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Thursday 17th February 2005

Let it never be said that the only expertise that Warming Up readers have is in urinals. Only about 95% of the readership are urinal experts and the other 5% have more varied interests and can provide up to date and elucidating information on a range of subjects.
Michael Williams, for example, is an expert on the moon, by which I mean to say he knows all about our lunar satellite, not that he actually lives on it himself. Not yet. But he knows so much about it that I suspect one day he might. Here's what he had to say on the subject of the moon. No-one can say this blog is not educational:
"As a PhD student studying astrobiology (the origin of life) in Australia, I was pleased to see you identify the Moon as one of God's better ideas. The origin and effect of the Moon on life on Earth is one of the questions I'm considering until they call me Doctor.
You are right that the moon will not blow up and destroy the earth, but its formation may have been responsible for the biggest catastrophe the world has ever known. It is hypothesised that an asteroid the size of Mars hit the Earth early in its history, and the chunk of earth thrown off formed the moon. The asteroid assumed to have destroyed the dinosaurs was around 2km in size. The mars-sized object which formed the moon was more like 3000km. There was likely no life on Earth at this time, not even cavemen, but if there was they would have had to duck under their desks very quickly.
So that's the bad side of the moon. The good side of the moon is that as well as causing interesting tides, it stabilises the Earth's orbit. Mars wobbles on its axis, so its seasons are hugely variable, while Earth's are relatively reliable. It is this consistency in Earth's climate that has allowed complex life to develop. Mars lacks such complex life (except for Martians and ghosts).
Moreover, the catastrophic collision that formed the moon also allowed plate tectonics to continue as the Earth cooled (there are no longer tectonics on Mars or most other planets). These tectonics are responsible for the formation of Hawaii, without which we would have no Hawaiian shirts.
However, the moon is receding from the Earth at a rate of 4cm/year, so these beneficial effects will become less noticable. If you run the clock backwards, you find the much closer Moon we had, say, 2 billion years ago would have caused tidal ranges of kilometres, rather than the few feet we have now. Assuming a lucky man was not holding the Moon away from the Earth using, say, a stick, this would have made for poor beach weather. I'd like to see a caveman surf the Severn Bore under those conditions.
Also, total solar eclipses will soon (in several hundred thousand years) be a thing of the past because of the Moon's recession (at least until the Sun expands). I curse myself for oversleeping through the 1999 eclipse.
-- Mike"

When I talked to Vic Reeves about the moon, he wondered whether if the moon was a mile above the earth, whether we would all be able to use its gravitational pull to do really exciting kung-fu leaps without having to resort to filmic special effects. I am guessing Michael might know if that is a goer or not, because it surely wouldn't be too hard to pull the moon in to a closer orbit, perhaps using some kind of rope. Though I don't know what the implications would be for commercial airlines. Mind you, if the moon was only a mile up you could probably access it via a rope ladder and then just sit on the moon until it passed wherever in the world you wanted to go and then parachute off it. And if the moon didn't pass directly over your desired destination you could then get a train the rest of the way. But the moon is big and I'm guessing that as long as you got on the right bit of the moon you could almost certainly parachute to 70% of the earth's locations. You'd probably not get to the South Pole this way, but then you can't readily get their on a plane.
Apparently this would also increase the size of waves which would make life a lot more interesting. And it would really fuck around with werewolves heads as well. I suspect it might also have some effect on the amount of light that reaches the planet earth and probably destroy all living things. But that would be a small price to pay for the rope ladder/parachute moon transportation system.

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