NEW CASTLE —
History is full of pivotal moments.
What if Socrates had decided against drinking that hemlock?
What if Gutenberg hadn’t developed his printing press?
What if Washington’s army failed to survive the winter at Valley Forge?
What if Edison gave up on inventing the light bulb?
Events of all sorts, big and small, shape the future. What we are today is a product of all that has happened in the past, good and bad, momentous and mundane.
But if Edison had failed to invent the light bulb, it’s likely someone else would have done so. In many instances, historic events aren’t all-or-nothing propositions. It’s just a matter of who gets the credit.
Than again, there are occurrences that absolutely send history in a completely different direction.
On Friday, an asteroid measuring about 147 feet in diameter will brush by the Earth. Its trajectory will take it inside the orbits of some satellites.
That’s a little too close for comfort.
An asteroid this size isn’t enough to destroy the planet, but depending on where it hit, the damage could be substantial.
Roughly 66 million years ago, a much larger object smacked into the planet. Researchers believe it hit near Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The impact left a crater 100 miles wide and spewed clouds of dirt into the atmosphere that darkened skies for years and substantially lowered temperatures.
One result of this impact was that it killed off the dinosaurs — at least the big ones. Many scientists will argue that today’s reptiles and birds are dinosaurs of sorts.
Yet within a relatively sort period of time, geologically at least, the massive reptiles of the past were gone. Life on Earth was about to change dramatically.
With large life forms wiped out, smaller creatures had more opportunities to survive. And lower temperatures gave an advantage to those that were warm blooded.
In other words, the demise of the dinosaurs gave rise to the age of mammals — and eventually human beings.
“I think it is fair to say, that without the dinosaurs having gone extinct, we would not be here,” said Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, in an interview last week with The Associated Press. Renne led the latest research that further confirms the theory that dinosaurs were killed off by an impact from a comet or asteroid.
Essentially, the removal of large animals from Earth eliminated competition, and created niches for new life forms. It was a process that took eons.
And it was undoubtedly aided by the fact mammals tend to have larger brains than their reptilian counterparts. Creatures that are more intelligent are more able to adapt.
The advantages produced by intelligence led to the rise of hominids and modern humans. It’s no coincidence that humans are the only creature of any size capable of living in all climates on the planet.
It’s interesting sometimes to look at the galaxy like a massive billiards table, with planets, stars and other objects at times threatening to bounce off each other. The seemingly clockwork nature of the universe is something quite different at times.
And because of the resultant chaos and destruction, a tiny species gained a foothold on an out-of-the-way planet.
The rest, as they say, is history.
NEW CASTLE —
History is full of pivotal moments.
- Mitchel Olszak
Mitchel Olszak: Toomey takes a chance on guns
How does a conservative Republican senator representing a state with a Democratic majority protect himself politically? One way is to take positions that tend to straddle the nation’s ideological fence.
Mitchel Olszak: Terrorists strive to create fear
The finish line of a road race serves as the division between one world and another. Ahead of the finish line, there is structure and discipline, with attention paid to the runners as they cross over. Spectators are kept back, mainly to avoid interfering with the participants — and perhaps to keep them from being trampled.
Mitchel Olszak: Kelly, allies battle arms treaty
Supporters of the right to bear arms have a champion in Congressman Mike Kelly. The federal lawmaker, whose district includes most of Lawrence County, has been making waves with his criticism of the Obama administration and its support for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Mitchel Olszak: I like beer, so I’m watching our state closely
I like beer. More to the point, I like good beer. In my younger days, just about any swill would do. But with the passage of time, sophistication and exposure to the possibilities, my interests in beer have sharpened and matured.
Mitchel Olszak: Political lessons from distant past hold value today
If you want to gain an appreciation for great thinkers, read some of history’s major political philosophies. Here you will find the works of Plato, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, St. Augustine and many others. They explored difficult social issues and offered serious insight.
Mitchel Olszak: Do the emotional centers of the brain guide our politics?
People who hold specific political points of view like to think their positions are based on serious analysis. They view their given ideologies as careful conclusions reached through assessing the world around them and examining how things work. Thus, liberals and conservatives both manage to claim the intellectual and ethical high ground.
Mitchel Olszak: Will GOP survive current divisions?
Somebody asked me the other day if I thought the Republican Party was about to split apart. I said no. It was an assessment based on history. Creating a new political party in America is a challenging process. They occasionally crop up, but they don’t last.
Mitchel Olszak: History as a matter of chance
History is full of pivotal moments. What if Socrates had decided against drinking that hemlock? What if Gutenberg hadn’t developed his printing press? What if Washington’s army failed to survive the winter at Valley Forge? What if Edison gave up on inventing the light bulb?
Mitchel Olszak: Pennsylvanians shouldn’t be fooled by electoral hijinks
Back in the 2000 presidential election, Americans received a civics lesson of sorts. Much of it involved obscure terms such as hanging and dimpled chads, as well as butterfly ballots. All of this, of course, came courtesy of Florida, whose clumsy election efforts produced an extended period of uncertainty in the presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Mitchel Olszak: CBS practices censorship to protect its interests
When it comes to integrity in the field of broadcasting, few can challenge the standing of CBS. Since the days of radio, this organization has stood out in its commitment to tough-minded, serious journalism. From Edward R. Murrow to Walter Cronkite to the current crop of reporters on “60 Minutes,” CBS has built a reputation no entity can match.
- More Mitchel Olszak Headlines
- Mitchel Olszak: Toomey takes a chance on guns