A few months ago Alex and I were driving home after seeing Interstellar at the Imax. He was waxing eloquent about a Wikipedia article he’d read about the theory of relativity and I was staring out the window, thinking about the alcoholic beverages I was about to consume. Suddenly a huge green light streaked across the sky. It was a meteorite, burning out as it hit the atmosphere. More specifically, it was like a cruel joke from the universe, because I can’t handle thinking about these things. I was raised in a very anti-science world, so it’s easier for me to believe that if I cut my body open it’s just full of fluff, and that the night sky is really just a large black lid with holes poked in it.
About a year ago we were at a dive bar near campus, discussing yet another Wikipedia article Alex read about cave dwellings. He briefly mentioned Meteor Crater in Arizona just as I gave the waitress a “bring another round” gesture.
“Wait,” I interrupted, “Why’s it called Meteor Crater?”
He delivered the obvious answer—that a meteor had come crashing in from outer space and left a huge-ass crater.
“They think it might have been the one that killed the dinosaurs,” he added casually.
My mind is blown.
“THIS IS WHAT KILLED THE DINOSAURS?!”
A few people glanced over in mild concern so I lowered my voice.
“How big was this thing?”
He pulled his phone out to show me a photo of the crater.
“Probably about the size of a Honda.”
This was too much. I couldn’t feel my feet. The room was tipping and it wasn’t the sangria.
“But how can a Honda Civic kill the dinosaurs?”
I was barely below a yell so Alex gave me the double-hand “hush” motion as he explained how the Honda meteor was flying through the air at such high speeds that the impact was devastating. I still can’t accept this.
“But where did it come from?”
He gestured towards the ceiling.
The room tipped over again. This was not an acceptable answer. At that exact moment one of my coworkers walked into the bar with a friend and I waved her over.
“Janet,” I slurred. “Do you know where meteors come from?”
Our only interactions before this point had been across a conference table in Quality Improvement meetings.
“Outer Space?” she guessed.
I looked around in desperation. No one seemed to understand how unacceptable this answer was. You’ve got all these planets hanging out doing GOD KNOWS WHAT (literally) but then there are also these random pieces of ice and rock just sailing through the air at a constant speed? Stop it.
“They’re probably bits and pieces of other planets that were smashed a long time ago,” Alex offered. “From the Big Bang.”
He thinks he’s being helpful but this only makes my pee-sized brain weep all the more.
“What smashed them? What caused the rock to start flying? Before it was flying through the air, what was it doing?”
Eventually he managed to distract me by steering the conversation back to dinosaurs (always an effective strategy) but anytime this topic comes up I immediately lose my balance. Even The Bloggess knows what I’m talking about—she posted about how it supposedly rains diamonds on Jupiter, which is obviously bullshit and all the scientists are laughing at us.
Somehow I find it easier to believe I’m living in some sort of Truman Show situation than to accept we’re on a big round ball that’s flying through space at 67,000 miles per hour with random ass meteor rocks flying around doing GOD KNOWS WHAT (again, literally) for absolutely no reason at all other than to murder off populations of prehistoric animals that never did anything to deserve it. As far as we know.
This whole interaction was the reason Alex and I ended up trekking over to New Mexico last year, because I wanted to see asteroids and dinosaurs and desert things. While we were there, I broke my iPhone which I’m pretty sure was a message from the universe that I need to stop asking so many questions.
Do you find any of this terrifying? Can you tell me where meteors come from? What “true” thing do you think is absolute bullshit?
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