Once upon a time there lived a young man named Adak. The nephew of a millionaire inventor, Adak had the best education money could buy. He studied paleontology at a prestigious university and went on to receive a professorship at the very same university not too many years later. Everyone said how brilliant Adak was, how he seemed to be able to understand things in a way no one else could, some even compared him to Aristotle. Adak was modest, however, and passed this off as unnecessary praise, he was only interested in his work. He didn't care about all the fame and glory that went along with being a professor at a university. He just wanted to do what he loved best and that was study paleontology.
Adak's research was primarily focused on the extinction of the dinosaurs. He didn't buy any of those explanations about volcanoes or meteors blotting out the sun with ash, that was just too far fetched for Adak to believe. "There must be something more to it," he thought.
So Adak researched. He traveled the world looking for answers. He vacationed in luxurious island villas. All the while he pondered the seemingly unanswerable question: what happened to those stupid dinosaurs? He just couldn't seem to figure it out. Then one day it hit him.
Adak was relaxing in a villa, sitting in a lounge chair by a pool, sipping a local variety of mango cocktail. Nearby, a courier was fixing a bike. He had it upside down with the handle bars and seat on the ground and the wheels in the air free to spin around. The courier had obviously finished his repairs some time ago and now he was just sitting there spinning the front wheel. He would put his wrench between the spokes and spin the wheel as fast as he could. He was completely enthralled with this activity and except for the occasional bikini chick walking by, he was oblivious to everything else around him. Adak had finished his cocktail and deciding that he sort of liked mango he decided to have another. "Waitress, get me another one of these mango thingies over here," he called, "with extra little umbrellas too, please".
"Certainly, Mister Phaux," she replied with a nod, making her way towards the bar.
While he waited for his drink, Adak watched the courier spin the wheel of the bicycle. The courier kept it spinning at a relatively steady rate. It wasn't moving too fast, just fast enough so that he could get the wrench in and out of the spokes without too much trouble. "That does look like fun," Adak thought to himself, "I'll have to ask him if I can give it a try after that waitress comes back with my drink." Just then a bikini chick walked by and the wheel gradually slowed to a stop. Neither Adak nor the courier took much notice until she had passed. Seconds later it was spinning again as if she had never been there.
"Where's that waitress with my drink?" Adak started to mutter under his breath, just as she appeared from the door she had entered a few minutes earlier. "Ah, at last!" he sighed, "You'd think I were a goat or something the way I'm craving mangoes right now."
The waitress started towards him, balancing his mango cocktail on a plastic tray in one hand and carrying a box of paper umbrellas in the other, just in case the five already perched atop the cocktail didn't measure up to Adak's expectations. She had to weave her way around all the lounge chairs where other people were sitting and step over wet towels lying on the ground where people carelessly tossed them after drying off from a swim in the pool. She was actually doing pretty well avoiding everything, until she came to the courier.
His leg had started to fall asleep from the way he had been sitting on it, so he moved it a little. He wasn't paying attention to anything but the wheel at this point. He had the timing down perfectly so that he could keep the wheel spinning at a constant rate with no noticeable slowing when he pushed it with the wrench. He was very proud of himself.
The waitress had just stepped out from behind a lounge chair and wasn't prepared for the courier's leg. She tripped and the drink flew from her hand towards the wheel. At the very same moment, the courier put the wrench in the spokes for another push. The drink hit the wheel and gave it such a jolt that it snapped the wrench out of the courier's fingers and sent it flying towards Adak. It hit him in the head pretty hard, opening a gash in his forehead, causing blood to dribble down his face and on to his white linen shirt. Never having been able to stand the sight of his own blood, he promptly passed out.
Adak woke up not too much later with a bit of a headache and one great idea. He couldn't believe how clear it all was to him now. He had finally figured out what had happened to the dinosaurs. It was all thanks to getting hit in the head by that courier's wrench.
Needless to say that soon after the incident the courier and the waitress were married and spent a long and fruitful life together, that is, until the aliens came and ate them, but that's another story. Adak rushed back to the University as fast as he could, only stopping briefly for another mango cocktail and a back rub from a bikini chick. As soon as he got back, he gathered his peers and colleagues so that he could reveal to them his amazing revelation.
No one really knew exactly why they were there. They had a vague notion it was about some new dinosaur extinction theory, but none of them were prepared for what they would hear.
Adak related to his friends the story from the island villa. Many of them expressed concern for Adak's well being, asking if he was okay after being hit with the wrench. He told them he was fine, but that wasn't why he was telling the story.
"You obviously don't see things with the same clarity and vision that I do. None of you seem to realize the obvious connection between my story and how the dinosaurs disappeared, so I will explain it to you now."
"You see, the earth is like the bicycle wheel. It's spinning around at a pretty steady rate, but just as with the wheel, it's gradually slowing down. Friction from the oceans and the atmosphere is causing this. According to some calculations I've made, the earth should have already stopped moving a long time ago, but as we can see, it hasn't. So we have to ask ourselves, why?"
"Well, I came up with the answer. Just as the bicycle wheel was kept moving by the courier's wrench, the earth is being kept moving by a similar force. Is it some supreme being, the great eternal courier, with a giant wrench that keeps the earth moving? No, of course not, that's ridiculous. Our satellites and telescopes would have picked that up if it were true anyway. So what is it then...?" Adak paused for effect. "It's meteors. We know that those hit the earth all the time. What we don't realize, however, is what they're doing. Every time a meteor hits the earth, it's like putting the wrench in the spokes of the wheel and giving it a push, they add a little momentum. That explains why the earth hasn't come to a complete stop, and actually seems to be moving at a fairly steady rate."
"But what does this have to do with dinosaurs?" spoke up one of the professors.
"I'm not finished yet," Adak replied.
"Oh, sorry," the professor mumbled back meekly.
Adak continued his explanation. "So like I said, meteors keep the earth going. But as you know, meteors come in different sizes and hit the earth with different velocities, and other factors affect them as well. These differences will affect the amount of momentum and acceleration added to the earth when they hit. So a really big meteor with a really high velocity will add a lot more momentum and add it much more suddenly than a little tiny meteor with a really low velocity. You can see an example of this in my story. The courier's wrench is analogous to little tiny meteors and the mango cocktail is analogous to a really big one. The wrench kept the momentum up with little noticeable acceleration, while the mango cocktail accelerated the wheel so much that it flung the wrench at me and knocked me out. This is where the dinosaurs fit in. The dinosaurs are like the wrench..."
"Wait, wait a minute," the same professor that interrupted before, broke in, "I thought the little tiny meteors were like the wrench. I don't get it. How can you expect us to believe this if you aren't consistent? Are you making this up as you go or what?"
"No, I'm not. You have to be flexible here. The wrench is like the little tiny meteors up until the point when it's flung, then it's like the dinosaurs. You see, what really happened to the dinosaurs is that one day a great big meteor came hurtling through space towards the earth, really, really fast. When it hit the earth, it gave the earth such a jolt that almost all of the dinosaurs were just flung off into space."
"I still don't get it," the professor said.
"Okay, let me show you a really simple example of how this happened. Let's say you have a record player, like this one here." He pulled a record player out of the closet and plugged it in. "This record player is like the earth, so it should be spinning at a nice steady rate, we'll use thirty three and a third RPM. Then let's say, you have some happy little dinosaurs, living on the surface of this record player, like these." He pulled some little plastic dinosaurs out of his pocket that he had bought from a gum ball machine at the supermarket just that morning and placed them on the moving turntable. "Now these dinosaurs are feeling pretty good, living the good life for dinosaurs, when all of a sudden, Bam! Someone comes along and changes the speed to seventy eight RPM." He did exactly that and the dinosaurs went flying everywhere. "As you can see the dinosaurs aren't very happy anymore. They were flung off their turntable, just as the real dinosaurs were flung off the earth."
"My God! You're right!" exclaimed the professor. Everyone started to get excited. They could see there was really something to this.
"But wait, I'm not finished yet. This leads us to a revelation more important than the fate of the dinosaurs. It's our own fate that we need to worry about now. There's always the chance that any day a huge meteor could come along and fling us all off into space just like so many dinosaurs before us. We have to do something soon or humanity may not survive."
"My God, you're right!" exclaimed the same professor. "But what can we do? I mean, it seems like we're screwed no matter what. How can we keep ourselves from being flung off into space?" He paused for a moment to think, pensively stroking his chin. "Oh, wait, I've got an idea. We can all live underground. That way when the meteor hits it won't be able to fling us into space."
"No, no," Adak replied. "That doesn't help, we'd all be flung into the ceiling. That would kill us too."
"Well, we could pad the ceilings so it didn't hurt as much."
"Yeah, maybe, but no one wants to live underground. We need to have a better solution than that. So I've come up with a couple. The first one I thought of was boots. Really dense, heavy boots, weighing several tons each. After I thought about it for a while I realized many dinosaurs weighed much more than several tons, so that wouldn't help all that much. Then I thought of the second solution, tethers. It would be much more involved than the boots but it would be much more effective. Everyone could be tethered to an intricate rail system that went everywhere you needed to go, like a small scale railroad, but on a much larger scale than any rail system before it. That way when the big one struck, everyone would be prepared without any notice, and still be able to go about their daily business. This really needs to be brought to the attention of the world right away, so that we can implement these solutions as soon as possible."
Everyone was in agreement with Adak. There was no question about it, there was an undeniable threat of an impending meteor collision. All of the world leaders were notified and the tether strategy was agreed upon as the best solution. Super dense boots were offered as an option to people who wanted to take the extra precaution and could afford their steep price.
It took a while but eventually people accepted the tethers and boots as a normal part of life. For many years they lived with them, only occasionally was there a disturbance or civil unrest resulting from their use. But eventually things started to change.
Some cynics began to pop up. They were very vocal cynics. They believed that the whole idea of dinosaurs getting flung off into space was a bunch of horse puckey. They started to convince other people of this too. Pretty soon people were taking off their tethers and unlacing their boots, saying they'd rather be flung off the earth and free than tethered to those rails all their lives. They said that there was just no way a meteor could fling them off the face of the earth, and even if there was, there was no way it would happen in their lifetime.
Adak was sad to see so many people misguided by the cynicism and stupidity of so few. He worked very hard trying to convince people that it really would happen and that they had to be ready for it, or they'd be dead. It was no use though. Most of the major governments repealed laws requiring the use of tethers and practically no one used them after that. Adak was one of the few left who still wore his tether and boots. Humanity was surely doomed.
It was a warm spring day for the relatively crowded island villa. Adak was relaxing in a lounge chair, sipping a mango cocktail, and reading an article in the newspaper about a husband and wife that were eaten by aliens. He was still tethered to the rail, even though he was relaxing in the lounge chair. There was no telling when a meteor could hit. But sadly, Adak was practically the only one on the entire island wearing his tether. Some people naively snickered as they passed, but he ignored them for the most part.
There was one other person wearing their tether that Adak could see. She was a beautiful, big bosomed bikini chick, sitting in the lounge chair across from him on the other side of the pool. Her tether was one of the most interesting Adak had ever seen. It came up from where it attached to the rail and then seemed to become the bikini that she was wearing. It was really very attractive and she was even more so. It was too bad that there was already some guy in the chair next to her who seemed to be her boyfriend.
"Oh well," Adak thought to himself, as he turned back to his newspaper. "It's so strange how the smart girls always seem to end up with the stupid guys. He isn't wearing a tether... but then maybe that's a good thing." Just then there was a loud rumbling from the sky. "Thunder again," he thought to himself. "Strange though, it usually starts raining first."
All of a sudden Adak felt the strangest sensation. It was as if he were weightless, then a split second later he felt a new sensation.
There was a sharp tug as his tether snapped tight and he felt like he wanted to vomit. He could see all around, the people formerly so plentiful on the ground, were now all in the air hurtling into the cosmos. People, whales, cars, boats, rocks, turnips, dolphins, goats, anything not bolted down was on its way into space. Even his mango cocktail and lounge chair managed to get away. Just as suddenly as he was ripped out of his chair, he was dropped back on to the hard concrete ground.
Adak didn't feel very good as he sat looking around the villa trying to recover his senses. His worst fears had been realized. A meteor had hit the earth, a really big one at that, and almost everyone had been flung into space except for himself and the bikini chick. Adak looked over at her. She seemed a little dazed from the jolt, but she was still alive. "Gee, I wonder what I should say to her?" Adak thought to himself. He wasn't very good with women and especially had trouble approaching the pretty ones. "Well, she's the only other person left, so I guess I should at least introduce myself." Adak got up and brushed himself off. His buttocks were a little sore from landing on the concrete but other than that he felt pretty okay. He wandered over toward the bikini chick, acting very casual, as if he wasn't actually walking to her, but just passing by.
"Hi there," Adak said in his best speaking voice, "can I help you up, maybe?" he said offering his hand.
She was still a little dazed so it took her a second to grab his hand and pull herself up. "Thank you very much." she said when she finally got up.
They both stood facing each other, neither one saying a word for a minute or more, just looking around at what had happened. Then they looked at each other for a while, not really sure what to say. Adak finally spoke up. "Umm... well... it looks like we're going to have to repopulate the planet... think you're up to it?"