back to article Paintballs proposed as defense against ASTEROID ATTACK

An MIT graduate student has devised a plan to save the world from destruction by an inbound asteroid using a novel weapon: interplanetary paintballs. Sung Wook Paek of the Cambridge, Massachsetts, brainiac academy's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics – affectionately known as AeroAstro – entered his asteroid-deflecting …

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Pirate

But more importantly...

Can we control the distribution of paint in order to put an image, or logo, on the asteroid?

Then we can charge some company a modest* advertising fee for the project, which will make it entirely self-funded.

* Modest relative to most advertising projects, of course.

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Mushroom

He who pays the piper...

...chooses the target. Come 2029 the message on Apophis will read "This Earth-impactor proudly sponsored by Aum Shinrikyo"

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Joke

@Steve

Great idea!

There's even another huge advantage; if the pallet attack fails then we can sue that company for sending an asteroid to us. We already have all the visual evidence we'd need!

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Coat

Re: @Steve

"...if the pallet attack fails..."

You reckon it wooden work?

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EzJ

Re. "But more importantly..."

On the grounds that the asteroid may harbour life forms , I believe it should be afforded the same privacy as we expect. This would rule out any kind of tracking or targeted advertising. Whether or not this would have a positive impact on the end users remains to be seen ;P

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Re: Re. "But more importantly..."

> afforded the same privacy as we expect.

So they'd have to opt out before we got there to spray them? That'll work, I'm sure.

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Trollface

Re: Re. "But more importantly..."

No different to reading the EULA before opening the packaging it's in, and THAT obviously works.

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Alien

Interstellar tennis anyone?

We paint it white, send it on its way.

Eons later...

Another race paints it black, to send it on its way (away)

Eons later...

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Mushroom

A brilliant idea

Indeed very clever. But between paint balls and a gigantic nuclear warhead I prefer the latter. Right in the middle of the asteroid. Call me crazy, but I rather obliterate something then try to move it when it comes down to my ass being destroyed.

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Re: A brilliant idea

Don't you remember the lessons you learned playing Asteroids? If you blast a giant asteroid, you end up with a whole bunch of smaller, but still deadly ones. And we don't have a hyperspace button...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A brilliant idea

"...I rather obliterate something THEN try to move it when it comes down to my ass being destroyed.."

You obliterate it THEN try to move it? Sounds like overkill to me. However I commend your protective feelings towards your donkey. You must really love that animal.

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FAIL

Re: A brilliant idea

> Call me crazy

You must be the guy with the retarded redneck role (there is one in every Hollywood movie) who comes up with MANLY PLANS that every spectator knows will go haywire and probably kill at least 20% of the likeable protagonists, including the nice young female.

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Mushroom

Re: A brilliant idea

I might be wrong. But if you nuke it down to pieces, the overall surface exposed to sunlight increases, and thus if paint is cheap, the number of available marketing slots available is increased and so in the overall efficiency of the repulsion scheme, doesn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A brilliant idea

Ah, but 2 smaller rocks burn up in the atmosphere easier than 1 big, and so on. Just cracking the asteroid may be enough. I do not guarantee a nuke could crack a nut that big though.

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Anonymous Coward

asteroid rotation

I was under the assumption that these asteroids rotate and not show one side towards the sun all the time. Even if they are not rotating hitting them slightly off-centre can cause tumbling.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: asteroid rotation

Tumbling is not allowed in space. It is verboten.

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Re: asteroid rotation

The paint plan actually takes the rotation into account with TWO volleys, to be fired at intervals where each half of the asteroid is in the sights.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: asteroid rotation

Did you RTFA?

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Stop

MATLAB, not Maple

MATLAB is the Alpha and the Omega in Aero/Astro (and at MIT in general); I never saw anyone using Maple.

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FAIL

I thouht...

... El Reg was supposed to use SI units?

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Boffin

5µm? and now a method: spray painting nope; powder coating (30µm ?) nope; gold deposit ... yes, but first we need a stable base.

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Boffin

Not as easy as it looks

Pretty picture with nice spherical asteroid. Tiny problem, nearly all asteroids are not spherical.

The small ones likely to endanger us will have very weird shapes - see the various photos from fly-bys.

That will make it much harder to give them an even coating, and much harder to work out what the effect on the trajectory will be. And the uneven pressure is likely to gradually change the rotation rate and axis which will make the calculations even more difficult.

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Big Brother

> 2036 visit.

Implying the US will still exist by then and not have - in a best-case scenario - defederalized and killed its whole nazi bureaucratic pyramid. In the worst case - well, it's 7.3 billion against 300 million.

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What has your sociapolitical outlook on the U.S. has to do with planetary objects. The hint is name.

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Thumb Up

More likely

by then the USA will have become the next 50 provinces of China.

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Anonymous Coward

Paint.

Paint the asteroid? Maybe in that "Feminine Pink" that was being discussed the other day? Or, if you prefer - and knowing you, you probably do - then either "Masculine Pink" or "Ladyboy Pink".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Paint.

Any pink will do... we can save the planet and "raise awareness" about breast cancer at the same time!

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Thumb Up

Re: Paint.

We could cure cancer,and use the publicity to raise awareness of earth-destroying asteroids- the spare money will be up for grabs!

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Re: It would then take up to 20 years

I don't like the sound of that. What if it doesn't work for some reason? Say the effect of the paint-balls hitting it, and the effect of the changed albedo cancel out. We need a plan B that could be implemented must faster. Time would be running out.

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Why not use tinfoil chaff + something sticky? Surely that would have a more profound effect on the albedo so you'd need less of it.

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Know of a glue that works at near-zero Kelvin?

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"mass of about 27 gigatons" ?

Sounds just too high - radius is 225M, 4/3piR^3 and assuming 10tons/M3 (unrealistically heavy) = 477,000,000 tons.

Maybe the kinetic energy is equivalent to such a TNT equivalent, don't know. Would be ouchy for sure.

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Black Helicopters

re: "mass of about 27 gigatons" ?

You're forgetting the secret black hole research lab hidden inside Apophis that NASA have conveniently forgotten to tell us about...

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Anonymous Coward

A paintball gun *that* capable..

.. would be an excellent tool for "recalibrating" speed cameras too, I think.

Not that I want to give anyone ideas, though. Just a theoretical exercise. Honest.

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Alert

Thunderbirds Siberia

We need to fire up the cauldrons, obviously.

youtube.com/watch?v=2PnfIL6WmGM

(If the hair at 7:39 is of "Earth origin" I'm a kipper.)

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FAIL

re: "mass of about 27 gigatons" ?

Actually, I do believe the mass should be 27 megatonnes (metric tons, for the decimally challenged among you).

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/a99942.html <-- lists the mass as 2.7e+10 kg.

factor of 1000 fail in article.

C- must do better.

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Mushroom

Feeble nukes

We don't have any nukes that are capable of breaking up a meteoroid of the size and type we fear, not even close. That's why we try to come up with alternatives. There'll be no blasting or obliterating with our feeble nukes.

NASA's current plan is to nudge an asteroroid with 6 nukes a few years, or more, before it comes too close.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Feeble nukes

If we wait until they're meteors, it'll be too late no matter how powerful a weapon we use. Much better to attack it while it's an asteroid.

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This probably wouldn't work if the asteriod is spinning.

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Best plan is to land a few powerful rockets on the surface, and if spinning, time a short pulse with each spin thus pushing the thing off course - preferably towards planet Alpha Centauri Bb (http://news.discovery.com/space/could-we-mount-an-interstellar-mission-to-alpha-centauri-bb-121018.html) - just in case they plan on invading.

Hey if we can land an SUV on Mars, a few rockets on a small rock isn't much of a challenge, right?

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Mushroom

I would nudge the thing into an orbit much too close to the surface of the sun. Deal with it for good

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It takes a huge amount of shove to nudge it close to the sun - look at the weird path they had to use for the Mercury orbiter. You have to get rid of all that orbital velocity somehow.

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Re: Hey if we can land an SUV on Mars

Problem is we would have to land something on it first to find out what it is made of, if its too soft the rockets would just push into it.

If its iron then is it magnetic and therefore could affect the gyro's etc and leave it being pushed towards us.....

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Anonymous Coward

I am pretty sure we already have landed on an asteroid!

so it is just scale if we want to land something bigger and more powerful, something like an Orion booster is needed

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5 Tons of black and white paint, eigh?

That, sir, is one HELL of a Banksie

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Re: 5 Tons of black and white paint, eigh?

Using more advanced paint techniques, slow it, and alter its trajectory so it enters the atmosphere, skips across the Atlantic and river Thames, and rolls harmlessly to a stop in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, where it can form the centerpiece of a new exhibition of exciting contemporary work. If they can have millions of hand painted sunflower seeds or giant slides, this has gotta be a realistic aim.

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Trollface

If you do blow it into smaller pieces with nukes then it burns up in the atmosphere increasing global warming by heating the atmosphere near it.

However if we nudge it just right to hit the centre of say Australia then we get the benefit of chucking loads of dust etc into the atmosphere and thereby reducing warming

There you have it folks, global warming can be fixed by firing comets and asteroids at Australia and cooling the planet.....

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Joke

Hows about we drop the asteroid somewhere where it can wipe out the source of a lot of hot air say the European Parliment or Washington DC. It can then solve the problem with the climate change lobbyists at the same time...

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Mushroom

Is this a joke?

I do not know much about the solar sail effect, but if the momentum of the paint is considered significant enough to mention in the same breath then forget it. This would need to be done a VERY very long time ahead of the predicted Earth impact, and the astronomers are not that good at predicting.

A far greater deflection would be achieved by blowing a piece off it with a nuke - it does not need to be a big piece, a few hundred tons perhaps, but in the right direction. You do not need to fragment the whole thing.

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Ru
Facepalm

Re: Is this a joke?

"I do not know much about the solar sail effect, but"

So what you're saying is, you don't know what you're talking about but you're willing to rubbish work by someone who does on the basis, of, uh, you're from the internet and therefore are an expert in pretty much anything?

And from this lofty position of credibility, you suggest what you feel to be a better plan despite having demonstrated that you know practically nothing about astrophysics and orbital mechanics. Well done.

Inevitable Internet Omniscience Syndrome strikes again.

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