Nothing like the unexpected arrival of a 10-ton meteor to shift the conversations here on earth to talks of the heavens, writes Andrew Lamm, a "New America Media" editor.
Noting the explosion of just such a weighty object last Friday morning over Russia's Ural region and the shockwave that caused injuries to over 1,200 people, Lamm's commentary is interwoven with assertions and declarations from a varied lot.
"Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defense," is a quote from Alexei Pushkov, Russian Parliament affairs committee chief, via Twitter late Friday.
And Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Saturday proposed a global defense system to counter space threats.
Add to the mix Lawrence Krauss, professor of physics and director of the origin project. Lamm highlights CNN's interview in which Krauss talked about how human technology has advanced to the point of predicting and deflecting oncoming meteorites that could cause the earth "significant damage."
"We have to think about it seriously," Lamm quotes Krauss. "It's not science fiction...."
So welcome to the age of "empyrealization" – an age of man's increasing awareness and interactions with the heavens, writes Lamm. "The word – empyrealization – doesn't exist yet in the dictionary, but for that matter neither did globalization, three decades ago," he says.
More from Lamm:
"Unlike the dinosaurs, we have, in effect, become active agents in changing our destiny. A giant meteor wiped out much of life on earth 65 million years ago because the dinosaurs didn't collectively create a missile shield to deflect the meteor. Humans, on the other hand, with our orbiting telescopes and space probes, and our growing awareness of the threat from space, can track large foreign objects coming from millions of miles away, and are talking about collectively deflecting those that could do us harm."
In fact, says Lamm, we have been interacting with the heavens longer than most have thought. "Think of it in term of radio waves," he writes, turning to Adam Grossman for this support:
According to Grossman, "Mankind has been broadcasting radio waves into deep space for about a hundred years now... That, of course, means there is an ever-expanding bubble announcing humanity's presence to anyone listening in the Milky Way. This bubble is astronomically large (literally), and currently spans approximately 200 light years across."
Or think of it in terms of our orbiting trash, says Lamm, this time reaching for NASA for this tidbit:
"More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or 'space junk,' are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft."
So, while the cosmos might rain meteors on earth, humans too have already interacted with the universe by sending manmade debris into space, writes Lamm.
"Clearly, our destiny is in outer space. Globalization is but child's play compared to empyrealization, when man now recognizes earth as existing in an open system with the rest of the cosmos and that he is interacting with, and increasingly, having an effect upon it," Lamm points out.
"If man's destiny is in space, man's home world needs to be protected for that destiny to be fulfilled."
That gets us back to the dinosaurs, which didn't fare too well against threats from space, according to Lamm.
"We have a better chance. We've come by and large to accept that we changed the weather. Whether or not we can deflect a large meteor as in the Hollywood movie, "Armageddon," remains to be seen. Brilliant minds are at work. And there's nothing like an external threat to galvanize humanity."
(Click here to read Lamm's full commentary at newamericamedia.org)