Monday, June 30, 2008
June 30, 1908--BOOM!
Today marks the 100th anniversary of what has become known as the Tunguska Event, "a massive explosion (probably 10-15 megatons) that occurred near the Podkamennaya (Lower Stony) Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai of Russia, at around 7:14 a.m. (0:14 UT, 7:02 a.m. local solar time) on June 30, 1908 (June 17 in the Julian calendar, in use locally at the time)" (and thanks for that, Wikipedia!).
Its exact cause remains a mystery, though each generation seems to come up with its own set of Zeitgeist-ly explanations: herald for TEOTWAWKI, an extremely pissed-off shaman, (gotta love that one!), a UFO crash, collision with a stray bit of antimatter or a very tiny black black hole, the leavings of ancient astronauts... almost as many as (and often overlapping) those for the extinction of the dinosaurs*.
And the debate still rages (lots o' way-cool pics!).
By the way, and to my surprise, the TE has played a significant role in popular culture. See Tunguska Event in Fiction and note that equally anomalous literary light Thomas Pynchon has used it as a plot device in Against the Day (New York Times review here).
I love this stuff. If I were a party-throwing kind of creature I would so use this as an excuse to gather like-minded individuals, get 'em drunk, and blow up stuff.
* You knew there was going to be a footnote somewhere in this post, didn't you? Seriously, did you really think I could get through an entire post without a David Foster Wallace-esque footnote? Shame on you!
Anyway, dinosaur extinctions... damned if I can find my copy, much less recall the title, but the textbook I used for my college evolution class (taught by the late Perry C. Holt) had this great quote** by...someone...listing a slew of hypotheses for the extinction of the dinosaurs ranging from the quite plausible to the patently absurd ("hunted by little green men..."), which I found gut-wrenchingly funny at the time.
** Incidently, the quote was used as the caption to a small, seemingly irrelevant, illustration. We in the class learned quickly that anything, absolutely anything in that particular book, no matter how marginal, might form the basis for an exam question*** and so you'd better believe we read it all. Dr. Holt believed in academic rigor.
*** We used to come into class and find mysterious quotes from a fellow named "Poire" (with an accent aigu over the "e") on the blackboard which I, ever the OCD candidate, dutifully copied into my notebook. Sure enough, the content often appeared as semi-humorous yet point-worthy exam questions and on the final I won big-ass bonus points on one of the essays for deducing who, exactly, "Poire" was****.
**** Take a wild-ass guess. It was the final joke in a series of subtleries that almost made me wish I hadn't started the rumor that Dr. Holt had boinked Charles Darwin's wife.