More good science in HuffPo

By Phil Plait | February 9, 2010 2:14 pm

netherlands_meteorSteve Newton of the wonderful National Center for Science Education has written another article promoting science in the Huffington Post, this time about asteroid impacts. And special bonus; he gives your loyal host here a shout-out.

Specifically, he mentions that I have said that the Hale-Bopp comet was larger than what wiped out the dinosaurs. It’s true: the object that created the Chicxulub crater off the coast of the Yucatan was something like 10 km (6 miles) across. The nucleus of Hale-Bopp was roughly 60 km (36 miles) across, meaning it would have had something like 100 times the mass of the dinosaur killer. I have vivid nightmares about asteroid impacts, and one 100x the size of the K-T extinction event is beyond scary.

Right now we lack the capability to stop such a comet impact; Hale-Bopp was discovered less than two years before it sailed by the Earth. It missed us by a huge margin, but had it been aimed at us things would look a lot different around here right now. We may be years away from being able to stop such an event, but as I’ve written before, people like Rusty Schweikart and Dan Durda are seriously considering what we can do, and have even started the B612 Foundation to look into it.

If we’re serious about such threats, were just a few years away from being able to prevent them. Given that statistically big impacts are very rare and only happen every few hundred thousand years or so, I’m rather liking where we stand right now. But that’s if we actually do something now. We need to start working on mitigation techniques, and rockets to carry them. I’m glad the B612 Foundation is working on it.

Related articles: A Pro-science article on HuffPo?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies!

Comments (59)

  1. I think the B612 initiative is wonderful (proactive, constructive, empowering, etc.), but I do question the name; is it just me, or does anyone else end up imagining against their will poor little P’tit Prince all charred and in smithereens (at worst) or deflected away into the cold, cold darkness (at best)?

    Yours,
    CBB

  2. Dean

    What would a 60 km diameter comet do if it impacted the Earth? Inquiring minds want to know. How big a crater? How much of an earthquake?

  3. John

    I live about a mile from what was the Heaven’s Gate compound. What a nightmare that was. Hale-Bopp will always be intertwined with that particularly nasty bit of woo.

  4. Brandon

    Wait, you’re saying that Hale-Bopp will destroy Utah no March 1, 2010??!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!! OMG WUT?????

  5. wasn’t the chicxulub crater about 110 miles across… dang my copy of ‘Death from the Skies’ is out in my car. (thanx wikipedia!)

    so even if it were _only_ 10 times larger?.. it would not be a good day.

  6. JohnDoe

    The Impact of a 60km diameter comet or density 1g/cm^3 at the typical velocitiy of comets would cause a Richter Scale Magnitude 9.5 earth quake and the air blast will colapse buildings ar over 1500km away from the impact and shatter windows even 3000km away. Tyi it yourself with different distances, velocities, densities etc:

    http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects

  7. JohnDoe

    Actually, I’ve got the density wrong. With the proper 1000kg/m^3, the impact would shatter windows all over the planet and destroy buildings on more than 3/4 of the planet.

    Richter Scale Magnitude: 11.7 (This is greater than any earthquake in recorded history)

  8. T_U_T

    Right now we lack the capability to stop such a comet impact;

    I think 10 gigaton TNT would do it.

  9. I suppose I’m not the first person to wonder about the risks of development saving-us-from-asteroids technology. It occurs to me that, given the perversity of human nature, if we develop the technology to divert Earth-impacting asteroids away from Earth, we’re simultaneously developing the technology to do the reverse. Once the technology to manipulate near-Earth asteroids’ orbits exists, do we then need to worry about it falling into the wrong hands?

    When computing the benefits of developing this technology, I think it might be worthwhile to try to account not only for the potential benefit (should an Earth-impacting object be detected in time to be diverted), but also for the potential risk (should a non-impacting object be successfully diverted into an Earth-impacting orbit by a bad actor).

  10. John Powell

    The B612 website need more photos and paintings of asteroids, comets, and impacts!

  11. Lawrence

    Isn’t there a great impact site out there that will let you determine the angle, size & speed of the impact – then show you the results (most of the bigger or faster ones shattering the planet).

  12. Can I just say how much I love The Little Prince reference in the name? Best children’s (and adult) book ever. If I ever find out I’m having kids, it would be among the first things I get for him or her.

  13. justcorbly

    Sometimes I wonder how people would react if tomorrow a 6km asteroid or comet was discovered on target for Earth. Would we see a global effort to deal with the thing? Or, would we be hampered and hamstrung by the same kind of stupidity that rants against global warming and vaccines? Would an American effort to fund NASA to confront the problem be thwarted by a band of crazies ranting about God’s will?

  14. Comstock

    I’m sure they publish something sensible from time to time, but on the same day that you praise HuffPo, they publish this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/anything-beyond-the-unive_b_455260.html

    Check this out:
    “We think our destiny is to journey to Mars and beyond. Yet as we build our spacecraft, we’re about to be broadsided — from a different direction — by the most explosive event in history. Life will soon evolve beyond the bounds of three dimensions.”

    No, that’s not a teaser for a 1950s sci-fi flick. It is the introduction to an article written by a “scientist” on HuffPo.

  15. StevoR

    Minor grammar nit-pick :

    If we’re serious about such threats, were just a few years away from being able to prevent them.

    Do you mean “we are” / “we’re” instead of “were” there, BA?

    @13 justcorbly : Probably. :roll:

    I agree with you when it comes to stupidity about the anti-vaxxers.

    On the AGW not so much – there I think the “stupidity” & ranting is on the Alarmist side rather than the Skeptical one.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (Sagan’s first law?) & all that argues strongly against AGW. We know our planet has warmed & cooled repeatedly in natural cycles & that some decades will be warmer and others cooler than most. To show that this particular climate cycle is somehow different is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence which has NOT in my view been forthcoming.

    So I don’t think our planet is warming rapidly or that the recent late 20th Century warming was in anyway exceptional climatically to say the even warmer and nicer Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warming, the Minoan Warming, the Holocene Climatic Optimum, etc ..

    *If* our globe has warmed slightly then I don’t think human Co2 emissions would be the sole or main or even a significant contributing cause. *If* that were the case, then I would expect much stronger and more convincing evidence than has been hitherto presented by the Alarmist side – note that during the 1970’s when industrial emissions incl. human C02 were rising, scientists wewre worried about an ice age given a few cold decades & notice too that Co2 rises seem to *follow* rather than *precede* warming events. (Ie. the warming causes the Co2 level to rise rather than vice-versa.) There doesn’t seem to be a strong corelation looking at the graphs I’ve seen either.

    Moreover, *if* evidence for AGW was really there then the IPCC and CRU wouldn’t have had to fake or exxagerate it or manipulate the data to “hide the decline” as Climategate has proven they did.

    Plus a warmer earth has always been better for us and life generally than a colder one anyhow. I suggest you read Professor Ian Plimer’s book Heaven &Earth book and check out other sources from the AGW skeptic side befroe going with the media & a few extreme green lobby groups and their pet “scientists” on this issue.

    Not meaning to get us side-tracked or threadjacked or anything but just thought that all needed to be said.

    As for how people would react, that superbowl beer ad where its “party like the end of the world” is probably one likely response esp. if there’s nothing we can do! Might as well go out happy! ;-)

    The B612 groups osinfd pretty good & Iwish ‘em the best – even if I’d rather the KT Impact Memorial And Prevention Society (KTIMAPS) as a name! ;-)

  16. Whatever happened to that spaceship that was in the tail of Hale-Bopp?

  17. StevoR

    D’oh. Out of editing time – make that :

    “That B612 group sounds pretty good & I wish ’em the best, even if I’d rather the KT Impact Memorial And Prevention Society (KTIMAPS) as a name! ;-)

  18. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 15. Lugosi Says:

    “Whatever happened to that spaceship that was in the tail of Hale-Bopp?”

    It landed on the comet’s nucleus only to get blown off again by a cometary “geyser!” It was then hit by too much cometary debris, broke apart & formed part of the comet’s tail for a while before the fragments dispersed into space as meteoroids. ;-)

    Because, of course, when you have a super-advanced spaceship capable of flying light-years you have to conceal it in the tail of a comet. ;-)

    Because no-one ever looks at those! :roll:

    – StevoR aka PlbfPL

  19. Greg in Austin

    You wrote a…

    Oh wait… You mentioned a comet hitting the earth but say anything about a particular book? That’s weird.

    Please go back to whatever you were doing.

    8)

  20. justcorbly

    #14 — SteveoR:

    We know CO2 and other compounds have a greenhouse effect. We know humans are releasing CO2 and those other compounds into the atmosphere. Regardless of any natural climatic changes, it seems prudent to avoid actions that trade eventual disaster for profit.

  21. Nick Roy

    There are far more likely threats to worry about than asteroid/comet impacts:

    http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html

  22. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Memorable quotes from the movie Quatermass and the Pit:

    Professor Bernard Quatermass: “The will to survive is an odd phenomenon. Roney, if we found out our own world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do about it?”

    Dr. Mathew Roney: “Nothing, just go on squabbling like usual.”

    Professor Bernard Quatermass: “Yes, but if we weren’t men?”


  23. Keith

    Good science in the Huffington(s of spray paint) Post? Call Ripley’s!!

  24. Markle

    @John Doe 1000kg/m^3 = 1g/cm^3 Really. 100^3 = 10^6, 10^6/1000 = 1000

    What I liked was placing myself in New Zealand 10000km away(at 1000km:

    The major seismic shaking will arrive at approximately 2000 seconds.
    Richter Scale Magnitude: 11.7 (This is greater than any earthquake in recorded history)

    The air blast will arrive at approximately 30300 seconds.
    Peak Overpressure: 67800 Pa = 0.678 bars = 9.62 psi
    Max wind velocity: 127 m/s = 284 mph
    Sound Intensity: 97 dB (May cause ear pain)

    So what you can expect is to get knocked off your feet in the largest earthquake you’ll ever experience. Then just as you’re finally digging yourself out of the rubble, 8 hours later, along comes the shockwave with wind force like an F5 tornado. I’ll bet it kicks up some serious surf too. Not a good day.

    I opted for New Zealand, because with California being only 1000km away, I’d first be in the fireball and cooked about a minute and a half before the earthquake hit. One saving grace, though. By the time the 101 bar overpressure with its 5700mph, Mach7.7 breeze sauntered along, I’d been buried under 63 meters of rock for nearly 3/4 hour.

  25. Charles Boyer

    If something like Hale-Bopp were about to impact the Earth, you better hope the Russians do something about it.

    We would have one political party denying that the comet existed, then that it would miss the Earth and that scientists were only trying to frighten everyone.

    The other political party would be incapable of assembling enough votes to ever fund a project to do something about it. Half of that party would decry spending money on stopping the comet, demanding instead to create social programs for the underprivileged citizens who — in their words — would be disproportionately affected by a the comet’s impact. The other half would be working diligently to assure that any comet interceptor would be constructed solely inside their district.

    Meanwhile, a lone senator would place a blanket hold on funding unless his completely unrelated project were fully funded as part of the comet interceptor plan.

    When such a plan was finally concocted and agreed upon, NASA would undertake building a craft to do the job, and it would naturally be late, underpowered and 10X its original budget.

    A few months before impact, a new administration would take over in DC, scuttle the first plan, draw up a grandiose new one with no money or means in place to accomplish it, and then forget about the problem as soon as the press conference was over.

    In other words, people, we are all doomed. We can’t even help our own after a hurricane, and that’s not just in New Orleans. Ask south Floridians about life post-Andrew. And you think we could possibly do a thing about stopping a comet?

  26. G Williams

    “Right now we lack the capability to stop such a comet impact”

    If only the PTB treaty hadn’t killed Project Orion, I imagine an 8MT interstellar cruiser would easily handle most NEOs with delta-v to spare.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_%28nuclear_propulsion%29

  27. Miko

    There’s no good science in that article since there’s no science in that article, period. Saying “we should fund X” is not science, no matter what X is.

    And in this particular case, we shouldn’t fund this. Based on historical data, one can get a pretty good idea of exactly how unlikely something like this is. Even if we’re talking about the possibility of an extinction-level event, it’s so unbelievably unlikely and our potential countermeasures are so unbelievable ineffective that I wouldn’t waste a nickel on it.

    #20: “Regardless of any natural climatic changes, it seems prudent to avoid actions that trade eventual disaster for profit.”

    No. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, everything we could possibly do leads eventually to disaster, so saying something “eventually” leads to disaster is by itself meaningless. It seems prudent to not be hysterical and instead weigh the potential risks and rewards in a logical and responsible manner. If you don’t see why this is the case, substitute the phrase “people not starving to death” for “profit” in the quoted sentence.

    Of course, in the case of preventing catastrophic climate change, your conclusion is absolutely correct. It’s only your argument that’s wrong.

  28. Captain Noble

    Couldn’t we just send a team of drillers up with a nuke? I mean, I thought I saw that in a movie or something once and it seemed like a pretty good idea.

  29. Charles, #26

    You are two pessimistic. When it was demonstrated beyond doubt that Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed in 45 minutes the USA, assisted by us, moved with commendable speed.

    Provided large bangs are involved the USA government seems capable of moving very rapidly. I would assume that in their childhood most of the military were forbidden to have fireworks.

    I suspect that when Phil comes up with way of avoiding comet impact that does not involve atomic bombs and spaceships that will not get funded

  30. T_U_T

    No. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, everything we could possibly do leads eventually to disaster, so saying something “eventually” leads to disaster is by itself meaningless.

    Basically no. No amount of sunlight use will increase the rate at which the sun burns its hydrogen, so, solar energy does not hasten the swelling of the sun to a red giant, nor the thermal death.

  31. CR

    I’m just another reader who occasionally posts to this blog, with no authority here, but I have a small request: enough with the global warming threadjacks, please! I’m not trying to stifle anyone’s free speech, but there are many other threads that deal specifically with that hot topic. (Pun intended, with apologies! ;) ) Seriously, though, could we please not bring GW up on so many threads? Just because some threads are about disasters, GW doesn’t ALWAYS have to be brought into them, and putting that topic in its appropriate threads would be nice.

  32. eddie

    Last graf, need an apostrophe in the second “we’re.”

    Sorry, Phil, editors don’t seem to come with an off button.

    Yeah, I’m nitpicky and I have no life, but I read your blog every day, so I get a pass.

    Right?

  33. #8 T_U_T:
    Wrong! No amount of nuclear exposives would stop an impending comet impact! If we used enough explosives to shatter the comet, most of the resultant fragments would still be in the same orbit, and still on course to hit the Earth. So instead of a single huge impact, we would have thousands of smaller ones scattered around the world, and the net effect would be even worse.
    The answer is in deflection, not destruction.

    #26 Miko:
    How exactly do you make out that historical data shows that an impact is incredibly unlikely??? Have you actually heard of Tunguska???!!!
    That impact happened, by pure luck, in one of the least populated land regions on Earth. Had the timing been different by just a few hours, it could have hit Moscow, St. Petersburg or London.
    What’s less well known is that Tunguska was far from unique, even within recorded history. There were in fact two more impacts of almost comparable size, in the 20th Century – one in Brazil in 1933, and Sikhote-Alin in Russia in 1947. ( I’m the proud owner of a piece of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite. )
    Then in 1972, we had an extremely near miss. An object of something like 100 metres size ( IIRC – someone please correct me if I’m wrong about the size ) entered the atmosphere on a grazing trajectory, almost tangential to the Earth’s surface, and exited back into space without hitting the ground. It missed by just a few tens of kilometres! And that happened not in some remote wilderness, but over the middle of the United States.
    Need I say more?

  34. Gamercow

    Could we set up an early detection system by putting a telescope of some sorts at one of Earth’s lagrange points, possibly L3? I know one of the issues with detecting comets and other NEOs is that if something is coming directly at you, it is more difficult to detect, because there is no relative movement to the rest of the sky.

  35. Call me an optimus but during the last ice age human managed to survive with just fire, mammoth coats, and some sharpened sticks. So In the even of a big asteroid impact in modern times, i’m sure their would be at least a percentage(albeit small) of humans that manage to cling to life and rebuild civilization afterwards.

  36. Jon Hanford

    #33 Neil Haggath:

    Your 1972 fireball reference was to The Great Daylight Fireball of 1972: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090302.html

    I remember seeing a sequence of stills from the 8mm movie on the cover of Sky & Telescope that year. APOD says it was truck-sized and may have left fragments from an air-burst if the trajectory was less tangential. Quite a number of people witnessed this daylight event in the western US. Pity for all those collectors out there…..this one got away. :)

  37. Charles Boyer

    @Neil Haggath: if these impacts are as common as you claim, and we are all still here, does that not imply that perhaps, just maybe we’re worrying a bit too much about it?

  38. T_U_T

    Wrong! No amount of nuclear exposives would stop an impending comet impact! If we used enough explosives to shatter the comet, most of the resultant fragments would still be in the same orbit, and still on course to hit the Earth.

    FAIL. They would be NOT on the same orbit. Mere dV of 0.1 m/s is enough to make a comet fragment miss if the explosion happens a year before impact. And most of the fragments would be kicked aside by far more than that. Sure, some would hit. But given the choice of being hit by one 60 km comet, and say 100 1km fragments, I am sure, any non-suicidal civilization would choose the latter alternative. Because it is survivable, while the former is not.

  39. Gary Ansorge

    35. Charles Boyer

    Just because we’ve been lucky, doesn’t mean that luck will continue to hold.

    Then there is this:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/02/100203-asteroid-collision-earth-global-cooling/

    ,,,which suggest asteroid impacts MAY occur more often than we thought.

    My take on moving an asteroid is to use solar powered mass drivers, using the asteroids mass as reaction material to alter its orbit. Of course, we have the problem of asteroid rotation to deal with. One possible solution is to bombard the asteroid with charged particles, maintaining an opposite charge on our interceptor. The electric field effect is on the order of 10^40 times as powerful as the gravitational interaction between asteroid and space craft. A plasma drive for the craft, with an ion projector to charge the asteroid(if we charged both the craft and the asteroid with the same charge) would allow the ship to “push” against the asteroid.

    There are probably as many viable solutions as we have commenters here. Selecting the best and implementing them is as much a political problem as a technical one.

    Gary 7

  40. Calli Arcale

    dave from manchester England Says:

    Provided large bangs are involved the USA government seems capable of moving very rapidly.

    As the old joke goes:

    The US Air Force: when it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight.

  41. smittypap

    Don’t get your hopes up about HuffPo. This article should more than make up for a couple of actual reality-based science articles.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/the-case-for-homeopathic_b_451187.html

  42. adrian

    In other news Huffpost posts another one of Dr Lanza’s loony “what the bleep” worthy advertisements for his own theory.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/anything-beyond-the-unive_b_455260.html?page=3&show_comment_id=39890473#comment_39890473

    All critical comments will be censored.

  43. Barry

    Wouldn’t a nuclear blast on one side of the asteroid deflect it enough to miss the earth. Assuming it was far enough out when it happened even a small initial change should make a big change over sufficient distance.

  44. Chris

    @Barry
    It depends. If the asteroid has the consistency of a pile of gravel, you could just end up ejecting mass from the opposite side of asteroid. Kinda like a Newton’s cradle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newtons_cradle

  45. G Williams

    T_U_T & Neil Haggath

    I suggest you both look into Project Orion, and specifically, Nuclear Pulse Propulsion.

    An Earth Shattering Kaboom, while satisfying, would not be nearly as effective as using a string of much smaller kabooms to simply push the offending object out of the way.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_%28nuclear_propulsion%29

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion

    @ 44. Chris:
    just make sure the debris isn’t ejected towards you, unless the momentum transfer is perfectly elastic (it isn’t) you’ll still impart some velocity to the rest of the pile.

  46. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    You have written a [vivid image] book?

    Seriously, there isn’t a serious problem with impacts. Life is the better from it. The Last Heavy Bombardment provided the volatiles that kick started life, likely even as the impactors happened.

    While the ‘dinosaur killer’ didn’t even kill the dinosaurs – as our current dinosaurs, the birds, attest to. (There’s twice as many bird species than the old and tired mammal branch.)

    In fact, while early extinctions drove diversity down every time, after The Big One (the Permian extinction) for some unknown reason diversity observably soars for every extinction event.

    And the latest data AFAIU is that this higher diversity is attained after merely ~ 1 My. Extinctions is commonly Earth’s “pick-me-up”.

    Not that I won’t support hazard mitigation of any form, due to morality of preventing human suffering if nothing else. This is only the second time we realistically can do anything about a major threat to humanity. (The ozone barrier extinction prevention being the first. And the AGW fast becoming a lost cause – observably higher temperatures aren’t as “sexy” threatening as impactor close calls, just ask the frog fast cooking in the pot.)

    Let’s do it!

  47. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM:

    … after The Big One (the Permian extinction) for some unknown reason diversity observably soars for every extinction event.

    Probably for the same reason that traffic soars whenever the local government provides more parking spaces!

  48. Gary Ansorge

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM:

    As far as the explosion in diversity is concerned, I would surmise the total amount of biomass on the planet remains pretty constant. It’s difficult for small critters to succeed in an environment populated by giants. Remove the giants and the small critters can go for the gusto and fill a myriad of ecological niches previously occupied by a single giant.

    Brontosaurus weighed in at around 60 tons. That’s a lot of biomass that could represent several dozen smaller species if the giant is removed.

    GAry 7

  49. locke

    We’re not LIKELY to have the capability of diverting a Hale-Bopp type comet in any of our lifetimes simply because the lead time is too small for comets from the Oort Cloud. Even the new large survey telescopes that may come on line in the next decade will have blind spots.
    Near Earth Asteroids, yes, we can get a better handle on them in a decade, along with short period comets but not Oort Cloud comets. B612 is mainly focused on NEAs though their gravity tug idea would work on short period comets also (but be harder to implement because the local environment is more hazardous). Gravity tugs won’t work on a Hale-Bopp both because the lead time is to short and the mass of the comet is much too large.

  50. Pi-needles

    29. dave from manchester England Says:

    … Provided large bangs are involved the USA government seems capable of moving very rapidly. I would assume that in their childhood most of the military were forbidden to have fireworks. …

    New solution to give us World Peace (the goal of beauty queens everywhere! ;-) ) :

    Legalise and promote the use of fireworks for all children everywhere!

    Can I have my Nobel peace prize now or should I wait until it actually works in practice? ;-)

    @ 35. Shadowslayer81 Says:

    Call me an optimus

    Prime? ;-)

    @ 44. Chris Says:

    @Barry It depends. If the asteroid has the consistency of a pile of gravel, you could just end up ejecting mass from the opposite side of asteroid. Kinda like a Newton’s cradle.

    Ah but *what* a Newton’s cradle! It wouldn’t fit on my desk that’s for sure. ;-)

    There are a number of ideas to deal with every contingency – almost – and the BA has discussed several asteroid impact avoidance schemes before & in his book.

    A loose gravel pile is probably the hardest sort to shift but *if* we have enough warning I’m sure we could arrange something I’m sure. Maybe a mass-driver “landing” on it and then ejecting a steady stream of its own rocks in the right direction to move it off-course would work best there?

    Or could we heat-fuse it together with high temperatures somehow then shift it as a whole? Or achieve the same with water ice or wrapping it up somehow?

    Or, final thought, could we use *another* asteroid against it and direct a non-threatening rock to collide with and shatter or knock off course a threatening one? ;-)

  51. Travis D

    In the screenplay I’m working on an Oort cloud comet is detected 14 months out. Over the next nine months plans are put in place to launch eight interceptors with 5 megaton payloads that are intended for a series of offset blasts. Each one needs to have the ability to change course to allow for the unpredictable deflection of the comet after each subsequent blast. I’m trying to cover this in as much detail as possible working out which governments and companies will be working on certain components, trial runs for the interceptors via moon gravity slingshot trajectories at inflated targets and so on. However, on launch day, a group of environmental terrorists, seeing the chance to rid Earth of the pestilence of Humanity, attack Canaveral, destroy the rockets and brutally execute all the NASA personal on hand to prevent a retry.

    After that the story focuses on how humanity deals with the remaining days before the 28 kilometer monster arrives and impacts in southern Chad.

    So comets are very much on my mind lately.

  52. bruce

    Fogettaboutit, We, You, don’t have a prayer. If we could stop an asteroid or Comet impact, no matter how long forwarned, we could solve the problems of World Hunger, Disease, and Peace. It is not likely in anyones lifetime. The powers that be, and/or “rulers” think like the rest of us, that we will simply survive. I have a greater likelihood of winning the lottery.

  53. Gary Ansorge

    51. Travis D

    Sounds cool! Have you read Jerry Pournelles, Lucifers Hammer? It addresses some of those post impact concerns.

    Gary 7

  54. CW

    “More good science in HuffPo” – I would’ve bet my house that this title was sarcasm. :/

    Good stuff though. Thanks for the heads-up, Phil.

  55. T_U_T

    @45 G Williams :
    Given 60 km comet at 70 km/h and two years warning time, we would consider ourselves lucky to fire one shot. Not tens of thousands small ones.

  56. G Williams

    @55 T_U_T

    That’s why you would use a single Orion spacecraft, rather than several single-device missiles.

    That, and it would be much cheaper (price per kg of payload on a large Orion craft is something like a few cents, compared to hundreds and thousands of dollars per kg on much smaller chemical rockets) and an Orion craft would have high enough delta-V to redirect multiple inbound objects with little lead time, or redirect a single object and then perform some other mission, such as exploring the outer system, or traveling to another star.

    The 8MT ‘super’ Orion could redirect multiple asteroids, travel to Alpha Centauri, and then turn around and come back (following the Momentum Limited 1G acceleration profile, it could do all that within a single human lifespan, less than 90 sidereal years)

  57. T_U_T

    That’s why you would use a single Orion spacecraft, rather than several single-device missiles.

    If we had one built and ready. To develop an orion type spacecraft would take years and more years to build it. Not something you could do in two years.

  58. G Williams

    the designs already exist, all that would be required would be to modify existing designs and build one.

    I imagine a relatively small, unmanned Orion craft could be built and launched in less than a year if we threw enough money at it.

    Of course, one might also take the position that, because we would be unlikely to be able to develop, construct, and launch an orion space-ship in less than the lead time from detecting an Earth Crossing Threat, all the more reason that we should begin the work immediately.

  59. Fleegman

    @StevoR

    You said:

    Moreover, *if* evidence for AGW was really there then the IPCC and CRU wouldn’t have had to fake or exxagerate it or manipulate the data to “hide the decline” as Climategate has proven they did.

    Any credibility you had got its coat and left at this point.

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