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Catastrophe-Class Killer Comets are Coming

a scientific analysis of the issues involved

and proposal


©1996 Dr. Jeff Scott, planetary astrometaphysicist  

    What are the chances of your being killed by a comet that will destroy the Earth and make mankind extinct? Quite simply, they are one in two. The reasoning is simple and follows.

    First note that it has not yet occurred that a comet has made mankind extinct. Yet given enough time, this will surely happen. Furthermore, note that there are more people alive now (5.5 billion) than are dead (3 billion), taking into consideration all deaths of men since the advent of mankind. Given advances in medicine and living conditions, this is unlikely to change. Notwithstanding grand catastrophes such as killer comets, we may safely assume that the living will continue to outnumber the dead1. Thus when the killer comet inevitably strikes and wipes out mankind, the cardinality of the set A—where A represents all living members of humanity—will be greater than or equal to the cardinality of the set D, where D represents all deceased members of humanity at that time, or actually—just a moment before. Each person that has ever existed belongs to either set A or set D, but not both. You yourself are a member of humanity thus a member of either set A or D, but not both. Since sets A and D are roughly the same size and it is a completely random occurrence, equally weighted among all possibilities, for you to be placed in either set (noting that no one can predict when the inevitable killer comet will arrive), the exact probability that you will be killed by a killer comet that wipes out mankind is at least one in two. To put it another way, we see that clearly, at the time of the extinction of the human race, one out of every two humans that ever lived will have died as a direct result of a killer comet striking Earth.

    Based on this logical and completely scientific analysis, I recommend that Congress immediately grant me twelve trillion dollars to build a giant anti-comet laser blaster rifle.

    As entertaining as this seems, consider the following fairy tale:

    Once upon a time, a giant comet train plunged into the planet Jupiter. Various experts, when queried, noted that had a comet of such a magnitude struck Earth instead, surely life on Earth as we know it would cease. Upon hearing the news, members of Congress became quite alarmed. The idea of comets striking planets had never occurred to them, but now it seemed a very real threat. After all, in their own lifetime, a killer comet had collided with a planet in their very own solar system. Who would ever have imagined such a thing was even possible? This was in fact the first any of them had heard of such a thing. Still, they wanted to know more. Just what did it all mean?
    Hearings were called to find out more about the situation. Could it be possible that a similar comet could plunge into Earth and kill them, or even extinguish the entire human race? It was a well-known theory that vast numbers of species had suddenly become extinct 65 million years ago. The most logical theory known to explain this was that a giant comet must have stricken Earth at the time, possibly creating giant clouds of dust that altered the weather. Now every member knew that 65 million years wasn’t that long a time at all, since these respectable members of Congress were long accustomed to spending twenty times that amount in dollars on a single airplane. Each member furthermore knew the value of a dollar, just as he knew and understood and had experienced the length of a year.
    No—it now seemed incredible, even astounding that they had never considered this issue before. What fools they had been! Was there still time to act?
    A well-known and respected planetary astrophysicist (at least according to the newspaper’s accounts)2  testified before Congress that firstly, we know that a planetary-catastrophe class comet hit the Earth 65 million years ago, extincting the dinosaurs. He then claimed that simulations and statistical analysis showed that it would be reasonable to assume that planets get destroyed by comets about once every five trillion years or so. He noted that, given his extremely conservative treatment of the data, it may be much more often. Indeed, little could be said to question this estimate. Thus the chance of Earth getting completely destroyed in any given year was clearly, according to simple statistics, one in five trillion. He then, with a straight face, claimed that since there were five billion people currently residing on Earth, the current chance that any individual would experience planetary-catastrophe class comet destruction in his own lifetime was one in a thousand.3
    Based on this reasoning, Congress, already alarmed that a killer Comet had struck Jupiter in their lifetimes (even if Jupiter did have a bit greater gravitational comet attraction than Earth), allocated billions of dollars for killer comet research grants for scores of planetary astrophysicists.
    What is the moral of this tale? First, I note that it is not mere myth, but everything in this story is absolutely true. Secondly, I would like to call your attention to the fact that even an armchair statistician should see that my statistical analysis not only contains fewer flaws, but generates far more alarming numbers. Thus I—since I clearly know what I’m doing much more so than these experts, whose thinking has been muddied by various forces such as entropy and greed—should receive the grants instead. Indeed, since my analysis shows the likelihood of killer comet deaths to be five-hundred times more likely than previous estimates, the same scientific logic as utilised by my distinguished colleagues dictates that it follows that I require a grant five-hundred times that previously allocated. Not for me, you see, but for the preservation of the human race. Who can argue with or even question such a noble task?

    In conclusion, I note that the notion of killer comets destroying Earth portrays a very real threat to the inhabitants of our planet. Moreover, the current con artists, impostors and mountebanks that have been given the authority to properly investigate this situation have been clearly shown to be thoroughly unfit, with a clear conflict of interest involved that I hope will be investigated for possible criminal implications. I sincerely hope that these concerns not be taken lightly, for the fate of mankind hangs in the balance.

  1. I owe this observation to Dr. Laurence Anderson.
  2. It was actually Dr. Shoemaker himself, dressed in a tuxedo and speaking from some gala affair who made this startling claim while being interviewed during a TV show that was broadcast about the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 a day or so before its impact.
  3. Of course, if he used similar reasoning to extend his argument to take into consideration the average human life span of about sixty years, he might have calculated that the odds were closer to one in fifteen, more in keeping with my estimate (previously explicated).

Copyright © 1996,2000 X. J. Scott, Red Barn Goat Farm (