Wednesday, 6 January 2010

On Apocalypse, When?

At 6:30 this morning my alarm went off. At 06:40 it did it again. And 06:50. In fact, this continued at ten minute intervals until 8:00, at which point I'm normally well on my way to work. Not today however, with the snow once again plunging the UK into chaos I thought I'd take advantage and sneak a lie-in, which I'd then blame on appalling public transport when I got in late. How wrong I was - my train and tube were bang on time, which rendered my excuse somewhat transparent, but at least I had a bit more shuteye than usual. So at 8:00 I drag myself out of bed, and at 08:48 I'm on the train. I bagged a seat next to a woman reading the Sun and, although I hate it when people do this to me I couldn't help myself, I read the headline over her shoulder.

Now, I am not a lover of the tabloid press. I don't have a huge problem with it - it meets a demand - but I don't read it. But this article took the biscuit and, I'll be honest, scared the living shit out of me and ruined my journey:


The headline read: THE DEATH STAR. It was an article on the discovery that a nearby star named T Pyxidis, apparently, is on the verge of explosion. Once the bugger blows, we'll all be toast. As subtlely as possible, I manage to read the whole article over the poor commuter's shoulder, barely containing gasps of fear. My heart raced. I looked around, wondering why mass hysteria hadn't broken out. The Mayans were right - maybe 2012 is going to be our last. A quote from a scientist helpfully point out that the star could explode soon but could also not was hardly reassuring, especially when followed with "Let's hope there's still time for England's very own stars to put in a stella (sic) performance at this summer's World Cup in South Africa", which would suggest Armageddon is right around the corner.

My shaking hands reached for my trusty I-Phone (jog on Google, you'll never convert me) and I frantically searched the Guardian application for news. Nothing on the front page, or in the list of most read articles. Nothing in Science. Or Science - Space. Nothing. HOW CAN THEY MISS THIS? THIS IS HUGE?

The train pulled into Fenchurch Street and I made my way to the tube. I bumped into Hambo who accompanied me as far as her stop, at which point a threw aside the mask of calm I'd acquired and gave myself over to panic again. I got into work and immediately turned to Google the Omniscient for answers. "Tell me Google, tell me what's going on!" And, true to form, Google put my trouble mind at rest. sounded like a good one to start with. I bet they know what they're talking about. Right, give it to me straight. "There remains some doubt as to whether T Pyxidis will go supernova at all." Some doubt. Ok, I feel a bit better, but not much. It's still a bit vague for my liking.

Next up, Who knows more about space than the Americans, except maybe for the Russians, and Martians. And Sigourney Weaver. ANYWAY, I found what I'd be looking for:

"It sounds scary stuff. And the astronomers' news release suggest it will happen "soon". But I contacted the lead researcher, Dr Ed Sion, and he told me: "At the accretion rate we derived, the white dwarf in T Pyxidis will reach the Chandrasekhar Limit in ten million years. I hope this alleviates any worry by readers."

THANK YOU DR ED SION! I double checked with a few more brainy sounding websites, and my fears were put to bed. It may be a million years, or ten million years - but it's not going to stop us winning the World Cup (we won't need any extraterrestrial help to lose) or happen any time soon..

My initial relief gave way to a surge of rage. TEN MILLION YEARS. So how is this newsworthy? Study it, write it down for future generations, keep an eye on the bloody thing - but why scare the crap out of people for no reason? It's not even a slow news week, is it? Even if it is, I'm sure there's something a little more recent or approaching in the nearer future that could be reported?

It was, by this time, 11:00 and I'd achieved sod all. 'Twas high time to do some work, and put my worries behind me.

Then I noticed another article...this one right here...but didn't they all die in Deep Impact? Here we go again...

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