February 8, 2013
You're not actually going INTO an asteroid field? (Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved)
You’re not actually going INTO an asteroid field? (Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved)

There is a giant asteroid headed for the earth!

EVERYBODY PANIC!

Well, not really — it’s just a flyby, and they assure us it won’t come closer than 17,000 miles. But still. We should get in practice. In that same reassuring story, one learns that this asteroid can be described as a “drunk driver,” wildly careening through space, possibly heading our way in the next 100 years, over the sounds of other intelligent life forms honking frantically into the noiseless void.

I understand that all these press releases from NASA about how cool it is to see a large asteroid this close are supposed to be reassuring, yet exciting. But somehow they are not quite as reassuring as NASA would like. One gets, from them, the sense that if a giant space slug were threatening to swallow the earth, NASA would be excited to get to visit the slug’s interior and get an up-close look at the mynocks. This is the sort of sentiment that separates scientists from the rest of us. I hear a sentence that starts with “A giant asteroid is headed for the earth next week, but …” and begin to put my affairs in order.

It is not hard. I am still packed from the Mayan Apocalypse. After years of near-misses on the end of the world, I am very good at panicking. It is one of the skills on my resume, along with bacon appreciation and caring about grammar to the point that it disrupts my social life. Putting my affairs in order consists mainly of giving thanks that I will never actually have to do the mounting pile of laundry in the corner of my room and then leaving to eat bacon somewhere.

Still, there are other ones out there, just as big and just as inebriated after hitting the space bar, reeling towards us. I’m sure the dinosaurs felt just as confident in their anti-asteroid missile system. If we don’t have to panic now, that doesn’t mean we can’t panic later.

I only wish it wouldn’t wait until after Valentine’s Day.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.