I am glad to hear no one is stressing out over the fact a gamma ray burst from space may kill us all in the next few weeks. I know I am certainly not lying awake nights sleepless at the thought of being irradiated into a quivering glob of jelly-like substance at any moment and nor should you.
“What’s a gamma ray burst?” you ask. “What’s this about jelly?”
A gamma ray burst is a massive explosion of radiation that is sometimes released when a star goes boom. And, hey, fun fact: Guess what a nearby star, Betelgeuse, is about to do?
There is no guarantee Betelgeuse will generate gamma radiation when it goes supernova or, if it does, odds are it will not release enough radiation to do life on Earth much damage. But I have seen far too many disasters movies to rule the possibility out entirely.
If a gamma burst zaps the Earth your lot in life is directly related to what side of the planet you happen to be on when it hits. If you are on the side that takes the direct hit, the good news is you won’t have to worry about your mortgage payment anymore.
It will happen fast, too. One moment there you are waiting in line at the Burger King drive through idly wondering why, if God is all powerful and God is all benevolent, He allows Adam Sandler to secure funds for yet another movie, and the next moment you are a quivering mound of irradiated glop on the floorboard of your car.
Leading physicians agree that being transformed into a glob of anything, quivering or not, is what they call in medical circles “a bad thing.” Not only is “amorphous glob” a less than flattering look for the average hominoid, but on top of that, you will be dead.
Okay, I admit, I might have exaggerated a bit on the glob-end of things, but not the dead part. Gamma rays don’t melt you so much as they scramble your DNA until your various and sundry bodily functions stop doing just that – functioning.
You’re only hope for continued survival is to be on the opposite side of the planet from the direct impact. In this event, you may have to go through life looking like an extra in one of those cheap, post-apocalyptic movies where hordes of hideously disfigured mutants survive in deserts even though there doesn’t appear to be enough food around to keep your average hamster going much less a colony of people who, in addition to routinely killing their fellow man, apparently spend their time lifting weights, fashioning various leather gear and fabricating all sorts of weaponized cars, trucks and motorcycles.
But I digress.
There is a theory going around that gamma ray bursts may be the reason we don’t hear from aliens. The aliens have been zapped like flies in a fly zapper. This isn’t a bunch of conspiracy theory, a-UFO-took-my-baby yahoos saying this, either. They are card carrying astrophysicists, complete with pocket protectors and subscriptions to Nerd Quarterly magazine. They estimate fourteen solar systems are irradiated every day by Gamma Bursts. That’s a lot of fried aliens.
In summation, the odds are in our favor that, when Betelgeuse goes supernova, we Earthlings will be in for quite a light show, but nothing more. If the worst happens and we get blasted with gamma rays, there is a bright side, too: At least Adam Sandler will stop making those godawful movies.