The Lucifer’s Hammer Scenario

I am currently reading Lucifer’s Hammer and I definitely find it fascinating.  I am usually turned off by disaster stories because there always seems to be a resolution where everything goes back to the way it was with very little if any change.  This book is definitely not that at all.  If anything this is one of the most realistic ‘future’ views of such a disaster.  A comet (or similar body) striking earth is most definitely a real scenario civilization may have to face at anytime.

The book was published in 1977, so the technology has changed and the space programs of the various nations have moved on.  The questions I began to pose to myself were many. What would be different if Lucifer’s Hammer were to descend on Earth today?  Are we better prepared today than we were in 1977 when the book was first published? Could humanity and civilization survive better now than then?

Firstly, my thoughts would say we would not only have earlier warning of such an event but a better idea of whether or not such an object would hit us.  I know that even those who track asteroids and comets admit they could miss something, I figure the comet described here would be large enough not to be missed.  With the ability to computer model such events, I think we would not only have a pretty good idea about if it would hit us, but we also would have a good idea of when and how.

Secondly, my thoughts turn to human response to this event.  This is where I get a little worried.  How exactly do you stop a comet from hitting the Earth especially one with multiple heads like a hydra of destruction?  Nukes? I don’t know just cracking it into multiple pieces may actually compound the problem further. Honestly, I am not sure if a comet is big enough that we can do much about it.

Third, the aftermath of such an event gives me worries.  If someone were to ask: are you a prepper?  I would answer: Yes to a point.  I am very prepared, as much as possible, from a mental point of view of what would be involved in surviving.  Most of it involves the realization that you cannot survive alone, you’re going to need a community dedicated to the thought of reviving civilization.  You can have all the stuff, but eventually that is going to run out and your going to have to rebuild society or build a new one.

One of the things that causes me concern here is how much more dependent we are on civilization for everything.  Trust me, I see this every day as I stock shelves at Wal-mart.  My most conservative guess is that is civilization went belly up, 95% of people would have absolutely no clue or personal knowledge of what to do.  How do you get food?  You go to Wal-mart.  If you need something?  Go to Wal-mart.  If you are sick?  Go to the doctor.  One thing America has created is a large dependent class and these people have absolutely know clue as to what to do if the government checks stop arriving in the mail.  I can realistically see them sitting at home and starving to death waiting for government intervention.

In the book, one scientist decries how little people understood about how things work and where things come from.  I would say this has become even more acute since its writing not just in terms of addition, but multiplication.  We know a lot more things but we have become ignorant of a whole bunch more. It seems every time we gain new knowledge we discard some of the old and that may be a bad move.

Once I am finished with the book I plan on writing a review that may prove interesting.  In the meantime, I pose a question:  What would happen in the Lucifer’s Hammer scenario today?

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Ed Raby Sr says:

One interesting remark in the book was when the Senator was trying to establish his government in the early going. That the farmers in the area liked to think of themselves as independent people but the truth was they were far more dependent than they would like to admit. Truth is, we probably would all have to say the same.

I guess I am lucky in the respect to firearms. My town of 2400 still boasts a gun store and a shooting range, but then again we are in whitetail hunting central in west Michigan.

I agree with Mr. Baird,; it would be much worse today. Take the issue of firearms and ammo for as an example. Today, there are few local sporting goods stores in rural, and even fewer in suburban communities. In 1977, almost every small town had a store that sold firearms and ammo.
My father bought my first .410 in 1975 at our local Western Auto (the other 2 local hardware stores also had arms and ammo). The town had about 3000 residents. Today, that store is long gone, replaced by Walmart clones and Dollar Stores have zero for the sportsman.
There are also little in practical dry goods such as salt, lime,saltpeter, etc…. You used to be able to go into any store/pharmacy and find these commodities. Now, the shelves are mainly stocked with pre-made foodstuffs, and crappy plastic junk. Hell, you are hard-pressed to find a decent knife in most stores.

To answer the question posed at the end of your article. The political/social/economic fallout from a Lucifer’s Hammer type of event would be much more devastating today than in 1977. In 1977 the country was much more decentralized than today. We had a much simpler distribution system which meant that products were warehoused locally. Today we are an on demand society and instead of warehousing we ship same day from the factory. So locally there will be fewer parts laying around to fix things that go wrong. As a society we are also more reliant on electrical devices than we were in 1977. If Lucifer’s hammer had happened then much of Appalachia may not have even noticed unless it fell right on top of them. I was seven in 1977. I remember my grandmother still had an outhouse and who had even heard of city water in mountain communities at the time. We even grew much of our food locally at that time.