Thinking Ahead

Monday, September 26, 2005
Earth has been struck many times by meteorites in its long history, most recently at Tungsuka in 1908. The destructive power of that event is thought to have been between 10 and 40 megatons of TNT. Sooner or later, another wandering piece of rock will cross paths with Earth, and the potential exists for all human life to be snuffed out.

So it's reassuring to learn that somebody is making plans to deflect such objects if they are a potential threat. (Although it's a little disappointg to me that the Europeans are taking the lead in this.) The basic idea is to ram the wayward rock with a spacecraft, and so alter it's trajectory.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

We do have to be a bit careful here with our explosions. Blowing it up can change 1 problem into a million problems. Deflecting it may just kick the can down the road a year--or may not work at all.x

terrye said...

I was watching the Science channel and there was an interesting story on this issue.

According to that show the Americans are also looking into this and they too are thinking of knocking the rock off course.

Apparently blowing it up could be more dangerous because the asteroid would shatter.

According to that program one is on the way.

truepeers said...

Talking about disasters, has anyone got a good idea of how likely it is that the present bird flu that is getting so much press will be the strain that morphs into a pandemic?

flenser said...

Much more detail here.

The idea is for a simple collision, one billiard ball hitting another and changing its direction. Foom what I can tell the NEO is not expected to shatter, although this is very much a R&D mission. If a hypothetical astroid were to shatter into smaller fragments, that might be a good thing. Below a certain size the fragments would burn up in the atmosphere.

Nothing like contemplating the end of the world to put Cindy SHeehan in perspective!

Jamie Irons said...


Nothing like contemplating the end of the world to put Cindy Sheehan in perspective!

It (the end of the world) would still be Bush's fault, so Mother Sheehan would not have to go out of business!

Jamie Irons

Knucklehead said...


Let's not forget the impending Mega-Tsunami when La Palma (Canary Islands) or some other island calves. That one is going to wipe out the US east coast for many miles inland. Beachfront property in Harrisburg, PA.

And ignore the Yosemite Super Volcano at your own peril. That one will obliterate North America.

We're all doomed - sooner or later. At least the Euros and Canucks will perish with a self-satisfied grin knowing the hated 'muricans went first.

BTW, did anyone notice the scanty news reports of an earthquake in ME? I wasn't aware that earthquakes up there are not incredibly rare events (at least not in geologic terms).
Just as an example, see NH's record.

There is also a fault running somewhere near or under Manhattan which occasionally produces small (3ish) quakes.

The fact of the matter is that natural disasters are inevitable. The earth is no more a steady-state machine than is the universe as a whole. They approximate steady state wrt human attention spans, but they don't even come close by any other observational horizon. Large Chunks of Stuff (LCOS) continue to fly around space. Some are, or become, NOEs. Tectonic plates continue to shift grinding contents and melting vast amounts of rock. Ocean and atmospheric currents come and go. Ice builds and melts.

Heck, the earth even periodically shifts her axis of rotation and goes wobbly.

The Killer Rabbit ain't nuttin' and the Holy Hand Grenade ain't gonna save us. I don't know why we even bother. Might as well lie down now and let the jihadis have us.

flenser said...


The La Palma business is an urban legend. I'll try to track down the debunking of it. Yes, I know many "reputable" places have run with the story.

Knucklehead said...


Please send along the debunking info if you find it. I should tell you, however, that I'll be sorely disappointed.

I love the whole idea of a mega-tsunami!

It strikes me as so radically cool that even when I saw the Discovery (or whatever) show about it and they showed the "experiment" I gladly decided I would ignore the fact that the fish-tank thingie was, well, a narrow water tank with big, high sides on it rather than, you know, a gimongo ocean without big, high sides on it. (Which, perhaps, explains why it could happen in an Alaskan bay).

But go ahead, trash one of my cherished disaster scenarios if you feel you must.

Knucklehead said...

BTW, Flens, are you next going to tell me that the entire Yosemite National Park isn't going to erupt into a some cataclysmic lava ball that will make Krakatoa look like my daughter's 2nd grade baking soda volcano project?

Surely there is an apocalypse somewhere that a man can rely upon.

flenser said...


Here you go.

Cheer up though. There are still plenty of other things to die from.

chuck said...


Don't you mean the Jellystone, er, Yellowstone super volcanoe? And what about the earthquake that raised the North West coastline several meters? Even as we post, measurements show that southern Victoria Island is slowly moving away from the continent.

It's all the best argument for space travel I can think of. And there is only a billion years or so before the sun begins to swell...

flenser said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Knucklehead said...


Yosemite, Yellowstone, whatever. Between Yogi Bear and Yosemite Sam we'll get it straightened out. Victoria Island has slipped the leash and there are earthquakes in Maine to join the Gulf hurricanes. Gaia is striking with lefts and rights and working the the beltline. Can a giant, bursting chest wound be far behind?

Knucklehead said...

I don't think it's wise to talk about apocalyptic stuff and leave the comment counter on 13.