James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Archive for March 12th, 2009

Asteroid nearly wipes out Earth, international space station threatened, San Diego nearly destroyed in nuclear meltdown

Posted by James McPherson on March 12, 2009

In a “rare close call,” the crew of the international space station was forced to take cover today because space junk “about the size of a bullet” passed within three miles of the station.

Three miles? Excuse me, but if a tiny object three miles away forces astronauts to hide out in their spaceship, those folks better avoid driving in Los Angeles where real bullets might be flying within three miles at any time of day or night.

Assuming Los Angeles is still there when they get back, of course: Another story recently ominously warned about a helicopter that crashed near a California nuclear plant, leaving us to conclude that perhaps the state narrowly avoided being wiped out in a catastrophic crash-caused meltdown (not to mention the possible energy ramifications, since the plant apparently provides power for 1.5 million homes).

Both cases illustrate that “close” is a relative thing, but that the extra emotion inherent in a supposed “near miss” provides more drama and therefore makes something more “newsworthy.” Another example came just over a week ago, when an asteroid passed “close to Earth.” Close in that case meant 38,000 miles, “less than twice the height of the geostationary satellites we depend on for communications.”

With “communications” like these stories, perhaps it wouldn’t be entirely a bad thing if a meteor wiped out a satellite or two. In yet another example, a year ago, other space junk “narrowly missed–by five miles–an airliner flying over the Pacific. Maybe that’s how the people on “Lost” ended up on that island.

Note: I’ve updated my post of a couple of days ago, adding a video.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Science | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »