Friday, May 19, 2006

Hiroshima and Asteroids

I read this morning in the paper that NASA scientists are keeping an eye on an 1,000-foot-wide asteroid that has a 1-in-6,250 chance to hit earth. The roid, called Apophis, has the potential force to obliterate a small state, they say. " For now, Apophis represents the most imminent threat from the worst type of natural disaster known, one reason NASA is spending millions to detect the threat from this and other asteroids," says the Chicago Tribune. A direct hit could mean more destruction than Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake combined. Now these comparisons bring some kind of scale. But I find this following one disturbing. "The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT, 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima."

To compare natural disasters and potential harm of an impending doom is one thing, but to compare it to the destructive force unleashed on Hiroshima is highly offensive. Hiroshima's destruction was a matter of choice by men with ties in DC. Military men and war actuaries did the calculus and decided to destroy a civilian center and burning hundreds of thousand of people (did I mention civilians?).

To bring scale to major destruction potential, it has become common to mention the blasts at Hiroshima, with the second-hand smoke effect of dehumanizing the bombing.


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