Those looking for portents from the sky are having a field day these days. Last weekend, we had a “killer storm” in the US northeast, which indeed did kill a few people, in spite of the best efforts of various governors to keep us safe. New Hampshire closed its liquor stores, Massachusetts threatened anyone who drove after 4PM Saturday with a year in prison, and New York’s Andrew Cuomo personally arrested several dozen snowflakes that violated a no-fly zone near his bedroom. The media went into a predictable screamfest, with various talking heads issuing detailed instructions on storm preparation and survival.
One particular directive was puzzling: ”turn down the cooling in your refrigerator.” What does this mean? Turn “down” as in “reduce the amount of cooling in your refrigerator?” Or as in “lower the temperature in your refrigerator?” And, more important — why? What aspect of a snowstorm requires us to alter the temperature setting of an insulated device? They do not explain. Confused, I left my refrigerator alone. But now I’m afraid to eat anything in it.
Then there is the meteor. Something about the size of a respectable yacht is about to graze earth, missing us by 17,000 miles. This event has produced some interesting commentary, but by far the most entertaining spin comes from CNN’s Deb Feyerick:
“Talk about something else that’s falling from the sky and that is an asteroid. What’s coming our way? Is this an effect of, perhaps, of global warming or is this just some meteoric occasion?”
We have heard many things attributed to global warming; this swept us right off our feet. Was it some dim recollection that weathermen are called “meteorlogists” that induced this burst of cognitive flatulence, or just ignorance? If the latter, is it really possible that someone who holds a college degree can imagine that interplanetary orbits are affected by minute temperature changes on a planet hundreds of millions of miles away?
But even Ms. Feyerick might have shied from a conclusion blared in the U.K.’s Telegraph:
Scientists have dismissed fears an asteroid due to whizz past the Earth on Friday will ‘destroy London’ – but it could take out vital telecommunications satellites.
Actually, it could hit a satellite. I have a better chance of bringing down a 747 taking off from LaGuardia by flinging a bread roll out my apartment window, but there is some possibility. We make it somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1.5 x 10(376), a figure we arrived at by comparing the size of the meteor to the size of the roughly 100 satellites it might hit as compared to the volume of space actually involved. Another more telling analogy might be the probability of hitting pea a mile away by aiming a sniper rifle in its general direction.
Now, with all the shit we have to worry about that is actually happening, has happened, or might probably happen, why is the Telegraph wasting our time with this lurid Chicken Little crap? Here, there is a connection with Ms. Feyerick.
The word “meteor” acts on most media types like verbal Viagra. ”Storm” is good, ’crisis” is better, but for pure, spine-chilling it-came-from-outer-space terror, not much beats a meteor. It’s even better than ebola, or terrorism. Shit, a meteor got the dinosaurs! Okay, this one’s going to miss us, but — maybe it will hit a satellite! Or maybe it’s a sign from the Heavens warning us to turn down our refrigerators.
One final thought: Los Angeles is now in a state of panic over one Chris Dorner, a rampaging ex-cop who has killed three people while on a deranged revenge spree against other cops. So far, the police in the LA area have shot up two vehicles similar to the one last seen driven by the culprit. One was occupied by two women delivering newspapers; the other by a white guy bearing little resemblance to the killer. In a world where the media cry wolf at the slightest provocation, we wonder: has any of the LA press suggested: ”Hey, if you drive a truck that looks anything like Dorner’s, better you leave it in the driveway for a few days?” Because that meteor may miss those satellites by a comfortable margin, but those cops — they are shooting to kill.