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Stopping Killer Asteroids

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the paging-bruce-willis dept.

Space 627

Drog writes "Earth has had a few near misses with asteroids recently (although "near hits" would be more accurate). It's just a matter of time, though, before we detect one with our name on it. In this New York Times article, experts discuss the various ways that we might go about saving our planet. Remarkably, nuclear detonations are not a good option, as they would break the asteroid into many pieces and merely increase our odds of being hit. And a detonation some distance away may simply be absorbed by the asteroid with virtually no effect. Instead, say scientists who study asteroid hazards, a gentle sustained push is what's needed (slow and steady wins the race). Some of the approaches have been discussed in science fiction for years--a mass driver, an electromagnetic machine which hurls dirt from the surface, an orbiting parabolic mirror to heat up the surface and create a plume of vaporized material. All of these methods require one thing, however. Time. At least several decades warning."

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As long as Bruce WIllis is with us (2, Funny)

nizcolas (597301) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708077)

we're never going to have to worry about a metoerite .

Re:As long as Bruce WIllis is with us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708130)

Remarkably, nuclear detonations are not a good option, as they would break the asteroid into many pieces and merely increase our odds of being hit.

Damn, I understand not reading the article, but not reading the post?!?!

Re:As long as Bruce WIllis is with us (2, Funny)

DustyCase (619304) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708132)

I have a better idea. Let's just sacrifice Bruce Willis to our gods and hope that they protect us in return. We can move on to Ray Romano and George Clooney if it looks like they need more....

Where's Voltron?? (2, Funny)

heka-rup (593796) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708141)

I thought Voltron was responsible for threats of that nature.

Re:Where's Voltron?? (5, Funny)

Wiseazz (267052) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708203)

Damn straight. Just Form Blazing Sword and the day is saved! Screw the lions... go straight to the sword.

Re:As long as Bruce WIllis is with us (5, Funny)

sisukapalli1 (471175) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708197)

What about the new national security solution by Pres. Bush that would create a Multi Yield -- Asteriod Security Shield (MYASS)?

That should take care of the problems with Asteroids...


Re:As long as Bruce WIllis is with us (1)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708211)

Actually, this plan might not work. I heard that Harry Stamper and Ben Affleck are on the rocks since he asked J-Lo to marry him. Harry needs Ben's help to stop any asteroid, so I think we may be screwed. We may have to go to plan B and call Robert Duvall.

nukes ARE best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708079)

sorry.. but if you drop several thousand multi kiloton nukes on the sucker It'll be nothing but a nice meteor shower to watch.

a single bomb? that's stupid... fire the entire cold war aresnal? nothing will be left of it.

Bruce Willis (0, Redundant)

Kandel (624601) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708080)

Aah...not to worry...for we will always have Bruce Willis willing to sacrifice himself to save Earth.

Re:Bruce Willis (1)

jforr (15487) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708139)

Aah...not to worry...for we will always have Bruce Willis willing to sacrifice himself to save Earth.
DAMNIT, thank you for ruining another perfectly good movie for me to watch. Next time include a spoiler warning!

Re:Bruce Willis (1)

Kandel (624601) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708260)

Spolier warning, eh? hmm...Noted. :)

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708090)


Yuck (-1, Offtopic)

Evil Adrian (253301) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708091)

Forget those killer asteroids, I've got these killer hemmorhoids...

Re:Yuck (1)

Evil Adrian (253301) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708182)

Man oh man, did I get hit hard! Not even a smile?? You moderators are BRUTAL! :-)

could be worse (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708092)

we could be at comdex.

So what do we do today?? (2, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708094)

So what do we do today??

Pray. And give money and support funding to any program that maps the sky for asteroids. Cause if any are on their way (I'd say 30 years or less), well... we're just f*cked.

G. H. W. Bush - Not Much; G. W. Bush - Even Less (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708289)

These two thieves pose a much more dangerous threat to the United States Of America than any

If you don't believe me, please visit:

The White House

Thanks in advance,


Corrected Link: +1, Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708329)

The White House []

Time? (0)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708102)

Time is something we don't have people. We've got 18 days to train a bunch of dumb oil riggers, launch them into space, drill a big deep shaft for a nuke and blow that asteroid in two so it passes cleanly on either side of the earth or else we are FINISHED! Let's get to it! Please, put the romantic subplot on hold for the time being. 18 days is very little time to ready a shuttle much less save the earth from extinction so we need all of you on your toes.

Huge Asteroids: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708113)

Nature's "reset" switch for Earth. Sometimes you just need to stop what yer doin' and reboot. 'At's what I say.

Carlin quote (5, Funny)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708122)

(although "near hits" would be more accurate)

Gotta love George Carlin:

Speaking of potential mishaps, here's a phrase that apparently the airlines simply made up: near miss. They say that if two planes almost collide it's a near miss. Bullshit, my friend. It's a near hit! A collision is a near miss.
"Look, they nearly missed!"
"Yes, but not quite."

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Carlin quote (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708160)

You have to have a pretty poor grasp of the English language not to grasp this one. It's called a near miss because it's a miss that was near its target. So calling it a near hit is obviously wrong. 'Nearly a hit' or ('nearly hit' if you like) is right. Not too tricky, is it?

Re:Carlin quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708190)

You have to have a pretty poor grasp of the English language not to grasp this one.
If you did as much drugs as George Carlin, your grasp of English would probably slip a little too.

On the bright side, your sense of humour might improve.

Re:Carlin quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708216)

The glass is half empty or half full, depending on which side of the marketing team you are on.

Re:Carlin quote (1)

Drog (114101) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708316)

Ha! I was wondering how many people would get that reference. I love George Carlin...

More pieces is bad...why? (5, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708127)

I thought more pieces would have more surface area. More surface area would produce more friction traveling through the atmosphere. More friction would create more heat and thus be able to burn up asteroids that would otherwise not totally burn in the atmosphere.

Is my science wrong?

Re:More pieces is bad...why? (3, Insightful)

tellezj (612044) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708234)

The whole "create more heat" thing would probably be the bad part, since a large asteroid would likely heat up a relatively significant portion of the atmosphere a non-trivial amount. Might take a while to ultimately dissipate all that excess heat.

Re:More pieces is bad...why? (2, Interesting) (134147) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708237)

Your reasoning is correct as far as it goes. But say all those "little" pieces are still too big to burn up in the atmosphere. Now, instead of one big impact, you get N impacts over a wider area (where N>1). Less impacts == good, more impacts == bad (in the general case).


Re:More pieces is bad...why? (5, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708245)

The science is right, but I think your scale is wrong. We're talking about objects measured in kilometers. The objects are WAY too big to just burn up in the atmoshere. An object that can be chopped in half and have both pieces burn up was never a real threat anyway.


Almost but not quite (2)

Pac (9516) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708272)

Think about an asteroid of a significant size, something on the order of some percent points of Earth's size. Now, if you break such a beast without making sure all pieces will miss (that is, that your bomb will not only break it, but break in such a way that its resultant angular momentum will change drastically), you have just increased the chance that not one, but two or three asteroids with enough mass to destroy civilisation will hit the planet.

Re:More pieces is bad...why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708302)

Space Vacuum
No One can hear you scream

Anyway earths gravity or the suns is going to help much either

More pieces is bad (5, Informative)

maggard (5579) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708319)

Actually it's not friction that "burns up" incoming material, it's radiated heat from the bow shock (yes, your high school science teacher over-simplified.)

That aside unless you break up the pieces into very small bits they're gonna impact and n-medium sized craters is worse then ~1 big crater. Or, absolutely devastating some large radius is better then pretty-much devastating a number of somewhat smaller radiuses.

By the way - the worst? Ocean impact. Then you're not just talking an air blast and punching a hole into the surface with some ejecta spraying but doing all of that while vaporizing some megatons of water - much worse on a global scale.

Re:More pieces is bad...why? (2)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708352)

energy in = energy out. In this case, efficiency doesn't matter as the heat alone from that much stuff burning up in the atmosphere could be an issue, then there's the shockwaves in the air (may not be a problem), then there's the fact that you're not going to get every big piece, and some will be big enough to cause problems when they hit the ground and/or water, and you'll have more than one. Think shotgun.

Pound it into dust completely? The stuff will wind up suspended in the upper atmosphere: I don't think anybody will be thinking global warming is a problem :). If the fine stuff doesn't wind up in the atmosphere, it might wind up in orbit: "Ooh, look, Earth now has pretty rings! Um... where did the sun go?"

Mind you, I think global winter would be less of a problem than a big one hitting: gives us more time to pick up the pieces.

Resuming... (-1)

LePrince (604021) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708133)

Resuming comments that will be posted here :

1. References to movie Armageddon and actor Bruce Willis
2. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of laser
3. Steps to detonate : 1- Create giant laser 2- ??? 3- Survive !

That should be it. NEXT !

Bring it on (2, Funny)

jmcwork (564008) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708137)

As long as you can guarantee Tea Leoni is underneath it, I say leave it alone.

A couple of ideas (0, Funny)

PhysicsGenius (565228) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708143)

If you want lead time, you have to see them sooner. Seeing them sooner implies that at some early date they are visible on a photographic plate, which in turn implies that an image be captured, preferably ASAP. The only way to do this is to make sure you take pictures prior to the the "drop dead" date.

As for pushing them aside, there are several options. You can deflect an asteroid. You can perturb the orbit. You can also lateralize the velocity vector. One approach that I haven't seen talked about much is bending the worldline of the asteroid such that it no longer intersects Earth's worldline, but that method may require some scientific advances beyond our current technology.

Just my $.02.

Stargate? (5, Funny)

T-Kir (597145) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708146)

I'm reminded of an episode of Stargate SG1 (Failsafe) when Anubis sent an asteroid towards Earth.

"O'Neill: I've seen this movie, it hits Paris."

Re:Stargate? (1)

Havoc'ing (618273) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708299)

Actually I think it was New York, no great travisty since it was all polyester, huge collars, denium and earth tones at the time of course. -g

warning: you may be a retard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708317)

If everyday events remind you of episodes of Stargate SG1, you may be a retard.

I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but you're better off hearing it here than on the streets.

Just send Rosie McDonell up there (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708149)

the killer asteroids would go away screaming

Fo r a nuclear detonation to be effective... (2)

mcwop (31034) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708150)

wouldn't you have to strategically drill a hole(s), deposit the charge(s) then detonate?

Re:Fo r a nuclear detonation to be effective... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708202)

better to just attach some rocket to the asteroid to nudge it slightly off course.

I can say this authoritatively because I nudge asteroids for a living - me and every other expert on Slashdot. Don't let little things like "lack of knowledge" or "no experience" get you down. Slashdot posters' abilities know no bound.

Re:Fo r a nuclear detonation to be effective... (1, Insightful)

dev_alac (536560) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708244)

wouldn't you have to strategically drill a hole(s), deposit the charge(s) then detonate?

Not necessarily. That would require a lot of effort and as the article mentions, asteroids might be too loose to drill in easily (try scooping out a hole in a pile of dry sand, from the side -- you'll get there eventually, but wouldn't it be easier to have just detonated something nearby?) There are some bunker-busting technologies that could be used to get a bit farther, but then again, you are increasing the number of fragments coming our way. It's like a shotgun blast then -- more likely something's going to hit, even if it isn't as large. Though they might be small enough to burn up on reentry, only one large chunk would be required to remain to cause catostrophic damage. So therefore, it might be an idea, but having plenty of time beforehand to analyze the remains and possibly do another mission would be a good idea.

Re:Fo r a nuclear detonation to be effective... (2)

micromoog (206608) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708292)

And wouldn't one of the crew members, whose daughter is coincidentally engaged to another of the crew members, need to stay behind for the detonation in a tragic yet heroic self-sacrifice to save humanity?

Re:Fo r a nuclear detonation to be effective... (5, Funny)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708323)

Where would we get such rugged men for this amazing mission? The US oil drilling industry, of course. I would have no reservations about putting the fate of my planet in the hands of a dozen men with 10th grade educations. If they were handsome and witty, that would make it even better. Maybe one of them would be doing it for the love of a beautiful woman...that would be so cool.


Ugh... (1)

GeckoFood (585211) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708153)

...a gentle sustained push is what's needed...

Obviously, said experts haven't tried driving in the Washington DC rush hour.

Solve the problem (2)

debrain (29228) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708156)

Colonize other planets.

It is important not that Earth will be hit by an asteroid, but that civilization, our species, as we have come to enjoy (and/or lament) will be annihilated.

Remember the eggs in one's basket proverb?

Re:Solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708243)

Yeah, Jack - we'll get right on that.
Where should I move to? Jupiter or Mercury?
I hear Venus is lovely in the spring.

Yeah, but that's not the first solution we can do (5, Insightful)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708314)

It's a hell of a lot simpler to send a robot probe, or even a manned spacecraft with a small crew, into space than it is to establish sustainable colonies on another world. Colonization is all well and good, but some of the options discussed in the NYTimes article are things we can either do now, or should be able to do within a few generations. Colonization, in addition to the logistic and technical diffulties involved, has social problems. If you want a self-sustaining colony capable of perpetuating the race, you need a large population, and you need it to be economically self-sufficient. That means you can't just send scientists - you need engineers, factory workers, politicians, even telemarketers - all the things that make a modern capitalist economy work. And the only way you get people who *aren't* explorers by nature to colonize is for things to be absolutely miserable for them at home, or truly grand in the New World. No matter how bad things get on Earth, it'll be quite a while before life in a pressure dome on another planet starts to even rival the quality of life one can enjoy on Earth, let alone surpass it. I repeat: You need more than just scientists and explorers for a colony large enough to perpetuate the human race if Earth gets snuffed.

sound like... (1)

cies (318343) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708158)

...something i read on


ermmm... (0)

Extrymas (588771) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708162)

... I think we simply need a beowulf cluster of.. ohhhh... nevermind...

Shouldn't we try some of this ideas first? (5, Insightful)

eyefish (324893) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708170)

I was thinking, many of the options we have are merely theoretical. I'd like NASA to spend a few of my tax dollars actually *testing* out 2 or 3 of these ideas on a real asteroid to see if they really work.

For example, will a near nuclear blast really be absorved by the meteor without it changing its course? How much of a force will it be needed to push an asteroid with rockets or the like?

So let's test now so that when the real thing comes and we launch our savior to space, we don't find out in the last minute that it fails.

On a side note, this shouldn't be a NASA-only effort, I think the European Space Agency and many other countries should ship in as well, as this concerns all of mankind.

Can't test a nuke in space (3, Informative)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708232)

You can't test a nuclear weapon in space - there are treaties that regulate this sort of thing, and they say space has to stay demilitarized. That means no nukes - that's one of the reasons, other than the horrible amount of radioactive pollution, that the Orion project never really took off. For better or worse, the only test we'll get is when there's actually an asteroid on the way to Earth.

Re:Can't test a nuke in space (2)

eyefish (324893) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708335)

I think considering the circunstances, every nation on Earth should sign a waiver allowing a nuclear weapon to be sent to a far-away asteroid for testing purposes.

After all, the reason treaties banning nuclear space weapons were signed was to protect mankind, and in this particular case it so happens that protecting mankind is the reason to send a test nuclear weapon to an asteroid.

Small fragments better than one large (2)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708171)

Frankly, many smaller fragments would probably be better than a large asteroid. I would like to hear the reasons why a large, thermonuclear device would not be a good idea.

As an example, take two identical cars. On one car, drop a bowling bowl on the roof. On the other car, drop pebble with the combined weight of the bowling bowl. Now compare the damage.

Besides, more material would burn up in the atmosphere if there was a hail of smaller rocks rather than one large rock. The surface would be greater - as simple as that.

Any physics geeks care to give me some numbers?

Re:Small fragments better than one large (2, Informative)

siphoncolder (533004) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708336)

Relatively, your example works.

Relatively, 1000 1-meter rocks are better than 1 1-km rock.

Actually, however, a single 1-meter rock getting through will still do a boatload of damage - it won't be a planet killer, but the damage will still be more than say, those 2 aircraft that flew into the world trade center towers.

In order for any explosive asteroid deterrant system to work well, you still have to make sure that the asteroid will be sufficiently vaporized to be eaten up in the atmosphere. You have to guarantee that the asteroid will become something more like sand. A nuclear blast will probably not do that (especially not in space, where there's no atmosphere to propagate the blast).

That's why so many systems rely more on controllable methods like redirection - we can guarantee those better.

Re:Small fragments better than one large (2)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708339)

as mentioned in one response: if that rubble that would come from it after breaking it up wasn't big pieces enough to bomb us to stone age, it wouldnt be a significant threat in the first place..

maybe with right sized object tho..

i'm no physics geek though.

Whgat's that old maxim.... (1)

Spittoon (64395) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708173)

1. Well-made
2. Cheap
3. Fast

Pick two. In this case we'd choose options 1 and 3. Or like the exchange in the preview for soon-to-bomb "The Core" (paraphrased):

guy #1: "How much would it cost to finish your boring machine in three months?"
guy #2: "50 billion dollars."
guy #1: "Will you take a check?"

Earth has made it this long w/out our intervention (3, Interesting)

krinsh (94283) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708174)

I wonder if this is something we should really be focusing time and energy on. You know, there are, at a minimum, eight other planets in this solar system that we should investigate - maybe not colonize, maybe not exploit for mineral or chemical (gas or liquid) resources; but we should look at with humans - not robots. I think we'd gain considerable real insight if we looked beyond our terrestrial sphere.

But then again; don't we have a few major telescopes in orbit; and thousands more both professional and personal (like mine) on the surface? Shouldn't we be able to note anything on an obvious trajectory here and consider our options at that point? Maybe not; I have no experience in that sort of 'ballistics' thinking and perhaps there are far too many objects in our sky to track any that might cause us serious damage.

Re:Earth has made it this long w/out our intervent (5, Insightful)

aiabx (36440) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708241)

The earth made it this long, but the dinosaurs didn't, and neither did the trilobites, or the megatheria, or the wixwaxia... Extinctions happen, and I'd like to prevent ours if at all possible.

Bear with me (3, Insightful)

ekrout (139379) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708177)

I may be alone on this one, but please hear me out.

There are many things that could put an end to life here on Earth as we know it. Some of these would end life for all 6 billion of us, or for just one or two. Life is precious; never take anything for granted, as the next moment of trechery may suddenly take it away.

I urge you all to love, listen, smile, ask questions, donate time, donate money, learn new things, and teach others new and fascinating pieces of knowledge through the beauty of education. If you do these things, you will experience great happiness and will come to realize that preventing "killer asteroids" should be at the very bottom of your To Do list.


bite me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708321)

bite me you tree-humping hippy freak.

Re:Bear with me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708343)

On that note, bear in mind that sometimes you need to act and act alone against treachery. We all cherish Peace, but to truly save our lives we may need to bomb, invade and kill those who are beligerent not just against us but their own people. If we don't, then we may one day find ourselves making a choice between jumping out of a 110 story building or burning to death.

Uh - what about the southern hemisphere? (5, Interesting)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708179)

Frankly, what really worries me - and what the article really fails to address - is the fact that while there are a few programs going on in the Northern Hemisphere, there's not much happening with our buddies in the Southern Hemisphere - that means half the sky isn't really being covered well.

On another note, who wants to bet that in the event we had, say, 50 years warning, the politicians would be utterly unwilling to do anything about it for at least 48 years?

Re:Uh - what about the southern hemisphere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708252)

Don't discount Australian contributions.

Re:Uh - what about the southern hemisphere? (2)

TGK (262438) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708348)

Well, that depends. I'd say the time period for doing squat about the Large Killer Rock (tm) would be between 6 and 2 years to impact... depending on election cycles of course.

Killer rocks. (2, Insightful)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708187)

Although I'm concerned and think we should prepare for this eventuality. It doesn't bother me as much because of the environmental damage already done by Humanity on the Earth. I have dark feeling our greed and putting it off to the last minute will put us in a category below Dinosaurs cause we are intelligent and nearly able to do something about it, yet we'd rather spend our time on other issues and not worry about the big one till it's starting to heat up in the upper atmosphere.

In thinking of this Osama is a small potatos compared to a 1 mile wide rock wiping out most if not all of Humanity. The world will end and the bug that poses for the latest IE vunerability topic image will then run /. when we're all gone. :)

NASA needs a real budget (1)

craenor (623901) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708194)

Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this way, but wth do you expect them to accomplish when they have crap for funds?

Dr. David Morrison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708195)

I recently listened to Dr. Morrison speak on this topic at an astronomy symposium. One of remarks on the search for killer asteroids drew some comparison to current events:

We should be 'vigilant' in our search for potential Earth-crossing asteroids, but there's no immediate need to take unilateral, pre-emptive against potential asteroid threats.

near miss, near hit (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708201)

How then would you say that it missed, but it was very near, as opposed to far away?

I'd consider that a near-miss. Near hit sounds stupid. Why not say it nearly hit?

Re:near miss, near hit (1)

kc8apf (89233) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708255)

But one must remember that nearly implies that the action afterwards did not happen, just almost did. So a near miss would be a hit. And a near hit would mean it missed.

I love this hysteria (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708204)

The fact is, the chances of being hit aren't that great. About 1 in 460 000 in the time we expect humanity to be on this planet. You're a lot more likely to be killed by a rocket crashing into you than you are to be killed by a meteor.

The other thing is that this money would be better spent dealing with a collision.

Ned Flanders (1)

ellayguy (593597) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708206)

I call Ned's basement!

Let's talk about something useful. (5, Insightful)

Uhh_Duh (125375) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708209)

Haven't we run this topic completely into the ground? I vote we deal with this when it's actually an issue. This discussion reminds me of a bunch of 13 year old geeks sitting around the RPG table talking about what they're going to do if giant robots with photon torpedos take over the planet.

I don't mean to appear as flame bait.. but.. this topic has been discussed here [] , here [] , here [] , here [] , here [] , here [] , here, here [] , here [] , and here [] .

There are some useful scenarios we could be discussing. This is approximately none of them.

Please don't stop them (2)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708212)

A good sized asteroid impact is my only hope!

Yet Again.... (2, Insightful)

CodePyro (627236) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708213)

We need to stop wrrying about every possible thing that can destroy this planet, sure we're advance enough to possibly change the out come of certain castrophic events but instead of changing the course of these events, our money will be better spent on trying to find new ways to help our current situations such as global hunger or AIDS or even find ways to reach beyond earth and begin colonising other long will the earth sustain us the speed that we're using our resources and damaging the planet mix that with the population growth and u have a castraphic even that is much more likely to happen then an asteroid collision...

Solution (2, Funny)

bayankaran (446245) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708215)

Send one of those Hollywood heroes who has saved the planet a million times from asteroids, volcanoes, typhoons, bad people, communists etc.

You can tie couple of them to a powerful rocket, point the rocket to the asteroid and press the button.

Distributed Computing Asteroid Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708218)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, we need a distributed computing asteroid project. Seti@home is for finding aliens which may or may not exist, but asteroids do exist, and some may present a threat to our planet in the future.

With all the scientists and programmers in the world, why hasn't someone developed such a program yet?

I think it would be a good idea to start making one now, before it's too late.

Don't you?

Solar Sail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708230)

As long as the rays of the sun are travelling in an acceptable direction for a course correction, a solar sail could easily (assuming the rock isn't rotating, and even with some correction if it is) pull the rock in a new direction over time... A harness attached at multiple points with a VERY large swivel could also be a mount point if the rock was tumbling through space...

Newsflash! (2, Funny)

Illuminati Member (541846) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708254)

Associated Press: Paris, France - It has just been announced today in the capital of France: Upon learning that if any asteroids are on their way to collide with the earth in under ten years, it would cause complete genocide without the ability to do anything about it, France has unconditionally surrendered to all extraterrestrial foreign bodies. The French, so proud of their culture that they will surrender to maintain it, regardless of rule, support the decision of their government.
Frenchman Jaques Fernoi states, "As long as I can make my cheese and drink wine freely, I welcome our new leaders in this asteroid."
More updates as they present.

Fragments still better (1)

huckamania (533052) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708256)

Depending on the size and speed, I would think fragments are infinately better than one big lump. If we can move it, than that would be the way to go. If not, blow the sucker up.

Shumaker-Levy should have been a suitable demonstration of this.

It's VERY important we progress the research (1)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708257)

How to avoid getting hit should be high on our list. We read of other happenings in history. Russia for example had a forest leveled as a result of a comet or asteriod in the early 20th century. It's happened once recently on a large scale. Fortunately it was away from human population. Next time we might not be so lucky.

As mentioned we recently experienced several near hits. The article mentions our odds are extremely low in getting hit. However our collision detection budget for NASA doesn't cut it. Last I heard we're tracking less than 10% of the sky. Think about it. We had another article on slashdot several weeks ago talking about another near hit we discovered 3 days after the fact.

There could be many more out there and we're just not seeing it.

M2P2 powered by nuclear reactors (1)

MS_leases_my_soul (562160) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708263)

I would think that Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2) would be the way to go. Setup some nuclear reactors on the surface of the thing, create a plasma bubble as large as you can and let the Sun push that sucker. If you can get to it outside of Mars, it would only take a slight angle adjestment to make it miss.

Of course, the other option is to send a manned mission to an near-earth asteroid and strap several ion engines on that puppy. Use the ion engines to slowly (over years) get it into a nice orbit outside lunar orbit. If we identify a killer asteroid, play a little cosmic billards - slam the ion engined asteroid into the killer one.

This is gold, baby. Where is NASA with the grant money? I knew I should have been a rocket scientist. Stupid M$ and the lure of their money for developers. Grrrr...

Surprised that 1950 DA isn't mentioned... (2, Insightful)

mh_cryptonomicon (608940) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708268)

30 years? 1950 DA is supposed to swing by real close (or hit) in about 878 years, and I'm seriously frightened that we won't be able to get consensus in time to blast (or nudge) it out of it's orbit.

Go to roid/ [] for more info.

Does anyone actually know what a nuke would do? (5, Interesting)

Iainuki (537456) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708269)

Nuclear weapons in space act very differently from those in air. To my knowledge, there's never been a detonation in "deep" space: I believe there was a test in low Earth orbit once, but immediately after that the Outer Space treaty was signed (which banned nuclear detonations in space, among other things). The real difference is that a nuclear weapon in space discharges most of its energy in the form of radiation; because there's no air, there's no shockwave. While the radiation would wreak all sorts of havoc with electronic equipment, e.g. satellites, would it cause an asteroid to break up? I'm skeptical. Does anyone know if someone has thought about this question?

Nuclear war seems more likely (2)

Microsift (223381) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708274)

So, the planet's been around for billions of years, and it has been hit by meteors before. Question. Why are we worried about this now? Nuclear weapons have been around for just under 60 years. The Nuclear club continues to grow, and include instable countries.

Lets deal with the threat that is more probable, and manageable, and leave worrying about asteroids to Chicken Little

I am relieved (5, Funny)

doru (541245) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708275)

By the title, I thought this was an "Ask Slashdot" post...

Clearly this is a worry (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708277)

THe issues are quite remarkable here. While the probabilities may be small, this is the only event that could result in the extinction of our species.

Investment in our own future is more important than any other concern.

matter of time (2)

techstar25 (556988) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708283)

"It's just a matter of time, though, before we detect one with our name on it"
Yeah, we'll probably get one within the next 100 million years. That should be enough time to prepare, don't you think?

When you want to be sure... (1)

Ninja Master Gara (602359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708303)

... there's nothing like dozens of high yeild nuclear warheads.

All of these theories are very interesting, but scientists must still acknowledge the power and effectiveness of the nuclear weapon. Faced with being wiped out entirely, vs using ANYTHING, I think it's fair to say any credible asteroid threat to earth would be met with the full resources of the planet, and as such, all but most rediculously large asteroids could be disentegrated. These might be so large as to alter orbits in the solar system anyway, no way to stop that.

Some of these methods require a precision that might be difficult to test, harder to master, and just too darn risky to try when there's an ateroid hurtling towards you. Unless it was detected by the Planetary Base on Pluto with enough time for trial and error.

What I think it comes down to is the real threat of the issue. If we were hit by small and medium impacts regularly you can bet there would be an advanced meteor stopping system in place. While I agree that the threat is obvious, how BIG a threat it is is still argued, and personally I'd feel safer with a more impact tolerant car than an orbital asteroid deflecting heat ray.

Don't we get hit all the time??? (1)

DrainBead (619840) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708305)

I would have expected earth to be peppered with "asteriods" all the time... it's just that they are small - not Bruce Willis sized... and when they don't land we call them meteors.

Help us!! (2)

McFly69 (603543) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708309)

"Holy fscking crap Batman, did they just say Killer Asteroids on Slashdot?"
"Yes they did Robin, you know what that means."
"Links to goatse! Oh the horror!"
"Yes, and we haven't much time to lose. To the Batmobile!"

Anusol (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708311)

How about Anusol? :-)

Detection (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708318)

It's just a matter of time, though, before we detect one with our name on it.
Well, if impact counts as detection, then yeah.

right (2)

cybercuzco (100904) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708322)

Chances are this [] is how we would first detect an asteroid withh our name on it.

All we need is Bush to fund it (1)

zaqattack911 (532040) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708325)

Just tell him there is oil in the asteroid, or Osama lives there or something :)

OK OK that was a cheapshot.. but if you can't joke about current issues, then poo on you:)

"near misses" (2)

dj28 (212815) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708330)

Doesn't the term 'near miss' infact mean we were actually hit?

Useless to worry about the possibility..... (3, Insightful)

bkontr (624500) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708332)

of collisions, because eventually it WILL happen. If it happens, it happens. I probably have a beter chance of winning the lottery than people have of averting or deflecting such such a collision with asteroids. I know this may sound a little whacked, but the best way to improve mankinds chances of survival is interplanetary colonization. That way if earth gets hit you still have your colony on mars.

Air Filled Apparatus/Vehicle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4708345)

The article comes close to the thinking I've had for some time on how to best deal with an asteriod.

I think more appropriately is an enormous air-filled or foam-filled apparatus or vehicle with a rubber like exterior (non-piercing) which would merely bump the asteriod. Of course, it would require a powerful engine to maneuver or steer the asteriod out of harms way.

No links... just a thought.

I think I need more caffeine (1, Offtopic)

ActiveSX (301342) | more than 11 years ago | (#4708351)

Did anybody else here read the headline as "Stopping Killer Steroids"? I can't wait to get home and sleep :P
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