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149 comments

Slashdotted (2, Funny)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872759)

Already down. There goes my chance of calling FUD.

Re:Slashdotted (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872813)

Here we go, try this article from New Scientist [newscientist.com] , which has the same story.

Hazardous comets and asteroids are monitored by various space agencies under an umbrella effort known as Spaceguard. The vast majority of objects found so far are rocky asteroids. Yet UK-based astronomers Bill Napier at Cardiff University and David Asher at Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland claim that many comets could be going undetected. "There is a case to be made that dark, dormant comets are a significant but largely unseen hazard," says Napier.

The article goes on to say that "dark comets are not unheard of. They occur when an 'active' comet's reflective water ice has evaporated away, leaving behind an organic crust that only reflects a small fraction of light."

Re:Slashdotted (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872845)

An organic crust? Produced by space borne microbes or what?

Re:Slashdotted (2, Insightful)

needs2bfree (1256494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873129)

Organic != made by life. Means nonmetals, so Carbon, Nitrogen Sulfur and related compounds.
Disclaimer: IANAC (I Am Not A Chemist)

Re:Slashdotted (5, Informative)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873229)

Organic != made by life. Means nonmetals, so Carbon, Nitrogen Sulfur and related compounds.

It specifically means Carbon. There's really quite a bit of it about in space, and the process of evaporating off all the ice from the comet will mean that that which is there has been thoroughly concentrated to make something rather like soot. Such materials, especially in ultra-low gravity environments (so preventing the collapse of complicated micro-strucutres), are incredibly black, making the comet harder to see than a black cat in a coal cellar. At night with no torch.

The New Scientist article goes on to mention that the best hope of spotting these things may be in the infra-red range, as they'll be absorbing all the sunlight that falls on them and reradiating it. Sounds tricky to me, but just might work...

No torch? (4, Funny)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873433)

are incredibly black, making the comet harder to see than a black cat in a coal cellar. At night with no torch.

Who uses torches in their "coal cellar"? What are you looking for, Frankenstein? ;-)

Re:No torch? (1, Insightful)

mengel (13619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873875)

In places that speak the Queen's English, rather than American, a device with batteries and a light bulb is called a "torch", rather than a "flashlight".

Re:No torch? (1)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873953)

Hence the winking smiley. I guess I wasn't obvious enough.

Re:No torch? (5, Funny)

Ray (88211) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874493)

Way too subtle. Remember, speakers of "the Queen's English" require giant, cartoon stomping feet to indicate humorous content is about to follow.

Re:No torch? (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874851)

Monty Python? Benny Hill? Blackadder? Douglas Adams? Rowan Atkinson?

Subtle innuendo has long been a staple of British humour.

Re:No torch? (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875461)

What did you think that "giant, cartoon stomping feet" was a reference to, anyway?

Re:No torch? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26876069)

They're about as subtle as an elephant sneaking around in a ninja costume.

Re:No torch? (2, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875605)

... and that comes from a guy who lives (?) in the country where they must add laughter to the TV series so you know there may have been something funny even if you didn't got it.

Re:No torch? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875719)

They haven't added laugh tracks to TV shows in years...

Re:No torch? (1)

Prefader (1072814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26876111)

Are you sure? I'm fairly certain that, outside of satirical use of a laugh track, a lot of shows still pad the audience reactions with canned laughter if the audience doesn't react quite the way the producers hoped they would. I do think it would be hard to tell, and I'm mostly basing this off assumption.

I will say that I'm almost certain that Chappelle's Show had at least some canned laughter inserted. It was a bit too well-timed and consistent to have been natural. If it was meant as satire, it obviously flew right over my head.

Re:No torch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875415)

Although the dude was joking obviously, I am drawn to comment that American is more like the Queen's English, than the Queen's is. British English changed more since the settlements than US English did. So, infact, you're -ise should be more frowned upon than the yank's -ize. And ohw, fer christ's sake... What's with the sjedule, and leftennent? It's how you pronounce that which's written.

Also, what's up with the french-hatred. If it weren't for the french, there wouldn't even /be/ an england. You'd be a settlement of the normans, frysians and romans now.

Re:No torch? (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873891)

"black than the blackest black times infinity" -Nathan Explosion

Re:Slashdotted (3, Funny)

linnorm (92823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873549)

Such materials, especially in ultra-low gravity environments (so preventing the collapse of complicated micro-strucutres), are incredibly black, making the comet harder to see than a black cat in a coal cellar. At night with no torch.

How much more black could they be?

Re:Slashdotted (3, Funny)

Vorpix (60341) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873617)

none more black.

Re:Slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874381)

smell the glove

I Call FUD Anyway (5, Funny)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872821)

It's down for a sinister reason! They don't want us to READ the articles and become informed of the truth!!!

Also, why the racism? Just because the comets are DARK doesn't mean they are evil. RACISTS!

Re:Slashdotted (2, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872853)

Try this [space.com] one instead.

Re:Slashdotted (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874757)

God damn darkies trying to ruin yet another planet. When will those nigger-apes learn? Oh, that's right, they can't! Gotta give 'em a little Pavlov training with fried chicken and watermelon and crack to keep them in their rightful place at the bottom (or in jail).

Re:Slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874817)

FUD or is it the next major Hollywood Blockbuster

Launch Nukes (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872775)

We need to destroy these communist comets before they damage our strong and beloved economy!

Re:Launch Nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873073)

Dark comets, not Red comets.

Also, communism isn't what you think it means.

Re:Launch Nukes (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873613)

"Also, communism isn't what you think it means."

Communism isn't even what Communists think it means.

Re:Launch Nukes (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875267)

You know... This is not as absurd as it may sound.

Dark comets are black to visible light, but if we could tune a nuke to produce whatever wavelengths they do reflect (and they do reflect some or they would be radiating a lot of infrared), we could detonate a few in deep space to track the reflections.

Of course, we would need better observation capabilities - we would be observing large patches of sky in search for perhaps very faint reflections for the first pulses and then zero in the regions where the original reflections came for more detailed observations.

Another reason for fear (3, Insightful)

IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872777)

C'mon, there are hundreds of ways for me to die everyday. If I have to start worrying about the sky falling on me, I might as well pack it in now.

Re:Another reason for fear (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872849)

Hey! Look up there! Watch out for that

Re:Another reason for fear (5, Funny)

norppalaho (878422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872875)

...If I have to start worrying about the sky falling on me...

Vitalstatistix, Is that you?

Re:Another reason for fear (1)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873415)

Dark energy, dark matter, dark comets... What next? Dark chairs?

Re:Another reason for fear (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873963)

dark hair... it's why it looks like I'm balding

Re:Another reason for fear (2, Insightful)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873455)

My wife is a worry-wart and I use this argument against my spouse for doing things: I could walk outside and have my head replaced by a falling meteor. Does that mean that I shouldn't go out today? The chances for that are enormous to the point of why should I even worry about it? I can't let the possibility of bad things happening overshadow the probability. Probability is what we should be using in risk modeling, not possibility, because hey, anything is possible .

I mean hey, with the crash of that airplane near Buffalo, NY, do think the occupants of that house thought to themselves, "I think I should sleep in a hotel tonight because a plane might crash on my house?" No, because if you were to enumerate all the possible ways you could die, you might as well just kill yourself and be done with it.

But here's the real question: even if we did know when something was coming, is there really anything we could do about?

Re:Another reason for fear (1)

wilhelm (5091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873937)

You've hit the nail squarely on the head. It's just another piece of our culture of fear. I, for one, do NOT welcome our "ZOMG, you might die!!!" overlords.

Re:Another reason for fear (2, Funny)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874289)

According to all Hollywood studies it would be safest to leave the USofA...

Probability over time (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875541)

It's unlikely, but not impossible that the Earth be struck by an astronomical object large enough to wipe out life as we know it today, tomorrow, or even in your lifetime. In the fullness of time however it's not just likely, it's certain.

That's what it's like when you play the odds. The likelihood of any two satellites colliding in orbit is very low, the odds of two submarines colliding in the vast ocean are also unlikely. But roll the dice long enough and they'll come up boxcars twelve times in a row.

Re:Another reason for fear (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873651)

No, it's so you don't have to fear. Knowledge permits reaction.

Seriously? WTF? (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872811)

"Comets could be the most significant impact hazard to Earth

Just what are the "other" impact hazards? I'm very curious about this.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872899)

You need to get out and watch more movies, seriously :)

Re:Seriously? WTF? (4, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872939)

Just what are the "other" impact hazards? I'm very curious about this.

Asteroids.

Asteroids orbit nearer the Sun, and many of them have paths that cross Earth's orbit quite frequently. They're a menace all right, but a menace that can be mapped and measured. Comets on the other hand have long, highly elliptical orbits that carry them far from the Sun. Though any given comet won't pass near the Earth anywhere near so often, they exist in colossal numbers, and for all we know one could come barrelling out of the dark to kill us all next month. We could in principle track every rock of dangerous size in the inner solar system. We haven't a prayer of tracking all the comets.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (3, Interesting)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873133)

Though any given comet won't pass near the Earth anywhere near so often, they exist in colossal numbers, and for all we know one could come barrelling out of the dark to kill us all next month.

Sounds like there's not really any reason to worry about it then if there's nothing we can do. Isn't that the definition of FUD?

Re:Seriously? WTF? (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873965)

Sounds like there's not really any reason to worry about it then if there's nothing we can do.

If the utterly false statement that "there's nothing we can do" were true, you'd have a point there.

Isn't that the definition of FUD?

No. In fact, it's almost entirely unrelated to FUD in the usual sense. FUD usually involves getting you to choose one option over another due to spurious reasons, e.g. choose product A because product B is open-source so the bad guys can insert exploits into the code (they accept contributions from anyone, after all -- this was an argument my old boss made). Trying to move people from a situation where they're unprepared to deal with a real threat to a situation where they're better prepared for it is pretty much the opposite.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (2, Informative)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873225)

>>"Comets could be the most significant impact hazard to Earth
>Just what are the "other" impact hazards? I'm very curious about
>this.

Asteroids are the other impact threat. There is also a small risk from man-made space junk. The biggest threat is comets because they tend to be moving far faster than asteroids typically do (near parabolic orbits vs low-eccentricity elliptical orbits), so the kinetic energy in a comet impact can be much higher than in an asteroid impact. Another problem with comets is that they can come at us from the direction of the Sun, so it can be very hard to detect them before the impact shockwave turns us to jelly.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873611)

...so it can be very hard to detect them before the impact shockwave turns us to jelly.

Mmm... jelly.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873267)

Satellites and nuclear submarines?

Re:Seriously? WTF? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873273)

sperm wales and pertunias...

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873403)

Cars are a pretty dangerous impact hazard on Earth.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873673)

Just what are the "other" impact hazards? I'm very curious about this.

The International space station, the satellites that we have put up there.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873819)

Just what are the "other" impact hazards?

Mutalisks.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873865)

it's the collision crisis I mentioned in the other article (about the subs) planes, subs, asteroids, lhc's little blackhole stove, satellites... we are doomed. it's only getting worse. but you'll eventually collide to this conclusion

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

Megatog615 (1019306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874703)

Just what are the "other" impact hazards? I'm very curious about this.

Planet X, of course!

Extrasolar objects (2, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875751)

Somebody else covered asteroids, so I'll touch on another risk: extrasolar objects. You see, a lot of discussion is made of object in our solar system because they are things we have to study for long periods of time; we can see them. However our solar system is orbiting the center of our galaxy in concert with a vast quantity of other material. Things can and do achieve escape velocity from our solar sytem, like the Voyager probes.

Not all the mass in our galaxy belongs to a star. Some of it - the remnants of supernovae, agglomerations of interstellar dust, stray comets ripped away but not captured by close passing stars - wanders the dark realm between the stars. This stuff is hard frozen and the vast majority of it is fine dust. Unfortunately not all of it is. The Earth is struck by extrasolar meteors every day, and some of them have good size. Because of their different origin they can be moving much faster relative to the Earth than an object that's been circling our common star for billions of years.

It would be unfortunate if we were struck by one of these objects that is a mile or more in diameter.

Re:Seriously? WTF? (1)

msormune (808119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875757)

Well, Galactus and Silver Surfer.

if by dark comment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872879)

you mean Barack Obama and his "stimulus", then the threat is very real. You have to winder if George Bush was a liberal stooge designed to fuck up things so bad that an even emptier suit could waltx in and fuck up things even worse.

Could be? (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872929)

What else is out there that might be an impact hazard?

Re:Could be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873887)

The rest of the universe.

Re:Could be? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874097)

The Vogons plan to build an interstellar expressway right where Earth is sitting. Of course they'll have to destroy Earth first, safety you know. That's a huge impact!! Of course if humans had listened to the centuries of broadcast warnings everyone would have known about this. But nooo..humans were listening for Radio Alpha Centuri and trying to Nuke each other. Oh well..so long and thanks for all the fish.

Re:Could be? (1)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874577)

With massively, massively lower probability than comets or asteroids: small black holes. Black and brown dwarfs. And interstellar planets (which have been posited to exist).

Given that we don't know what (most) dark matter is, maybe there are other possible surprises. But dark matter seems to be very unclumpy.

DCC Trading (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872951)

My greatest fear is that people will view this as something that they have no control over, thus inducing a sense of complacency. Complacency kills!

But there is hope. I propose a Dark Comet Credit (DCC) trading system, whereby planets that are in danger of being struck by dark comets purchase dark comet credits from planets that aren't in danger.

It may not be a perfect plan, but it's better than doing nothing.

Re:DCC Trading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873317)

I've got an equally good plan: Why don't we just smash some of our satellites into them? [slashdot.org] It seems that we're getting better at creating space collisions :D

Insurance, You Fool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873407)

I propose a Dark Comet Credit (DCC) trading system, whereby planets that are in danger of being struck by dark comets purchase dark comet credits from planets that aren't in danger.

What, you mean like carbon credits? Getting hit by a comet is not the same as pumping pollutants into your neighbor's air. I can't imagine what kind of diseased mind managed to make that connection.

You probably meant to propose an insurance scheme. Everyone pays proportionally to their risk factor as determined by some higher power. The higher power then arbitrarily decides which of the comet-stricken planets should get compensated. Those planets are then moved to the "ultra-high risk" category and charged ten times as much in the coming years, so they end up paying back everything and more. Oh, and the insurance is mandated (but of course not provided) by the interplanetary government.

Re:Insurance, You Fool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873631)

Q: What's the sound of a dark asteroid flying over your head?

A: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHH!

Re:Insurance, You Fool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873729)

irony - n. Responding to a joke by saying "whoosh".

Re:Insurance, You Fool! (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873667)

"What, you mean like carbon credits? Getting hit by a comet is not the same as pumping pollutants into your neighbor's air. I can't imagine what kind of diseased mind managed to make that connection."

Lighten up, Francis.

Re:DCC Trading (no worries if we blow our credit) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873713)

If we overrun our credit, we can blame everyone else, claim it is out of our control, and create a bail out strategy of DCCs.

The strategy will be created by a small group of elite people. The plan will take DDCs away from the people that planned for the events. The aquired DDCs will be given to the people making up the strategy, oh and possibly to the people that didn't any DDCs.

The people that saved their DDCs will be killed, and the people that did not or made up the plan will live.

It only seems fair. :)

Don't worry (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872983)

With the rate that things are colliding recently, any comet will be taken out by an asteroid, satellite or stray sub way before it gets near a population centre

Re:Don't worry (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873459)

any comet will be taken out by an asteroid, satellite or stray sub way before it gets near a population centre

Fair enough, but:

1) How are we going to get those Subway restaurants to stray?

2) What will happen to all those $5 foot longs after the impact?!?

don't be so judgmental (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873011)

Just because these comets hang out in the furthest, coldest reaches of the solar system, don't reflect light all that well and listen to cradle of filth, that doesn't make them all dark! Goth, maybe, but not dark. You just don't understand them.

Re:don't be so judgmental (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873099)

They're not Goth Comets! They're Vampire Comets!

Don't you know the difference?

Re:don't be so judgmental (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873477)

It's the Emo comets that really piss me off.

my modest proposal (1)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873173)

if we discover a dark comet too late for the standard "shoot a nuke" at it solution to work, I propose we build a warp field around it and jump it THROUGH the planet... this idea is 100% original.

Re:my modest proposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873257)

I love how they've done this alteast Twice in Stargate

Re:my modest proposal (1)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873863)

Hey BigHungryJoe, why don't you patent that idea?

That way next time the Earth is threatened by a dark comet coming to obliterate us, in order to use that idea everyone would have to pay you royalties and you'll clean up! Why this idea is even better than One Click(TM)©!!!!

stuff falling from the sky (1)

slackoon (997078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873215)

I believe the odds of being hity by a falling satelite, or other type of space junk, are approximately 1,000,000,000 times higher than the odds of being hit by dark comets. That and we can't do anything about it. I choose to live in my little bubble where nothing bad will ever happen :)

Re:stuff falling from the sky (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875299)

Maybe your numbers are correct, but being hit by a dark comet will probably result in 1,000,000,000 times more damage to the planet than a stray satellite would.

A satellite normally hits at no more than orbital speeds and asteroids and comets hit at speeds much higher. Not to mention they have much higher mass.

And yes, we can do something about it. We just haven't figured exactly what.

nigger comets (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873241)

This never was a problem before desegregation! Go to the back of the solar system!

Threat From Dark Comets??? (3, Funny)

Nomaxxx (1136289) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873359)

Hurry up! Find Bruce Willis!!!

Re:Threat From Dark Comets??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873847)

Die Hard 5: Christmas in Orbit

Re:Threat From Dark Comets??? (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874885)

I knew having a black president would bring about the end of the world. Just like Deep Impact!

Dark comets the most dangerous kind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873375)

That's because dark comets are composed of black ice, which is far more slippery and harder to see than regular ice.

Oblig.... (4, Funny)

SIR_Taco (467460) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873449)

Shouldn't we put brown paper bags over our head or something?
If you like.
Will it help?
No.

Silly article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26873719)

TFA's headline is unnecessarily scary and the content is mostly speculative. Finally, at the end of the article some appropriate skepticism is given:

"But Paul Francis, from the Australian National University in Canberra said the researcher's theory was "speculative," in particular because impact craters were hard to date accurately.

"The best guess from the rate at which these comets come in is that they are not a risk," said Francis. He said a comet impact of a similar scale to the one that wiped out over 2,000 square kilometres of forest at Tunguska in Siberia was a "one-in-10-million-year event", while a continent destroying impact was a one-in-60-million-year event.

"That's not to say it may not happen for 20 million years and may happen tomorrow, but it's not very likely."

Re:Silly article (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874107)

Actually, that's more or less the point. Without a better idea of the number of dark comets in Earth-crossing orbits, any estimate of the risk is highly speculative, and that's a problem. We don't know what the actual risk of an impact is, and ignorance is inherently risky. It may be that if the numbers were known, the risk would be as low as Francis estimates, or it may be ten or a hundred or a thousand times greater. Any guess at this point is speculative. A lot of us would sleep better with more hard data instead.

Re:Silly article (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875057)

He said a comet impact of a similar scale to the one that wiped out over 2,000 square kilometres of forest at Tunguska in Siberia was a "one-in-10-million-year event"

That strikes me as dubious. Way too long. Tunguska was a relatively small impact, comparable to a decent-sized H-bomb; the figures I've heard bandied around for how frequently those can be expected are typically two or three centuries between events.

while a continent destroying impact was a one-in-60-million-year event.

That makes more sense. The last of these would have been 65 million years ago in the Yucatan.

Re:Silly article (2, Informative)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875699)

Actually, impacts the size of the Yucatan K/T event are global in scope, and do not occur on average every 60 million years. Even if every major extinction event was caused by a an impact (which is highly doubtful), they are much more widely spaced than a sixty million year average.

Maybe what we're looking at is something more like the Younger Dryas impact event [wikipedia.org] hit every 60 million year on average. Which, though unlikely, would of course be a major fricken disaster for humanity if it happened within our lifetimes.

I knew it! (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873899)

I knew it all along.

All the quarters spent in the arcade was really an investment in a space fighter pilot training program. Humanity will thank me when I show off my real comet busting mojo!

when London gets a foot of snow (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26873911)

The perpetual worry-warts in the UK then shift to worrying about invisible asteroids instead of global warming.

Re:when London gets a foot of snow (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874607)

Well, invisible asteroids could have an actual impact on the planet.

Saving the planet from global warming is rather silly. The planet will be fine. It's survived not having an atmosphere before and I bet it can do it again.

Global warming could change human life as we know it. Primitive humans made through an ice age (good thing they didn't have carbon and fuel taxes back then). I would expect modern man to be able to ride out the heat. Either way, the planet won't care.

Re:when London gets a foot of snow (1)

DanJ_UK (980165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874779)

This is what happens when British people get locked in one room for too long.

Bababooie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874371)

I'm pretty sure that Howard Stern is still the most significant impact hazard to our Earth.

Viral Marketing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874533)

That's the second idiotic story from Cosmos Magazine. I wonder if someone from Cosmos is advertising via Slashdot story submissions

Sure, that'll work... (0, Offtopic)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874733)

I can see 2 blatant problems with this right off the bat: 1) It is totally unenforceable (unless you monitor 100% of internet traffic in the state, and 2) It will force any internet retailers left in New York to relocate to another state. The cost of doing business in NY is already so high that it is driving companies out. Making up for the shortfall by taxing the remaining companies even more is a pretty short-sighted move.

Re:Sure, that'll work... (1)

Windows_NT (1353809) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875349)

you posted on the wrong article .. the NY tax thing is up a few.

Details, details (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875269)

My much longer summary didn't get used, so I'll pass out some relevant links.

NASA Near Earth Object program: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html [nasa.gov]

Impact risks are within. Pertinent to this article are the size estimates which are based on albedo (visual reflectivity) and so the mass and impact damage estimates.

The UK research team calculated that there should be 300 to 3000 dark comet bodies in system. We know of about 25, so there may be up to 100 times more. Current known Near Earth Asteroids total around 6000, with a similar estimate of ratio of known to unknown (1 : 10 to 100). Thus dark asteroids might be around 1% of total impact threat. It's how easily they're located that's the subject of TFA. We know they exist. Deep Space 1 investigated one of them.

Comets are listed under by the NEO program as Near Earth Comets. TFA stresses that completely outgassed comets may not appear easily in visible light as they would be mostly carbonaceous at the surface and have little coma. These would be pretty much invisible to visible light telescopes which are what are used by the NEO program. They would be more easily detected in the infrared (absorbed visible light has to re-radiate, and does so as heat). Space telescopes such as Spitzer would work great. Figure the odds on getting such devices brought to task when there's more 'important' science to be done.

The mass of these objects would be far less than similarly sized rocky bodies, and they would tend to be smaller overall. Consider a spongey body made of soft, runny (with chunks), powdery carbonaceous materials (including hydrocarbons), light gasses such as methane and some water. Cram that sucker into the atmosphere at miles per second. It will deform and take on the shape of the bow shock. The materials will vaporize and the hot vapor will be forced into the oxygen of the atmosphere. Given the relative softness, there's a good chance such a body will explode as an air burst rather than impact the surface/ocean.

An air burst including rapid oxidation of the material at the bow shock would look much like a fuel/air bomb: rapid expansion followed by implosion due to oxygen depletion. Say, 100 square miles of trees knocked down around ground zero but no visible burning because the burst would be at altitude. No remenants to be found because it all burnt up. Tunguska. Mass estimate 1/3 that of a rocky body.

Fearmongering? Three points:
1. 2008 TC3 was discovered October 6 2008. It was predicted to impact the next day. It did, over Sudan. It happens, several times a century, and now we know we can predict them correctly.
2. Dark cometary bodies would be harder to detect, with larger bodies being discovered only this early, if at all. If limited to ground based telescopes, the 'if at all' applies.
3. Impact risks are calculated per body. As more are detected, total known impact risk grows. Sum down the 4th column (cumulative impact risk) of the tables at http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html [nasa.gov] to get the total cumulative impact risk over the next 100 years for the bodies presently known. As a rough estimate, multiply by 10 to include the bodies not yet detected.

It occurs to me that an individual might be responsible for causing an auto accident several times during their life time. Call it 'several times per century'. The risk is similar to that of an impact by a near earth object. If the combined cumulative impact risk estimate is, in your estimation, inconsequential, put your money where your math is -- drive around without insurance.

Of all the ways to go (2, Funny)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875413)

Of all the ways to go, at least here is one where you don't have to say, "Well, that was a bonehead thing to do..."

Impacts are good (1)

knappe duivel (914316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875865)

If it weren't for this massive impact some 65k years ago we would still be voting for lizards
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