer. Only 7 million light years away... And from observations, there's two types of GBRs--ones that last from 2 to 100 seconds, and those that are significantly shorter.

There's now telescopes and satellites that detect these things (only discovered in the 60s), because, of course, you can't see them without a telescope. It's estimated that there's a new GRB approximately every 100 seconds or so. But we're not sure because if it's not pointed directly at the earth (from 8 million light years away), we won't see it.

And why should we be worried about these things? Because if one actually hits the earth (it's theorized that it could have happened about 450 million years ago), the ozone layer will instantly lose over 40% of its layer, the upper air gasses will turn to nitrogen dioxide or something like that, plunging us into another Ice Age. And all electrical components will be fried, so civilization will be thrown back to the Dark Ages. And that's if it's a GBR from far away. If the nearest star to earth (other than the sun) were to shoot a GBR our way (from only 4.3 light years away), the earth would basically melt, leaving only a rocky core. This is how we lost the dinosaurs, people!

The best part about all this is that there's absolutely nothing that can be done. If it happens, it happens. Without warning, and without defense. And while it could happen in our lifetime, it also might wait for another 450 million years. So what's the point about worrying about it?

It's nights like this where I'm glad that God also allowed us to invent beer.

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