Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Knowing What You Know Even When People Think You're Nuts

Back in January of 2004, I had this idea for a book. After watching the movie Armageddon, some things about the science involved made me curious about comets, and I wondered if the whole 'when the big comet hits Earth we'll all die' hypothesis was really correct. Seemed to me that since they were already pretty much in agreement that comets were big balls of loosely adhered frozen material, it would stand to reason that they'd figure out some basic physical properties involved with such a mass.

Okay, so the theory is: Basically a comet is a big dirty snowball. And it's not even packed tight like the ones your brother made that stung like a sonuvabitch. Way out in the deep of space, it's packed almost like that, but the closer these things get to the sun, the looser they get. This is why their tails get longer as they near the sun, and shorter as they get farther away.

Stay with me here. If comets are big snowballs, they are not going to impact the Earth in the same way as a big rock (i.e. an asteroid). No impact crater, no global killer. Maybe some atmospheric changes, etc., but nowhere near as fatal as an asteroid.

I posed this hypothesis to a former friend of mine. He, being the person he is, immediately tried to shoot holes in it. He went home and did some research, and came up with the Shoemaker-Levi 9 comet. I don't know if you remember it, but SL9 hit Jupiter a while back. It shattered into a bunch of pieces, in fact, and then whammo!

Okayfine. I was a little bit bummed that my hypothesis now had holes, but such is life. I dug my feet in and did some more thinking. How could my hypothesis be wrong? And then it hit me.

Jupiter has a greater gravity, it's farther away from the sun, and it's way colder out there than it is here. Any comet that far out is going to be colder, and therefore harder than a comet that's passed the asteroid belt. The sun is farther away and not heating it up as much - thereby making it less dense. And Jupiter's gravity makes everything way heavier than it would be here. Put all that together, and my hypothesis about a comet's affect on Earth still holds water.


This was four years ago. Over the weekend, I watched a show on a phenomena I'd come across in my research way back when. It was discussing the Tunguska Event - wherein a comet* exploded in the atmosphere over Siberia. Not IMPACTED... No crater was ever found. It hit the atmosphere and went kablooie. It wasn't a shower of daylilies, but it wasn't a global killer either. Hell, it didn't even affect the atmosphere as much as Krakatoa's eruption. It went bang, knocked down about 1000 sq miles of trees. (A circle about 35 miles in diameter.) There was some heat and fire, but no one got killed**. The northern lights were extra spectacular for a while, but the world survived.

Ummm, that's what I figured four years ago. I knew I was right, dammit. Maybe not in every little detail, but the basic premise was correct.

So I wrote about a killer comet that wasn't killer, and the affect the idea of global death would have on people. I sent out queries and the rejections that came back made me feel like I should be wearing a foil hat to protect me from the government's mind-rays.

Being right feels good, but it doesn't get my book sold. :heavy sigh:

What's really funny is the book isn't really about the damn comet anyway. It's about the fear of a world that thinks it's going to die, and about the lies that can be perpetuated without the public ever knowing the truth behind it (Global warming scare, anyone?). I just use the comet as a backdrop because of its global scale and the whole scare factor behind something that large possibly wiping out life as we know it.

It's a good book, btw.

So, the point I'm trying to make here is that four years ago I knew what I knew, and even though people thought I was a loon***, I stuck to my guns. I wrote my book. Years from now, if it ever gets published, I could be hailed as a friggin' genius. (Or not. Time will tell.) I had the same problem with Caldera - although my theory there hasn't been proven right yet. I even had one agent tell me the premise was implausible. :shrug: Doesn't matter. It works. I've outlined the science behind it. (Without being dry as dirt, btw.) And I know I'm right. I just have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up. ;o)

Chris Columbus knew the world was round. Galileo knew the universe didn't revolve around the Earth. Not that I'm in their league, but the idea is the same. You have an idea, you get laughed at and berated for it, you stick to it anyway because you know it's right.

Ever had an idea other people thought was crazy, but you knew it wasn't? Or is it just me?

* some people still debate whether it was a comet at Tunguska, but the data points to a comet.
** yes, no one got killed because no one lived there at the time, although lots of critters bought the farm that day.
*** I admit to being a loon; I just don't accept their reasoning for thinking I'm one. ;o)