2002.06.05 Forget death by asteroid; watch out for falling shoes

Written by David Green.

BY RICH FOLEY

Yes, those “killer asteroids” are in the news again, unwanted visitors from outer space ready to sneak up on us at any moment and wipe out entire cities or maybe even the world itself.

Several times a month, asteroids big enough to inflict major damage (should they make it into the Earth’s atmosphere) come within what scientists consider close range as they pass by our planet. Of course, the scientists definition of close is anything around 300,000 miles or so from Earth.

The reason we know of all these near encounters is that scientists have gotten better at discovering close flying asteroids  after they have already passed us, sort of like ducking after you’ve been shot at. In fact, our own moon is within close encounter range at all times, but I’m not about to start worrying about it falling from the sky, especially when we’ve been faced with annihilation from falling shoes.

Shoes? You bet, and the problem is getting worse. Did anybody else notice the pair of athletic shoes hanging over the power lines at the corner of Weston Road and M-52? They first showed up several months ago, hung there for many weeks, and finally disappeared.

A month or so after the initial UFO (Unidentified Footwear Observation), another pair was discovered on M-52 near Jasper. Now sharp-eyed travelers on M-52 can see not one, two, or even three, but four pairs of shoes hanging nearly in formation in the Fairfield area.

Yes, the danger from falling shoes seems to be increasing. And the two pairs initially discovered have disappeared. Did they fall and injure a passerby, or even worse? If anyone survived that witnessed their downfall, they’ve apparently been scared into silence.

Meanwhile, those four newly discovered UFOs remain, and they’re literally hanging by threads. I consider myself lucky that I don’t have to travel the area in a convertible, Jeep, or vehicle with a sunroof. Or even worse, a motorcycle.

The Royal Astronomical Society in Great Britain held a meeting of scientists last December to discuss the asteroid threat. In September, NASA has scheduled a “Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids,”  which is sciencetalk for “Do you think we can hire Bruce Willis to go into outer space and blow up these pesky asteroids like in the movies?”

With all these high-powered scientific minds working on the asteroid problem, they can point to only two previous examples of asteroids  causing damage on Earth. One was in Siberia in 1908, the other 65 million years ago, which is blamed for the extinction of dinosaurs.

The asteroid most bothering scientists right now has only a one in 9,000 chance of hitting Earth, and then not until 2049. Meanwhile, back in Lenawee County, two pairs of shoes have already apparently fallen and four more pairs are dangling perilously near impact.

What’s even worse, the four latest pairs of shoes appear to be smaller than the original two. Could they be reproducing? Or are they just easier to handle than bigger pairs?

And how do they get those shoes up there, anyway? I know it’s just some sort of prank, but someone has to be pretty talented to be able to throw the shoes that high, plus get them to balance over the electric lines.

Or, maybe the culprit dropped them from a helicopter? Most likely it would have to be someone with access to an electric company or cable television truck with  a cherry-picker bucket. That’s the only way I can think of to do it quickly and safely. I seriously doubt any fire department would lend a vehicle to perform such a stunt.

I suppose the remote threat of an asteroid collision is probably more serious than that of falling shoes. But if anyone sees Bruce Willis in the area, please let me know.

    – June 5, 2002
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