Bringing the Text to Life
Upheaval Dome in Utah's Canyonlands National Park is a mile wide and 1,500 feet deep, and scientists are still not entirely sure how it came to be. One theory involves the erosion of a vast underlying salt dome. Another theory invokes an otherworldly collision. This one rings true, since Upheaval Dome certainly looks like an impact crater. A sign at its edge offers this explanation: "Some 60 million years ago, a huge meteor streaking through space ... pierced the earth's atmosphere directly above this point." The text goes on, "The meteor hit with little warning."
With little warning?
What's that all about? Was the meteor supposed to give a BEEP, BEEP, BEEP warning, like a garbage truck backing up?
Of course not. The Park Service's writers meant nothing more than "suddenly," and the wording they chose came to mind naturally. Cullen Murphy, columnist for the Atlantic Monthly, notes that we inhabit a culture of warning and have come to expect advance notice of nearly everything. Doppler...