Sharks Afraid of Being Hit By An Asteroid?
by Mad Dog
Here in the U.S.
there were 28 shark attacks in 2000. Contrast this with the 27,000
rodent attacks, 8,000 snake attacks, and 1,278,987 times you felt
attacked by that damned Dell Guy and you see that sharks are some of the
last things in the world you need to worry about.
|There are definitely
things we should be afraid of. The prospect of World War III comes to
mind immediately, followed closely by Janet Reno admitting she didn’t,
in fact, have a sex change operation and Carrot Top shouting “Stella!
Dial 1-800-CALL-ATT!” in a remake of A Streetcar Named Desire.
That’s why it’s nice to learn that some of our fears are unfounded,
such as the idea that a deadly asteroid could wipe us off the face of
the Earth at any moment.
This apocalyptic thought entered our
collective consciousness a couple of years ago when the movies Armageddon
and Deep Impact came out at the same time, scaring us into
thinking that our lives might imitate what someone in Hollywood
apparently thought was art. But that wasn’t the first we heard of it.
That happened years ago when scientists announced that an asteroid which
struck the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago caused the dinosaurs
to become extinct and we started wondering how it was that only Barney
escaped. This convinced us once and for all that there is no justice in
life. It also left us wondering if it could happen again.
said that up to 1,000 meteors per hour might streak across the sky.
Obviously scientists don’t know the meaning of the word exaggeration.
Luckily other scientists—or perhaps the same ones in disguise,
since they all look alike in those white lab coats—recently analyzed
once-secret satellite data and came to the conclusion that a
catastrophic asteroid smack-down only happens about once every 1,000
years, and since the last one occurred in 1908 when a big one landed in
Siberia and, as has been the case with everyone who ends up there was
never heard from again, it looks like we have some time to go until the
next one hits. Of course this is little consolation to Siobhan Cowton, a
teenager in England who a while back said a meteorite landed on her
foot, something that sounds suspiciously like an excuse you’d give
your history teacher for not finishing the diorama of Napoleon honoring
the baker who created the eponymous pastry. Being a smart girl she kept
the walnut-sized rock, putting it in a glass case on the mantel where it
will be joined by the science fair ribbon she’s bound to win for
explaining how she got the bruise on her foot and the gallstone they
removed from Uncle Ian which looks like Richard Nixon (as portrayed by
Anthony Hopkins in the movie of the same last name).
I can personally vouch for the low
probability of a meteor actually hitting your foot. A couple of weeks
ago I spent the hours from midnight until 3:30 AM huddled under a
blanket because I was locked out of the house. I mean, because the
Leonids meteor shower was occurring. Reports beforehand said that up to
1,000 meteors per hour might streak across the sky. Obviously scientists
don’t know the meaning of the word exaggeration. Either that or they
understand the meaning of the phrase “practical joke” much better.
While it was definitely worth watching, it fell way below the
predictions. Still, there wasn’t a single report of one hitting
anyone’s foot. Then again, I doubt many people watching had a diorama
of Napoleon honoring the baker who created the eponymous pastry due the
next day. That was last month’s assignment. In England.
The odds of being attacked by a shark in the U.S. are 1 in 5
million. You’re more likely to die from a fall down the stairs, a
lightning strike, drowning in your bathtub, or at the hands of an
An even more common fear is of becoming a shark’s lunch,
especially to people who live in landlocked states where the last
reported shark attack was when someone told a lawyer joke. They really
aren’t common—shark attacks, not lawyer jokes. In an average year
there are only 54 shark attacks around the world, with just seven of
them being fatal. Considering how many people swim, surf, water ski, jet
ski, snorkel, scuba dive, and have to dump pounds of sand out of their
bathing suits at the end of a day at the beach, that’s a very low
Here in the U.S. there were 28 shark
attacks in 2000. Contrast this with the 27,000 rodent attacks, 8,000
snake attacks, and 1,278,987 times you felt attacked by that damned Dell
Guy and you see that sharks are some of the last things in the world you
need to worry about. Hell, there were more bear attacks that year and
you don’t see people running and screaming every time Smokey comes on
TV, do you? Sure he doesn’t have that ominous doo-doo music the
Jaws shark has, but he carries a shovel, for Christ’s sake. Good thing
he doesn’t try to get on an airplane with that thing.
The odds of being attacked by a shark
in the U.S. are 1 in 5 million. You’re more likely to die from a fall
down the stairs (1 in 200,000), a lightning strike (1 in 4.3 million),
drowning in your bathtub (1 in 800,000), or at the hands of an
agricultural machine (1 in 500,000). The last one should be particularly
noted by those shark-fearing folks in Iowa who probably have a much
better idea of how you can die at the hands of an agricultural machine
than I do. The closest thing I can relate it to is Stephen King’s Christine.
On the other hand, you’re more likely to be attacked by a shark than
you are of winning the state lottery, which weighs in at odds of about 1
in 14 million. And it’s cheaper too, since you don’t buy tickets
week after week hoping to be attacked by a shark. At least I hope not.
This proves that fears often have
little to do with reality. If they did we wouldn’t be afraid of the
dark (there’s nothing there that wasn’t in the room when you turned
off the lights two minutes ago), spiders (if Little Miss Muffett
survived so can you), or Carrot Top. Okay, so not all fears are
irrational. Hmmm, I wonder if asteroids and sharks are attracted to red
©2002 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them to the sharks.