An uncanny prophecy forms the kernel of writer-director Adam McKay’s satirical comedy ‘Don’t Look Up.’ According to low-key astronomy teacher Dr. Randall Mindy and his dedicated student Kate Dibiasky, a comet is headed straight towards the Earth. However, if you do not look up, as the title suggests, you can live in denial for a while. The scientists raise their concerns about the day of reckoning.
However, their voices become obscure in a dazed carnival of media personalities, national authorities, and business tycoons. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence portray the roles with a quirky comic dynamic, the postmodern tale has an air of pastiche, and the relentless energy is contagious. However, you may wonder whether a real comet of that name will drop on our porches. If the question is bugging you, let us demystify the situation. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Dibiasky Comet Real?
‘Don’t Look Up’ centers upon a destructive comet hurtling towards the Earth. Well, it would be natural for you to doubt if such a comet can exist in reality. The first issue is that the way a comet is described in the film, it would be more fitting to call it an asteroid. In the movie, according to Peter Isherwell, Comet Dibiasky has valuable minerals. But a comet mainly comprises ice and dust — asteroids have minerals. As per Kate’s findings, the comet presumably last came near the solar system before the birth of civilization.
They also calculate the comet’s radius at around six to nine kilometers. Politicians think it to be relatively small. However, scientists know that the impact of such a magnitude would cause an extinction event. Kate Dibiasky discovers the asteroid in the movie, and her mentor Dr. Randall Mindy christens the comet after the discoverer’s name. He seeks to stress that Kate found the asteroid time and again, not himself. However, following Kate’s outburst in the media, Mindy gets more limelight. At the end, when the cabinet ministers congratulate him on the discovery of the comet, he cannot defy them.
The apocalypse takes place around 6 months and 14 days later. But you may wonder if such an apocalypse is due for civilization. The last time an asteroid of 10 kilometers radius hit the planet was around 66 million years ago, and the impact caused the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The other two known extraterrestrial impacts on Earth created the Vredefort and Sudbury Basin craters near modern-day South Africa and Canada, respectively.
One of the most recent impacts was the Tunguska event, which occurred in Siberia in 1908, by an airburst of a comet or asteroid. The catastrophe destroyed around 80 million trees over a vast area. In his monograph ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions,’ Stephen Hawking thought asteroids to be one of the biggest threats to life on Earth. The ‘U.S. National Science and Technology Council’ sounded its concern that the U.S. was still unprepared for an impact of such magnitude. In June 2018, they published a manual named ‘National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy And Action Plan.’
Experts say that NASA would require a five-year-long window to gear up for tackling such an asteroid or comet impact scenario. But Carl Sagan also expressed concerns about deflation technology in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot.’ He thought that if humans ever master such a technology, the world should be more worried about an artificial impact rather than a natural one. Now, thankfully, astronomers can predict impacts year before they can take place.
The most probable asteroid to hit Earth is the asteroid 2010 RF12, due in September 2095, and with a nearly 5% chance of colliding. Dibiasky Comet would have been discovered at least around a century before impact in the technologically advanced world scenario. Thus, a comet or asteroid should hardly be our primary concern. In the end, the comet becomes an allegory for environmental plundering and the widespread indifference around it.
The comet is everything that we look away from – the degradation of biodiversity, the burning of the Indonesian rainforest to boost palm oil production, the drying up of the Aral Sea, the possible extinction of bees, the erratic wildfires and hurricanes – the list can go on. Thus, while the Dibiasky Comet may not be real, the world still lives under threat. The clock still keeps ticking.
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