Sept 16, 2015
Survival in a Cosmic Shooting
Defending the earth from asteroids is not just the theme of the next blockbuster
sci-fi film. It is a very real issue since asteroids constantly fly around us,
regularly come into our atmosphere, and hit the earth from time to time, the
most serious of which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years
It is also a passion in particular to Ed Lu, a U.S. physicist and former NASA
astronaut who co-founded the B612 Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting
the earth from asteroid strikes. He is a popular speaker on this topic and part
of his appeal is due to the metaphors he uses when he talks to non-physicists
Bill Burns is a fellow presentation
consultant and Metaphorian who worked with Ed on his talks to bring to life the
science of asteroids and the solutions for defending ourselves in what, as Lu
describes it, is a “cosmic shooting gallery.”
Here is just one example of information presented first without and, then, with
Orbiting the sun, our Earth is a moving target. An asteroid can hit us only if
its orbit crosses our orbit at a fixed point (the Collision Point), AND if we’re
both at the Collision Point at the same time. So the trick to stopping an
asteroid from hitting us is to slow it down, thereby making it late. When it
finally arrives at the Collision Point, we will have already passed safely
To slow down an asteroid, we can either slam into it with a rocket, or tug on it
with a spacecraft called a Gravity Tractor. In either case, the reduction in the
asteroid’s speed, the amount that the asteroid slows down, is tiny. But we only
need a tiny reduction in speed if we have a huge amount of time.
The Information Presented Without a Metaphor
The earlier we begin slowing it down, the more time we’ll have, and the less
distance it will cover in its orbit. The longer it travels at the slightly
slower speed, the further away it will be from the Collision Point at the time
that the Earth arrives there. So by slowing down the asteroid 10 or 20 years in
advance, the tiny decrease in speed combined with the large amount of time will
decrease the asteroid’s traveled distance, with the result that it will arrive
too late at the Collision Point to do any damage.
The Information with a Metaphor
It’s like emptying a bucket full of water by poking a tiny hole in the bottom.
After a minute or so, you won’t notice a difference in the water level. Even an
hour later, there may be no visible change. But after a day, or a week, you’ll
come back to an empty bucket. That same principle applies to stopping asteroids:
if we slow down the asteroid even a tiny bit, but we do it 10 or 20 years in
advance, then when Collision Day arrives, the asteroid will get there too late.
Where slowing asteroids down is foreign to us, emptying a bucket of water via a
tiny hole is familiar, That single analogy illuminates Lu’s point easily,
vividly, and memorably for audiences.
What’s in Your “Cosmic Shooting Gallery?”
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
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The Shortcut to Yes!
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- Metaphorians from Steve Jobs to Arianna Huffington
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