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Earth Could Collide With Other Planets

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-like-my-crust-liquified dept.

Earth 255

Everybody put on your helmet; Smivs writes "Astronomers calculate there is a tiny chance that Mars or Venus could collide with Earth — though it would not happen for at least a billion years. The finding comes from simulations to show how orbits of planets might evolve billions of years into the future. But the calculated chances of such events occurring are tiny. Writing in the journal Nature, a team led by Jacques Laskar shows there is also a chance Mercury could strike Venus and merge into a larger planet. Professor Laskar of the Paris Observatory and his colleagues also report that Mars might experience a close encounter with Jupiter — whose massive gravity could hurl the Red Planet out of our Solar System."

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Not soon enough for me (2, Insightful)

DragonFodder (712772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292407)

mors certa, hora incerta

Or earth could turn into an elephant (5, Insightful)

GreenEnvy22 (1046790) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292415)

There are tiny odds of just about anything happening, why is it news?

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (1)

mmmscience (1450939) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292687)

The real question: how the hell did it get published Nature? PLoS One, yeah...but Nature? Unless the method behind the computer modeling was entirely novel, I don't see how such a non-story made it into such an established journal.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (5, Informative)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292845)

From TFAbstract, helpfully linked downstream:

It has been established that, owing to the proximity of a resonance with Jupiter, Mercury's eccentricity can be pumped to values large enough to allow collision with Venus within 5 Gyr (refs 1â"3). This conclusion, however, was established either with averaged equations1, 2 that are not appropriate near the collisions or with non-relativistic models in which the resonance effect is greatly enhanced by a decrease of the perihelion velocity of Mercury2, 3. In these previous studies, the Earth's orbit was essentially unaffected. Here we report numerical simulations of the evolution of the Solar System over 5 Gyr, including contributions from the Moon and general relativity.

The authors claim this is the first extended simulation set incorporating GR and avoiding the problematic averaging technique.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293209)

One of the other articles (on CNET I think) says they used a 'unique time integration scheme', anybody know which one? I don't have a subscription to Nature, and it isn't addressed in their abstract. Thanks!

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (2, Informative)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293269)

Nope, it was the Ars article: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/06/kicking-a-planet-out-of-the-solar-system-physically.ars [arstechnica.com] They mention a 'complex time integration scheme' fourth paragraph down. Though with the state of technical journalism on the intrawebs that could mean Euler or leap-frog.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (3, Insightful)

sherriw (794536) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293629)

Combine that headline with a nice cover graphic of planets smashing up into bits, and it sells magazines. Welcome to the publishing world.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (5, Funny)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292717)

There are tiny odds of just about anything happening, why is it news?

Yeah, and we can't even use the excuse that it was a posting by kdawson. Come on, Taco!

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (2, Interesting)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292767)

As Stephen King said, "Everything's eventual."

Yeah, man, everything's REAL eventual :-)

Great line - I keep telling myself that.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (5, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292781)

There are tiny odds of just about anything happening

I know that fervent believers will condemn my denial of the Elephant Rapture, but there is zero chance of the Earth turning into a proboscidean of any sort.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (1)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292787)

1% in 5 billion years is actually fairly high...you're talking some major solar system engineering if Mercury's orbit suddenly starts to look funny.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (2, Informative)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293039)

I realize the linked article doesn't have the 1% figure, here's a better article:

http://www.universetoday.com/2009/06/10/wild-little-mercury-to-cause-interplanetary-smashup-maybe/

So you're telling me there's a chance! (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293331)

"What was that 'one in a million' talk all about then"?

There's a tiny chance anyone on here will ever kiss a girl, but we still sit puckered up just in case. You know we all do. Muuuuuaah.

Re:Or earth could turn into an elephant (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293559)

Because the collision of two planets is beyond epic.

Monkeys could fly out of my butt... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292425)

...in about a billion years. The chances are infinitesimally small, but it could happen!

Re:Monkeys could fly out of my butt... (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292631)

I'm a little concerned that initially I had this same thought. Then I began thinking about putting a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters and asking them some monkeys-flying-out-of-butts question to see how long it would take them to come up with an answer (or some Shakespearean deriviative) but I gave up after the imagery got to me.

Re:Monkeys could fly out of my butt... (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293093)

they would probably write "The Wizard of Oz" and not any thing Shakespearean

Re:Monkeys could fly out of my butt... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293497)

They would come with any answer shorter than 4 letter word. If 1 million monkeys were typing constantly 10 letters per minute on average for 1 million years, they would type 5.2* 10^18 letters.
This means the monkeys would write every 1,2,3 and 4 letter words and more than half of 5 letter words. This is if we ignore wrong capitalization and grammar.

Re:Monkeys could fly out of my butt... (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293567)

"It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times!?" YOU STUPID MONKEY!!

Yeah... And there's also a small chance... (1, Insightful)

MBaldelli (808494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292429)

...I could win the PowerBall or MegaMillion jackpot if it's actually over $150 million. And in about the same time as the slight possibility of the Earth, Mars, or Venus change orbit enough to actually collide.... Really... Isn't this as much as the story some years back when it was shown that using the use of atmospheric breaking causing Jupiter's rotation to lose a second of time over 50,000 or more years? I call FUD. Next up.. How to make a tinfoil hat that can stop the CIA's mind control rays.

Re:Yeah... And there's also a small chance... (4, Funny)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292693)

Next up.. How to make a tinfoil hat that can stop the CIA's mind control rays.

You have my undivided attention.

Never mind (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292431)

I can record that event in my 64bit unix timestamp field.

Re:Never mind (2, Funny)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292949)

And no need to switch to 128bit timestamp when the Earth is no more. What a relief.

No big deal here (2, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292467)

We've known for almost a hundred years (since Poincare more or less) that the 3 body problem is inherently chaotic and not terribly stable and here we have an n body problem for large n. All they seem to have done here is list some of the more catastrophic possible outcomes if the system becomes seriously unstable.

Re:No big deal here (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292793)

Is it actualy known that for larger n, systems are inherently less stable than when n=3?

I'm not so sure.

Re:No big deal here (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293051)

Defining what one means by more or less stable becomes difficult. I'm not an expert in this sort of thing so I don't feel confident discussing it in any detail. However, the computational difficulty in approximating what happens from as one goes from time t to t + epsilon does go up a lot when one increases the number of bodies.

Re:No big deal here (1)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292897)

Being able to quantify the odds is an achievement. Why belittle it? Where's your paper on the multi-billion year evolution of the solar system?

Re:No big deal here (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293119)

I'm not sure from reading TFA they did do much in the way of actual quantification. There aren't any probabilities listed. There method of doing so, taking a large sample of test runs (around 2500 according to the article) and seeing how many resulted in what outcomes is not that great a way of working out the actual probabilities. It is at best, a rough order of magnitude estimate. I'm not bashing the work. As you say, I don't have any papers on the multi-billion year evolution of the solar system. But I don't see this as as big enough a deal to justify a Slashdot article.

Re:No big deal here (1)

MBaldelli (808494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293175)

Being able to quantify the odds is an achievement. Why belittle it? Where's your paper on the multi-billion year evolution of the solar system?

Because it has been stated time and time and time again that it takes changes in the order of hundreds of thousands to millions and even billions of years for anything of the sort of happen within the cosmos. So it's going to take 3 billion years for this to possibly happen.

Do they honestly think that saying it now, we're going to remember this 3 billion years from now? Of course not. The average homo sapien can barely remember things happening in their lifetime. Further it has been discussed ad nausea here -- the obsolescence of technology will make that disappear to the cosmos just as quickly

So in essence there's an even stronger possibility of this being reinvented/rediscovered in that time -- if the other theory about civilizations stopping after 30 or so thousand years isn't in fact true.

Re:No big deal here (4, Informative)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293551)

Actually, this result is a big deal. First, the authors used powerful new techniques to solve some long-standing problems in these sorts of simulations. This has allowed them to run simulations far further into the future (or the past) than was possible before. Second, they included General Relativity and the affects of planetary satellites in their calculations, which improves the precision of their results. This has not been done before. Third, this work is the first to put a quantitative time scale on instability in the inner Solar System. Up until now we knew that the orbits of the inner planets were unstable, but we had no idea how long it would take for those instabilities to lead to major changes in orbital parameters. Finally, this result has profound implications for the stability of planetary systems in general, which affects the probability of their being Earth-like planets around other stars, and thus the chances of there being animal life out there. This is a major paper and may become the baseline for this entire sub-field. It certainly deserved to be published in Nature. It is too bad that the media chose to glom onto the sensationalist aspects of the story.

He's no Pope (1)

J4 (449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292487)

Looks like God screwed that one up.

Re:He's no Pope (1)

vil3nr0b (930195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292539)

I think God built in many fail-safe mechanisms for destruction in case he forgets to push the red button. The earth colliding with Mars? Bring back the cosmic death movies on television!!

The possibilities... (1)

MadMatr07 (1278450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292499)

Does anyone think our species will even be around in a billion years? I mean that's a long time for some kind of disaster that whipes out mankind. Disease, virus, nuclear war, zombie outbreak, etc. However, if mankind was still around hopefully we would have other planetary colonies to seek refuge. So I don't this is really news.

Re:The possibilities... (1)

goltzc (1284524) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293077)

In a billion years I would think that humans will have long since evolved many times over into something not really resembling humans anymore.

Re:The possibilities... (1)

asdir (1195869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293089)

Besides: In a billion years mankind probably has evolved to something different. I don't think a species has ever made it that long with only slight alteration, save for some microbes maybe. So, technically, "mankind" cannot be wiped out in a billion years, because it does not exist anymore anyway.

Re:The possibilities... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293099)

Disaster? We've only been human for less than a hundred thousand years. Sixty five million years ago, we were small creatures that resembled rodents.

Even if no disaster strikes, in a billion years our decendants will not be human. They will resemble us about as much as we resemble field mice.

Re:The possibilities... (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293199)

I don't know about you but I'd like to be here. Might be some 10-100 million re-incarnations later though...

whats up woth bbc today (4, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292533)

first they announce that the recession is over in the UK (yeh right!)

then we find out earth is about to collide with another planet

at least the later is more believable :D

I am sick of pop science (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292587)

I begin to wonder if scientists release this stuff just to get attention, or because they're waiting to see how badly it will get reported by the media. Yesterday we had crude CGI on the BBC of the Earth and Mars bumping together in a head-on collision like a pair of billiard balls, with almost no context, and big clouds billowing out (at thousands of kilometres per second) exactly as if the Solar System had a dense atmosphere to constrain them.

Is it any wonder the general public doesn't take science seriously nowadays?

Re:I am sick of pop science (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292725)

eh, whatever. it's interesting. plus it's clearly stated that the story is based on recent simulations, reported in a respected scientific journal (Nature). oh i suppose you would rather leave all scientific stuff to scientists, regardless of the few bits that might interest the layman. God forbid some youngster is intrigued by an article like this and takes up a career in astronomy.

Re:I am sick of pop science (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293251)

Is it any wonder the general public doesn't take science seriously nowadays?

They will as soon as someone makes the movie.

Re:I am sick of pop science (3, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293491)

How do you know this is the fault of the scientists? It could very easily be lazy and/or sensationalistic journalism -- same stuff as "this has as much info as x libraries of congress" or "as much volume as x ping-pong balls", or half of what kdawson posts.

Publish or perish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292589)

This is the state of science that to remain relevant a lot of rubbish has to be published. Welcome to the 21st century! The age of scientific noise!

Re:Publish or perish... (1)

asdir (1195869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293139)

You have never read Nature before, have you?!? It's attention-whoring with peer-review. (Not to say articles are not worth the attention they get.)

Damn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292633)

Damn, something else that will happen before I get laid.

Re:Damn... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292757)

Not if you hurry over to my house right now.

Time Incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292675)

World Will end in 2012. Nostradamus predicted it so. Billion years is an over statement. More like 3 years

Re:Time Incorrect (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293247)

The Mayan Calendar ends in 2012, too.

Re:Time Incorrect (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293447)

No Nostradamus predicted that the world would end in about 3000 AD. He also predicted that a catastrophic global war would start in 1999 and that the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1986 would signal widespread human cannabalism. What you are thinking of is the end of the current cycle of the Mayan long count calendar, which will occur in 2012. However, all that will happen then is that the next cycle will begin.

Chance is a measure of observer's ignorance (0)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292713)

Remember, when they say there's a small chance of planetary collision, they're really just relating the lack of precision they have in their knowledge of the positions, velocities, and mass distribution of said planets. If they knew them precisely, they could precisely predict their future positions.

Re:Chance is a measure of observer's ignorance (1)

AlanMJones (595762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293067)

Exactly! But not just the planets; all objects inside the solar system plus those outside that will be entering over the time considered.

Re:Chance is a measure of observer's ignorance (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293581)

No, that is the whole point of non-linear dynamics. One can never know the initial conditions precisely enough to make predictions over arbitrarily long time scales.

Could just be a rounding error (1)

TjOeNeR (1110041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292719)

For all we know...

Re:Could just be a rounding error (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293291)

Better check their methods before suggesting that. They don't use a IEEE float in these big simulations on supercomputers, generally.

Link to article in Nature (1)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292735)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7248/full/nature08096.html [nature.com]

Full story requires payment or subscription (which I don't have), but the blurb reads:

It has been established that, owing to the proximity of a resonance with Jupiter, Mercury's eccentricity can be pumped to values large enough to allow collision with Venus within 5 Gyr (refs 1-3). This conclusion, however, was established either with averaged equations1, 2 that are not appropriate near the collisions or with non-relativistic models in which the resonance effect is greatly enhanced by a decrease of the perihelion velocity of Mercury2, 3. In these previous studies, the Earth's orbit was essentially unaffected. Here we report numerical simulations of the evolution of the Solar System over 5 Gyr, including contributions from the Moon and general relativity. In a set of 2,501 orbits with initial conditions that are in agreement with our present knowledge of the parameters of the Solar System, we found, as in previous studies2, that one per cent of the solutions lead to a large increase in Mercury's eccentricity - an increase large enough to allow collisions with Venus or the Sun. More surprisingly, in one of these high-eccentricity solutions, a subsequent decrease in Mercury's eccentricity induces a transfer of angular momentum from the giant planets that destabilizes all the terrestrial planets approx3.34 Gyr from now, with possible collisions of Mercury, Mars or Venus with the Earth.

Re:Link to article in Nature (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293241)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7248/full/nature08096.html [nature.com]

Full story requires payment or subscription (which I don't have), but the blurb reads:

or changing your useragent to

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; http://www.google.com/bot.html [google.com] )

Headlines! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292737)

Women and Children Hit Hardest.

Congress opens investigation.

Minority groups suffer disparate impact.

This new science is getting scary (5, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292747)

Let's go back to crystalline spheres and immutable heavens. That was a much safer design model

Re:This new science is getting scary (4, Funny)

Zarf (5735) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293073)

Let's go back to crystalline spheres and immutable heavens. That was a much safer design model

Sadly we weren't using version control back then and our backups have been lost. It looks like we can't revert to the last stable version so we will have to find a way to make the current system stable until we can upgrade to Universe 2.0.

Re:This new science is getting scary (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293103)

Let's go back to crystalline spheres and immutable heavens. That was a much safer design model.

On the other hand, it could be worse.

If Mercury and Venus, for example, collide and merge into one, all those born under the sign of Gemini and Libra will be doomed to live in uncharted (pun intended) territory.

Hey all you sarcastic ppl... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292753)

I'm glad they took the time to do this. Perhaps predicting something a billion years out ends up making it not so important to us, but at least they're reasonably sure that it won't be in the next 50 years when it WOULD be important to us. Now, this does sound a lot like meteorology, and like the weather, it sure would be a bad day if they were off by 999.999999 million years or so.

I thought we all agreed that the French... (1)

rootrot (103518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292761)

were no longer allowed to use arcane mathematical models.

Give a man a model, and he'll fret for a day. Teach a man to model, and he'll have major news media fretting forever...

Re:I thought we all agreed that the French... (2, Funny)

Rashdot (845549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293195)

Give a geek a model, and he'll fret for a day. Teach a geek to model, and he'll have major news media fretting forever...

There, fixed that for you. Because:
Give a man a model, and he'll have a great time with her.

Worlds collide! (3, Funny)

baKanale (830108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292859)

They're killing independent George!

You Are A Robot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292867)

When Worlds Collide Lyrics Artist(Band):Powerman 5000 Review The Song (6) Print the Lyrics Send "When Worlds Collide" Ringtones to Cell [Now this is what it's like when worlds collide Now this is what it's like Now this is what it's like when worlds collide Now this is what it's like] What is it really, That's going on here.. You've got the system for total control.. Now is there any, body out there.. Now watch us suffer yeah cause we can't go. What is it really that is in your head What little life that you had just died I'm gonna be the one that's taking over Now this is what it's like when worlds collide! Are you ready to go Cause I'm ready to go What you gonna do baby, baby Are you going with me Cause I'm going with you That's the end of all time What is it really, That motivates you.. This need to fly or this, fear to stop. I'll go along, when you realise.. When we get there I say 9 to 10 drop Now who's alive and who is the devil... You can't decide so I'll be your guide.. And one by one they will be hand chosen.. Now this is what it's like when worlds collide!! Are you ready to go Cause I'm ready to go What you gonna do baby, baby Are you going with me Cause I'm going with you That's the end of all time (You are a robot) [Now this is what it's like when worlds collide Now this is what it's like Now this is what it's like when worlds collide Now this is what it's like] What is it really when they're falling over Everything that you thought was denied I'm gonna be the one that's taking over Now this is what it's like when worlds collide Are you ready to go Cause I'm ready to go What you gonna do baby, baby Are you going with me Cause I'm going with you That's the end of all time!! Are you ready to go Cause I'm ready to go What you gonna do baby, baby Are you going with me Cause I'm going with you That's the end of all time Are you ready Yeah, I'm ready That's the end of all time Are you going Yeah I'm going That's the end of all time!!!

Very cool (1)

Beached (52204) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292877)

Just the workarounds for the floating point math must be cool to see. Or the optimizations they would use in a simulation like this.

Re:Very cool (1)

chdig (1050302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293169)

Agreed, though it is hard to get past the FUD factor:
"It will be complete devastation," said Professor Laskar.

IANAAstronomer, but I'd rather hear more about whether these calculations can be extrapolated onto other solar systems and the existence (or not) of other planets similar to earth, than how,"The planet is coming in at 10km per second..."

In billions of years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28292881)

The Cubs might win a world series.

Re:In billions of years (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293325)

What do the Cubs and Cardinals have in common? Neither one has won the World Series in their home stadium! [wikipedia.org]

Re:In billions of years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293403)

Didn't you watch Back to the Future Part 2? The Cubs win in 2015.

could could could (0, Redundant)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292883)

could...could...could!!

Re:could could could (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293427)

Don't worry about the future. The pessimistic scientists (I count myself among them), will take care of it for you (and perhaps take care of you).

Let's sing Cole Porter... in harmony... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292917)

What a Swell Party This Is [lyricstime.com]

"Have you heard that Mimsie Starr
Just got pinched in the As...tor bar?
Well, did you evah?
What a swell party this is!

Have you heard? It's in the stars,
Next July we collide with Mars!
Well, did you evah?
What a swell party this is!"

Allow me to be the politician (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292967)

"A couple billion years? Who cares, I'm not in office anymore when that happens!"

Re:Allow me to be the politician (1)

asdir (1195869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293181)

I doubt that! There will always be an opportunist in office. Always!

I'm no physicist ... (1)

Crucial (97001) | more than 5 years ago | (#28292979)

... but how exactly is it that 2 planetary bodies can collide, and "merge" into one larger planetary body? Wouldn't the collision obliterate both planets?

Re:I'm no physicist ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293097)

Gas giants?

Re:I'm no physicist ... (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293371)

Proto-Earth + Theia --> Earth + Moon might suggest otherwise.

Re:I'm no physicist ... (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293439)

If both were are of the same size the scientific guess is that they would both be destroyed and you would have a ring of dust and rocks around the star.

O Noes!!! (1)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293027)

We're all gonna DIE!!!

(OK, now off to actually read the article....)

I'm gonna party like it's 1999... (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293117)

I have a solution. We get Martin Landau to lead us on a Moonbase that we construct. Since it is the first moonbase ever, we will call it Moonbase Alpha. We detonate a nuclear weapon on the surface of the moon, causing it to rocket away from the Solar System, like when Wile E. Coyote attaches a bottle rocket to a car.

We launch out of the Solar System and into the galaxy, meeting strange alien beings along the way. We will build shuttlecraft, and call them "Eagles".

Earth crashes into Mars, we move into the deep reaches of space, exploring and adventuring! Let's get started, Martin doesn't have long to live!

meh... (1)

polle404 (727386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293129)

I still fear the Vogon construction fleet more...

now get that planet off my lawn!

Worthless predictions (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293141)

We've got scientists telling us the world is getting warmer while at the same time it's getting colder and now they're telling us that the planets might collide billions of years from now. If they can't even get the weather predictions right 5 days in advance what good are their long term predictions?

Who cares (1)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293145)

I'd say an impact wiping out life would be much much more likely in that course of time, so who cares? Oh wait... this ... would be that impact ... See!

corny song lyrics (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293207)

This is funny because I was thinking just the other day about the cheesy overused lyric 'when two worlds collide' - I mean, it just doesn't happen that often does it?

Plus a billion, minus a billion (4, Informative)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293227)

Ok, here's a question: Has this happened in the past?

It doesn't take long playing with simple, fun orbit simulators [arachnoid.com] to see that while most planetesimals get glommed, a few get chucked. Escape velocity from the Sun at Mars distance is WAY MORE* (technological term) than Jupiter could perturb. Some things tossed could have 'very long' periods, but still not escape. THAT would be news.

And yes, I am a rocket scientist and yes, I HAVE done the math.

Vcircular * sqrt(2) = Vescape! 41% is too much, even for Jupiter.

Guess it's time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293231)

Time to put a good biking helmet over my tin-foil hat.

Free ride through the Milky Way? (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293285)

>> Mars might experience a close encounter with Jupiter -- whose massive gravity could hurl the Red Planet out of our Solar System.

Woo hoo! Let's colonize it now. We won't have to worry about the inter-stellar travel problem.

Movie Promotion? (2, Interesting)

snooz_crash (802357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293301)

With the movie remake of When Worlds Collide due out in 2010, a story like this would be one way to create a buzz.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0455856/ [imdb.com]

Obligatory (1)

drunken_boxer777 (985820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293333)

So in other words, the collision will occur around the time that Duke Nukem Forever is released?

Rocky Horror (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293351)

"But when worlds collide," said George Pal to his bride, "I'm gonna give you some Terrible Thrills."

Professor... (1)

Cainage (966328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293413)

Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain. How scared should we be?

Propagation of error (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293471)

They ran a numerical simulation of the solar system through more than a billion cycles of the Earth's orbit... presumably thats a trillion time steps of their simulation, at the very least (1000 steps per orbit would give poor accuracy over that many iterations), and preferably more like a quadrillion time steps. Even with that, I'm suprised anyone thinks that so few iterations can be relied upon to give meaningful results over such a long time.

Since Nature actually published them, I wonder if perhaps the chance of Earth colliding with Mars / Venus isn't actually the focus of their paper, and that the Beeb has just turned tabloid on us yet again.

So?? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293485)

Astronomers calculate there is a tiny chance that Mars or Venus could collide with Earth -- though it would not happen for at least a billion years.

That's no reason not to print another $500 billion to study the problem! If it saves just one child's life in a billion years, then it's worth it! Why do you hate the Earth? Hater.

Damned Scientists (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293511)

Why can't they come up with a plausible theory of apocalypse by snu-snu?

I hope hollywood makes a movie... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28293533)

Michael Bay could do wonders. Imagine the CGI of one planet hitting another.

Before it's too late (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293543)

Just blow up the sun so it stops swinging these planets at us.

I, for one, (1)

mcneely.mike (927221) | more than 5 years ago | (#28293545)

I, for one, say goodbye to our Martian overlords? On Soviet Mars, Venus pwns you? 1. fling mars 2. merge with venus 3. Profit?
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