Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead - Robert Brockway (2010)

SPACE DISASTERS

Chapter 13. VERNESHOT

THE EARTH IS A gun, and your country is a bullet. No, those aren’t poorly translated Japanese metal band lyrics, nor are they the pseudo-poetic mewling of jilted emo children; those words could be, terrifyingly enough, a completely true statement. It’s all because of something called a Verneshot, and though the theory is still under debate, it is the only one so far that explains why mass extinctions, severe geological damage, and volcanic eruptions often occur simultaneously all throughout history. Not content to simply state that “some shit went down,” scientists have instead begun pointing to the Verneshot. And then probably screaming. And then dying.

That’s just what the Verneshot does.

The big extinction that we all know about—a meteor killed the dinosaurs—is referred to as the Cretaceous-Tertiary, or K-T, extinction. New theories suggest that that disaster could have been caused by a Verneshot rather than a meteor impact. A team of scientists led by Jason Phipps Morgan at the GEOMAR Earth Science Institute at Kiel University first proposed the theory, which goes like this: Huge volumes of volcanic gas slowly build up beneath layers of impenetrable rock, called cratons. When those rocks start splitting apart ever so slightly, the built-up gases explode through the weak points—blowing the craton into a suborbital trajectory. The expelled chunk of rock is launched into the air, orbits the Earth briefly, and then crashes back to the planet with nearly the force of a meteor impact. Meanwhile, the tube that formerly held all the gas has emptied, pouring its noxious contents into the atmosphere. It then collapses in upon itself, causing an earthquake.

Fart Jokes That I Could Have Made

·        “So much gas is released, it’s like the Earth ate a seven-layer burrito.”

·        “More gas is released into the atmosphere than your grandpa’s La-Z-Boy.”

·        “So much gas is released, it’s like somebody punctured Michael Moore.”

It sounds like just a more extreme version of a volcanic eruption—big rock, gases, seismic activity—but the twist is in the scale of the thing: See, cratons are usually gargantuan. About the size of a country, to be exact, and that’s a bad size for something that’s being shot at your face. But the rock isn’t your only worry: The tube that launched it—also hundreds of miles wide—causes devastating earthquakes upon its collapse. Estimates show that these earthquakes are off the current charts, estimated at an 11 on the Richter scale; the scientists in charge of measuring this would have to create a new notch on the dial just to do so, making them the Spinal Tap of the earth sciences. So much gas is released that it poisons the entire atmosphere for thousands of years, blotting out the sun and corrupting the air itself.

But hey, let’s not get distracted here; there’s still a small continent in the sky that wants you dead. Let’s get back to that, shall we? Upon impact, the blast would be akin to 7 million atomic bombs going off in the same place, and at the same exact time. That’s too big a number for too bad a thing for most of us to fully comprehend. So if it helps, picture this: The city of London has a population of roughly 7 million. So imagine that the entire city of London is populated by atomic bombs. Atomic bombs in place of secretaries, gas station attendants, and schoolchildren—everybody. Exactly the same as London in every respect, but instead of each individual person living there, there is a device with exactly enough power to destroy Hiroshima. And then one of them trips.

How to Survive a Verneshot in One Easy Step

1.    Don’t live on a continent.

Charmingly enough, the Verneshot was named for Jules Verne, whose book From the Earth to the Moon posited that space travel could be accomplished by loading astronauts into a giant cannon and just firing them at the lunar surface, presumably operating under the theory that the moon is made out of pillows. And it is, after all, a pretty fitting name. Because in light of all we’ve learned, it is technically possible for a huge cannon to shoot you into space; it’s just that you’ll be screaming particles of horror and guts when you get there. That probably would have made a much shorter book, though.

An Excerpt from the Realistic Version of From the Earth to the Moon

Charles straightened his protective impact derby, mounted the atmos-cannon, and bid a formal farewell laced with restrained emotion to his most loyal and loving children. There was a sound like the bellow of Gabriel’s trumpet upon God’s return, and my dear beloved Charles ventured forth into the cosmos. As something akin to hamburger. In retrospect, this idea was poorly thought out, at best.

Some scientists dramatically explain the Verneshot as being akin to the Earth “shooting itself in the head.” But perhaps that analogy could be more accurate: It’s more like the Earth chopping off its own hand and then punching itself to death with it. Because bullets are for pussies.

But the scientists aren’t just pointing at the possibility of a Verneshot because it would make an excellent premise for a Michael Bay movie. They actually have this thing they call “evidence.” The Kiel University scientists say that the K-T isn’t the only massive die-off possibly caused by a Verneshot. There have actually been four major mass extinctions that coincide with potential Verneshot scenarios since life first appeared on Earth: the Late Devonian extinction event about 364 million years ago, the Permian-Triassic event 251 million years ago, the Triassic-Jurassic event 200 million years ago, and the aforementioned K-T event 65 million years ago.

The bizarre thing that first tipped off the Verneshot scientists is that these extinctions all have something in common: Available evidence seems to indicate that they were not only preceded by a massive meteor strike, but that there was always a simultaneous appearance of continental flood basalt, which coats great swathes of the Earth in liquefied basalt lava, forming dramatic landscapes and releasing massive quantities of poisonous gas in the process. I shouldn’t need to tell you that the odds of two mass-extinction-causing events are extremely low (about one in 3,500), but it looks like I just did, doesn’t it?

A lone extinction linked to the one-two punch of a meteor strike and a flood basalt flow? That’s unlucky, sure, but shit happens. However, four instances of species-destroying simultaneous disasters? Well, clearly a new theory is required to explain when two such large-scale disasters seem to be occurring in concert. Because the only other sensible explanation, that global disasters like to gangbang the Earth like an aging porn star desperate for rent money, just suggests a God too perverted and cruel for the human mind to comprehend. So, rather than believe that God uses double-header disasters to fuck life out of existence, there are some scientists who would like to politely suggest that the Verneshot, not a meteor strike and flood basalt flow, is the more reasonable explanation, if only to retain one’s sanity.

Of course, it is just a theory. Most ideas in science technically have to be labeled “theory”—which you can see in everything from relativity to evolution. Absolute proof is such a tricky thing to come by in the best of cases, much less when you’re trying to prove the existence of something that not only would have exploded most of its evidence, but shot half of it into space afterward, then buried whatever scraps were left under continent-blanketing lava. Regardless, some hard evidence is being turned up that helps validate the Verneshot theory: Beneath almost all of the continental flood basalt, scientists are finding concentric circles engraved in the earth on a scale so large that it defies comprehension. Enormous furrows that get both deeper and narrower the closer they lie to the center, creating an inverted cone leading to one central point in the sea floor. A focal point of impact surrounded by the debris of a gargantuan collapsed tube. Sounds a lot like the exploded barrels of Earth-shatteringly huge cannons …


Verneshot Facts, or Things Screamed by Crazy Hobos at the Bus Staton?

1.    “India murdered Mexico.”

2.    “Where my dick at?!”

3.    “Japan is a concealed weapon.”

4.    “They take your thoughts out like recycling!”

5.    “The United States is ammunition.”

Answer key: 1—Verneshot, 2—hobo, 3—Verneshot, 4—hobo, 5—both.

And though the most definitive proof of a Verneshot would be, much like in normal forensic investigation, to find the actual bullet, I should remind you that oftentimes it’s enough simply to produce the gun in court. Considering that people are currently living on the murder weapon, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. And so the Verneshot theory is gaining ground in the scientific community—ground that it probably just loads up and fires into space—and it could happen anywhere, at any time, though according to Jason Phipps Morgan, that may be sooner rather than later: Northern Eurasia is just starting to rift, and with the immense pressure built up beneath the Siberian Craton ever increasing, the right preconditions exist for a catastrophic Verneshot event to occur. The Yellowstone Caldera, as well, could present some signs of a potential Verneshot … that is, if the impending supervolcanic eruption doesn’t vent the pressure first. And when a life-destroying volcanic eruption of unseen proportions is your best-case scenario, you’re pretty well fucked. Russia and the United States engaged in a race to see who gets to space first; this is like the Cold War all over again, except it’s not so “cold” this time and “getting to space” would be done in tiny gooey pieces.

But hey, look on the bright side: You could literally shoot an entire country in the face with 100 percent pure America. That’ll show all those pinko commie terrorists, assuming that they don’t fire themselves at you first.