There are many things to be thankful in this world. You’ve heard them all a million times: friends, family, Providence (both in the sense of a divine Creator and in the sense of the capital of Rhode Island), and of course the continued willingness of those in power to overlook your little indiscretions.
But what of things not of this world? I mean, sure, people have traditionally been willing to cast a little worship sunward, and I’m sure more than one mariner has been thankful for the North Star, but I think we’re still overlooking one important benefactor: massive chunks of space-borne rock raining down like celestial cannon fire.
When has any Oscar-winning actor, actress or director been willing to look up and say “Thanks, meteors!” with true conviction? When have adorable tow-headed children in footie pajamas included the space debris that periodically slams into our delicate little world in their cloyingly lisped nightly prayers?
Never. Because that would be weird. But I aim to make it somewhat less weird, using the power of education! Herewith, just three of the many amazing things that free-falling, often-deadly meteors have brought us.
Recent reports have indicated that the only reason all the gold on the planet hasn’t sunk to the molten core — never to coat a government building’s roof, adorn a rapper’s front tooth, or be hoarded by survivalist dingbats — is because after the surface cooled, the Earth was bombarded by meteors loaded with precious metals. And, thanks to that millennia-long golden shower, we can now get a cool fifty bucks any time we want by pawning our wedding band or the wedding band of whatever corpse we manage to dig up.
2. Higher Mammals
Dinosaurs are like painters: They don’t really reach their full potential until after they’re dead and gone. Sure, from their own perspective the dinosaurs probably would have been just as happy sticking around for another hundred million years, but that’s short-term thinking. It’s mammals who made the dinosaurs into stars. And without the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, which I call “C-Pee” because I like to amuse 6-year-olds, there would be no mammals larger than a prizewinning crenshaw melon, which means no hominids, which means no plush dinosaurs, and that’s where the money is. So thank the space between the stars for smacking Mexico with a meteor the size of San Francisco — only with a lot more available parking — thereby giving the wily and furry their chance to shine.
3. Life Itself
There is a controversial theory that, as Nobel Prize winner Joni Mitchell said in her famous treatise on biogenesis, “We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon, we are golden, caught in the Devil’s bargain.” Leaving aside the bit about the Devil, which has not been reproduced in controlled trials, what Dr. Mitchell was saying is that the building blocks of DNA may have been transmitted to this planet via — you guessed it — meteorites. That would mean that all life on earth — from humble algae to pompous egotistical algae — owes its existence to the longest money shot in history. Scientists refer to this as the “panspermia theory,” because apparently I’m not the only one who likes to amuse 6-year-olds.
Photo: The meteor that killed the dinosaurs, or possibly just a time-exposure photo of a flashlight. (ToastyKen/Flickr)
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Born helpless, naked and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg overcame these impediments to learn that mammary glands are actually evolutionarily-modified sweat glands, which turns ice cream making into a rather disturbing hobby.