“I saw a huge bright fire up in the skies, and then came a loud explosion that not only shattered the windows, but blew out the window frames”
– Eyewitness Taisiya Alabuzhina, describing the February 15 meteor event over Chelyabinsk, Russia.*
Astronomer Frank Marchis, in cosmicdiary.org, reports that the “total energy of the meteor [was] 300 kilotons of TNT… about the same as 20 Hiroshima bombs.” Nearly 1,500 people were injured.
I thought the meteor event would make a good way to get back into my blog, which had been discussing psychologist Jacques Lacan, since the event fittingly illustrates a key concept in his work — “The Real”: everything unpredictable, unknown. This Wikipedia article on the concept elaborates. After the stage where a child (“subject”) forms an image of herself and experiences a split between this conscious image and the “unconscious [social] symbolic, the real may only be experienced as traumatic gaps in the symbolic order. An example of this are traumatic events such as natural disasters, which effectively break down the signification of everyday life and cause a rupture of something alien and unrecognizable, without the usual grammar of the symbolic that conditions how to make meaning of something and how to proceed.”
This traumatic experience of the “real” is central to the need to form a “Big Other” through reification – treating an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence. From this need comes ethics and art – which give us the ability to generate meanings and affects.
As an illustration, note the hundreds of works in various mediums based on another Russian meteor event in 1908. I’ll link a list of some of them here.
Getting back to present (and more mundane) matters, Marchis writes that “we can estimate that a #RussianMeteor-like event should happen every ~30 years…The 2012 Fukishima nuclear power plant accident is a vivid example of catastrophic and worldwide ripple effects after a localized natural disaster. Without getting into those extreme cases, our society and its economy rely on transportation (e.g. bridge, trains, commercial jets) that could be affected by 15m-meteor impact, so an early warning system could save a lot of lives and reduce the number of injuries.”
* Quoted in RT.